InterviewsThe Blessings of Curse: An Interview with Hubert ThieblotInterviews - RSS 2.0
Hubert Thieblot is not unlike a lot of gaming webmasters, a player who cobbled together a website dedicated to his favorite games. Unlike other webmasters, though, Hubert turned his casual enterprise into a go-to site for the growing MMOG population, securing millions of dollars of investment in the process. Curse.com, formerly Curse-Gaming.com, is not quite where competitors such as Thottbot, Allakhazam and Wowhead are yet, but Hubert has his eye on reaching and exceeding those, and recently launched a complete site redesign aimed at turning Curse into a social and encyclopedic portal for all things MMOG.
Thieblot sat down briefly with The Escapistt to talk about these latest updates and his plans for the future of Curse.com.
The Escapist: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a bit about Curse.com and yourself?
Hubert Thieblot: Thank you! I started Curse as an MMOG guild in the early 2001. We played some smaller Korean MMOGs, as well as Dark Age of Camelot, where we achieved some notoriety. But it was World of Warcraft that really encouraged the creation of Curse as a service. Early in that game, I realized that finding and downloading add-ons was an extremely difficult and disorganized undertaking - so Curse-Gaming was born, and we quickly became one of the most visited third-party World of Warcraft site thanks to our add-on downloads database.
Today, Curse is a massive resource for MMOG players. We have terrific social networking features, Wiki content (such as wowwiki), in-game databases for Vanguard and WoW, and more - not to mention our extensive add-on downloads database.
TE: You've recently launched what you're calling the V4 update and changed your domain name to Curse.com. The change is pretty dramatic. How long has this been in the works?
HT: Yes, it was quite a change and took quite a lot of work. We're very happy with what the team has accomplished, though much remains to be done. The ongoing development of a portal like Curse means that changes are constantly in the works, as well as many initiatives we believe bring great value to our growing communities across many MMOGs. We planted many of the seeds for the V4 changes in V3 - so, in a sense, V4 has been in the works for a long time. With V4, the ideas have grown, and the result is a more accessible, friendlier site that is easier to use for everyone.
TE: There's a lot more attention to social networking and community building, along with providing downloads, wikis, forums and other elements, in V4. Overall, it seems like the scope on which Curse is trying to operate is much larger. At the risk of being blunt, are you concerned about biting off more than you can chew?
HT: As I mentioned, V4 has been in development for a fairly long time. We've been steadily developing the new features that comprise V4 and future updates, and hiring the necessary technical and moderation staff to handle the changes. Our scope has grown in a marked way with V4, and we intend to expand on that growth by improving our existing features and building new ones. You're right - we have presented ourselves with a great challenge, but at the same time, that challenge translates into many opportunities ahead. We received our recent Series-A funding to ensure that we are able to support every aspect of the business and to adhere to Curse's vision of innovating on behalf of our community.
TE: You launched Curse in 2005. Tell us about the past two years and how the website, staff, support and traffic compares to when you started and the kind of goals you envisioned at launch.
HT: Curse is fairly young, and so am I, which is why we've actively surrounded the founding team with successful professionals who have experience in the videogame industry. Yet, we're one of the most mature players in the MMOG field. And we have grown dramatically since we started out. As you're probably aware, being a Curse user yourself, we've had a few redesigns leading up to V4. Our staff has quadrupled and our traffic has grown rapidly, with over 3.5 million monthly unique visitors. When I first imagined Curse-Gaming as an add-on resource, I never expected it to be this wildly successful. I did it largely for myself and my fellow guild members to make it easier to acquire WoW add-ons. That said, I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to turn my passion into a business, and I'm glad I have the ability to bring great change and value to our community and industry.