Four years after the popular gaming forum, ResetEra, was born from the ashes of NeoGAF, it has been sold to a network of Swedish esports sites for an eye-popping $4.5 million. While the deal puts a price tag on the previously unquantifiable value of discussions like, “How did Blizzard get away with selling Overwatch for $60,” it also underlines the messy dynamics of how the internet is monetized, and who gets to profit off of it.
ResetEra was originally formed in 2017 after gaming forum NeoGAF imploded following accusations against that site’s owner of sexual misconduct. While NeoGAF’s owner denied the allegations, moderators quit en masse, and many users flocked to the newly formed ResetEra in an attempt to create a space to discuss gaming that would be less toxic and more inclusive.
“ResetEra.com is another step in our strategy to grow through acquisitions and create more relevant communities with attractive, growing target groups that many companies want to expose themselves to,” Björn Mannerqvist, CEO of the buyer, MOBA Network, said in a press release announcing the sale.
According to MOBA Network—a group of forums where players share information and strategy for competitive games like Dota 2—ResetEra has over 45 million forum posts and about 55,000 members. This apparently brought in about $700,000 in revenue through ads over the past year, which the company claims amounts to an 80% EBITDA profit margin. In other words, ResetEra is cheap, and makes a decent amount of money.
MOBA and ResetEra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
How successful ResetERA has been at its mandate to remove toxicity and be more inclusive remains up for debate, but gaming industry insiders like Game Awards founder Geoff Keighley and others have helped establish it over the years as an internet hotspot for breaking news and discussions surrounding the latest gaming controversies. Now, at least one person seems set to profit handsomely from that reputation.
User Cerium, the sole owner going into the sale, tried to reassure users in an update today that nothing would meaningfully change for them. “The staff will retain total independence when it comes to moderation and the day-to-day management of the site,” they wrote. “That independence will be held as absolutely sacred, in the same way that editorial independence is treated at journalistic publications.”
Cerium also said that the existing tech team would be figuring out their own arrangements with MOBA, while volunteer moderators would continue to not be compensated. They also promised users that their private data (ResetEra requires a verified email address) would not be misused.
“MOBA Network is not in the user data business and never will be,” wrote Cerium. “They’re not going to sell your data. Nothing is going to change about how your data is handled and protected.”
Plenty of ResetEra posters responded positively, congratulating Cerium on the sale. Others shared concerns about whether this would affect moderation when political issues come up. “I don’t want alt right posts being encouraged and not immediately bannable,” wrote one.
Another cheekily suggested, “anyone with more than 10k posts should get paid too,” a sentiment that blossomed into its own satirical thread. Wrote one person, “If the mods don’t get paid what chance do we have?”