Yes my friends and sometimes Nemeses (only on the tabletop of course) it is true. The Frontline Gamer Blog is one year old today, and I have all of you to thank for it. If it wasn't for all of you and your constant support this past year I'm not too sure I'd have made it this far you know. I mean, I was sort of coerced into doing this Blog in the first place, and they had to twist my arm pretty darn good. Blogging for 12 months without the comments, the followers and the hits towards the end of this 12 month period would have been grueling. But, I had the motivation of knowing that people actually read what I write and comment on it, and that was enough to drive me on. So thank you all, genuinely. When I started out with my first ever article I wasn't too sure where I was heading with it all. I'm still not too sure even now exactly where I'm heading with it all, but I have at least learned a bit along the way, and I think I've found a unique 'online voice' at the very least... I also now have a sort of a plan... ish.
It still feels like I have way more to learn as well, and although I guess I'm going to call my first 12 months in blogging a success for me personally, there's still way more to come from me and this Blog, and I hope you all stick around to see what it is. Right now though I want to take a brief look back at some of the articles that I've produced this past year that have been popular or personal highlights:
- Luckily as I started writing my Blog Games Workshop were doing their best to provide me with lots of controversial business decisions to get the ball rolling with hits. First up was cutting off cheap distribution of mini's to Australian and New Zealand. Great plan that!
- They didn't stop there though, nope there was also my now infamous wonky Finecast Gandalf. Despite rumours to the contrary I didn't take those pictures down because of a Games Workshop C&D. I actually took them down because I was fed up of people sending me abusive emails. I still stick by what happened 100% and I still think Finecast is a dire product, and nothing I've seen over the past year has convinced me otherwise... also the blades on my Gyrocopter have begun to droop and sag. Terrible product.
- Prior to writing about Finecast I wrote the first of a series of articles of Infinity that have proved to be a consistent draw even to today. In fact last week it had more hits than it did in the entire first month after I published it.
- On Monday the 6th of June I wrote the first of my review articles, on the Sorylian Starter Set for Firestorm Armada. It's important because I think that reviews are one of the things my Blog has become really well known for. Hopefully they've got significantly better!
- I decided to pick some more on Games Workshop, or more accurately certain Games Workshop patrons who act like they get bent over and shafted anytime they go near a Games Workshop product... and then go back for more! Are you in an abusive relationship? This garnered more threats of violence and bodily harm to my personage!
- So to another big industry name, D&D. I wrote a series of articles starting here on a group of games I played with some girls involved. I seriously wasn't sure how people would take them... turns out people are still reading them today! Very proud of these personally. I even wrote a sequel using a game of Descent.
- I think the next thing that almost certainly needs bringing up is the Ministry of Cats and more importantly their Approved by Cats Award. As anyone who owns any cats will be able to attest they are very discerning creatures. As such the Approved by Cats Award is one of the most sort after awards in the Bloggingverse... well, on this Blog.
- My most popular article happens to involve a Metaphor... I'm sure you must all have read it by now, probably twice! I wrote it after having chats with various friends, and also having a bit of a row with somebody about whether I was anti-Games Workshop or not. The truth is I wished they were awesome, but their actions just sadden me as a fan and once long-term customer.
- Probably my most infamous review... Dreadfleet... more people have read my scathing review than have brought the game. Yeah I know that's not a lot of hits!!!
- The start of a very long experiment to see if I could improve and increase my traffic on Sundays... I give you my first Sunday Sermon. If you're relatively new to my Blog I suggest you go and take a look at the rest too, because there are some quite good articles amongst them, if I say so myself.
- Never has disappointment been so Super Deformed and sugar coated... I give you my Super Dungeon Explore review. I have hopes that at least the component issues I had with the original product will be solved. I guess we'll find out soon as Soda Pop Miniatures are sending me a copy to review.
- My first and ONLY world exclusive, the exceptional System ∞ range from Sarissa Precision. Everyone went totally barmy for these reviews and they still get a steady stream of traffic now. There was also an interview with Steve from Sarissa Precision. Here's a review hub so you can find your way round them a little bit easier.
- The Golden Age of Gaming, hopefully an article that sums me up as a gamer and my Blog as well.
- Another article I'd never have guessed I'd be writing, not just in my first year, but, well... ever. But people kept on asking me how to write a successful Blog. It's a bit of mammoth but it's getting linked to from all sorts of weird places including a forum for stamp collectors.
Yeah so that list is totally self indulgent, but hey it's my Birthday and I'll brag if I want to! Even if it makes me look like a bit of an arse.
So what does my first year in blogging look like in terms of numbers? You know stats. Look, I'm a researcher and we like numbers and figures, so I can't help it. Well here they are:
Number of articles = 306 (excluding this one, as it's the first article in year two)
Total hits = 364,930
Average hits per day = 999
Average hits per article = 1192
average hits per month = 30,411
Total Comments = 3912
Average Comments per day = 11
Average comments per article = 13
Total number of followers = 442
That all looks very good and nice I guess, and as I look back on the past 12 months there is no question that I have personally totally exceeded any initial expectations I had, and then some. Privately I set myself a lower target of 100 hits per month and a higher target of 1000 hits per month.. you know if people actually liked what I did. In particular I remember thinking that a thousand hits per month might be really stretching! I also decided that a target of maybe 20 to 30 Followers over the first 12 months would be a good target to have, maybe build up a good solid core of people I could chat to about the stuff I write. Well I soon got rid of those targets as within my first month as I raced to 30 Followers and I had nearly 10,000 hits. My targets needed to be aimed upwards, I set myself the ambitious target of trying to get 10,000 hits per month and getting 100 followers in 12 months. Clearly I'd got off to a good start and I thought things would slow down a bit. So yeah lofty ambitions I thought. But again, I've out stripped them and how! So I stopped setting such silly numerical goals, because every time I set a goal I'd sail past it in those early weeks. So I stopped trying to set any targets and concentrated on making it to 12 months, which was my main target I set myself, and I've done it. Mission accomplished.
So what now? Well after 12 months of studiously collecting data and trying to make sense of it all I am once more trying to set myself some fairly stretching targets. I want my second year of blogging to grow what I've already achieved in my first year. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that trying to better my first year is going to be a very tough task. I'm not so naive, or stupid enough to thin that for a Blogger starting from a standing start with no experience, or online presence before to have had the year I have is anything other than pretty good. Things have started to plateau off around the 40,000 to 50,000 hits per month for the last few months and it seems that might be my natural level I guess, but here are my targets for the coming year:
Average hits per month in year two target = 53,000
Total hits at the end of the second year target = 1,000,000
New Followers target at end of the second year = 1,000
Total comments at the end of the second year target = 10,000
Now those targets weren't actually my own targets at all (apart from the comments one). Nope these were thrown down to me by Mr. Lee over at Mr. Lee's Painting Emporium in one of the comments on an article I wrote about hitting 300,000 hits. I'm sure I've mentioned I'm a bit like Marty McFly, insofar that I find it hard to back away from a good challenge. Those seem like a damn fine challenge for me, and I highly doubt they're achievable if I'm honest... but I'm willing to give it a go. My main aim is to still be Blogging a further 12 months from now, in short to make it through year two.
I didn't really have numerical targets in my first year of blogging, well, I threw them out of the window after 2 months because it was clear to me my perceptions of what was good was just way off. So this is going to be a year that I guess I do focus on the figures as it were, but I still want to maintain a high level to the content I produce, it's just I now feel like I have a pretty good benchmark to judge myself against. If it starts to look like the standard of my articles is slipping I'll be looking to you lot to keep me honest, and on the straight and narrow by telling me if what I'm doing is crap! I take it you can do that can't you? However, I'm not afraid of a bit of bribery and corruption and to help me off with my new members targets I've got a list of prizes below that will be released as I get to certain predetermined targets. Hopefully it will set some of you off to pimp my blog around in as many places as you can to increase the members here on my blog:
At 500 followers...
I will put a competition up for winning all of the Heavy Gear Blitz PDF's from the guys over at Dream Pod 9. Yep that's right all the rulebooks and expansions to download from Drive Thru RPG which I do believe is worth about $90 or so. So if you've been sitting on the fence about Heavy Gear Blitz this could a good prize to win, as it will allow you to see if the game is for you. As you know if you're a regular reader I've been waxing lyrical about this now for a few months, it's just a good solid fun game. It's also really handy having all you rulebooks to... erm... hand on an iPad.
At 525 followers...
I will put up a competition to give away the Prefecture of Ryu Starter Set and Tenshi, the Seshin Na Goei from Bushido the game. All very kindly donated by those lovely chaps at GCT Studio's, who by the way are currently running an Indiegogo Campaign... ah I've plugged it enough already, I'm sure you know about it by now! I just want to say that snake samurai look way cool, completely bad ass, awesome and are totally worth backing in my book... there I said it again.
At 550 followers...
I will put a competition up for a pretty cool bundle of goodies provided by the good chaps over at Sarissa Precision. You know, the guys that responsible for making all the MDF scenery I'm always banging on about, because it makes my life a hell of a lot easier. This is because I'm a cack handed gibbon when it comes to using foamcard to make my own scenery. Any way there's lots of cool stuff they'll be sending me to giveaway, and I'll tell you more when I'm up to 550 followers... but free MDF scenery has got to worthwhile, even if it's just for the smell of burnt wood... mmmm... spells so good! (EDIT: They settled on £40's store credit)
At 575 followers...
I will grudgingly put up a prize I kind of want to keep for myself... *sigh* ... but I've agreed to give it away to one of you lot! Sometimes, and I'm going to be honest here, I really resent you guys! Any way the prize is a Werner Klocke signed copy of the excellent Freebooter's Fate rulebook. Honestly it has become one of my favourite games ever, simply because it's damn good fun, fast paced and actually quite deep and tactical. Honestly if you haven't checked it out you should, here go read some of my articles on it.
At 600 followers...
(EDIT: Now 625 followers)
I will put up a competition for something super secret from Studio McVey... so secret Mike's not even told me what it is yet. Lets be honest though, is there anything that Studio McVey produce that you wouldn't want? They've already clocked up a respectable amount of Approved by cat awards, and I can't see that slowing any as they continue to release awesome stuff. Seriously go have a smooch around their webstore and tell me those miniatures aren't as sexy as hell. Any way by the time I get to 600 followers I'm sure Mike will have let me know what it is you'll all be getting. (EDIT: I now know the prize will be a copy of Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster)
At 650 followers...
(EDIT: Now 700 followers)
I will be put up a competition for the rather sick and twisted looking Vore from the BaneLegions range. I know, it's not even out yet! Yep you may have seen the sneak peak of the concept art that Rob Lane gave us in my interview with him. Well I've seen an actual picture of the horrid gribbly monster all finished and sculpted already and... it's utterly awesome, in a slightly disturbing way, the only way it could be more disturbing was if it had penises for fingers... and then it'd be a Kingdom Death mini! Daniel Cockersell has done a fabulous job (as he always does) of recreating the slightly sick things you would find in Rob Lanes warped little mind, honestly it's better than even the concept art suggested it would be, and I'm only sorry I can't give you all a sneak peak, because if I did Rob might send an actual Vore to kill me. Again I want it myself... its RRP is £59.99 too, so you know it'll be a big bugger! Definitely well worth winning if you ask me.
At 700 followers...
(EDIT: 750 followers)
I'll release a pretty awesome competition for $100's worth of splendid resin bases from Dragon Forge Design's, currently the only company to be awarded the Approved by Cats status. You can read my reviews of the Omega Prime and Tech Deck bases to get an idea as to how good their products actually are. The winner will be given a $100 gift voucher to spend on the Dragon Forge Designs webstore, very kindly donated by the lovely Jeff Wilhelm.
At 750 followers...
(EDIT: 800 followers)
I put up the final Frontline Gamer Birthday present! This is a pretty cool prize if you ask me, Ronnie Renton at Mantic Games has agreed to donate a copy of each of the Dwarf Kings Hold games as a bundle. So that's Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising, Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace and Dwarf Kings Hold: Ancient Grudge... but that's not all. Jake Thornton the designer of the Dwarf Kings Hold games has also been kind enough to offer his services to vandalis... I mean sign them for you. So that's signed copies of the complete Dwarf Kings Hold range. Surely that's got to be worth winning hasn't it? Obviously Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising was one of the first products, if not the first product to ever receive the coveted Approved by Cats award... and I still think it's made of win to this very day. Throw in Green menace and Ancient Grudge and you have an absolutely splendid way of wasting many an evening cursing the way the tokens fall... trust me, you'll see!
So there you go, as a celebration of making it through one year of Blogging an awful lot of very nice people have donated a lot of very cool swag to help you guys and me celebrate. Obviously it's in all of your interests to actually post this news everywhere so we get to those follower thresholds ASAP. I only wish I could give you all something as I think you've all been awesome and very supportive of this Blog, and I greatly appreciate every comment, hit and email you've given me over the past year. I'm also really grateful to all the companies who have supported me and this Blog over the year, not only with free sample products for review, but also with their time for interviews and answering my questions. You all know who you are, and I want to say thanks, the fact that you guys in the industry are willing to give me so much of your time is quite frankly what sets this Blog apart from many others out there... and with that it's time to say... Peace out!