Earlier this month, the wiki-hosting company Fandom scooped up several games sites, including Giant Bomb and GameSpot, in an acquisition worth $50 million. And that exorbitant price of the sale, coupled with what the website calls “questionable staffing decisions” at the company, has led the Zelda Wiki to break free from “corporate consolidation” and claim its independence from Fandom.
Opened in 2005 and independent up until its transfer over to Gamepedia hosting in 2017, the Zelda Wiki is one of the biggest fan-run games wikis around. With thousands of entries from games across the entire franchise, you could spend days or weeks scrolling through the digital encyclopedia and probably still not finish it in its entirety. It’s my go-to resource when looking up information on a specific enemy or weapon in Nintendo’s popular franchise, and it hosts 11,199 articles. However, now you’re gonna have to visit a brand-new website if you have bookmarked and/or frequented the old Zelda Wiki.
Staff at the website announced on Twitter this week that, “after many months of preparation,” the website is now totally independent from Fandom or any other entity.
“For over a decade, from its creation in 2005 to its transfer to Gamepedia in 2017, the Zelda Wiki was a fully independent site,” the wiki’s EIC wrote. “Even after the transfer, and Gamepedia’s subsequent acquisition by Fandom, Inc., the site sought to continue its mission of curating an editorially independent, high-quality wiki operated by fans. However, we have come to believe that these ideals are incompatible with Fandom.”
There was a reason for such a scathing statement. Citing Fandom’s “recent buyouts and questionable staffing decisions,” the Zelda Wiki staff said it wants to “keep the internet free from corporate consolidation” and “hegemonic control.” As such, the team moved the wiki to a new home, though the Fandom one is still up and running.
Responses to the news have been overwhelmingly positive online. Multiple folks have called this a big win for the Zelda Wiki, while others are looking forward to fewer ads and a better layout on the site. Even the Twitter account for the Fallout Wiki, one of the few publicly feuding with Fandom over intrusive videos and ads on the site, congratulated the Zelda Wiki team for breaking from the company. Generally, there’s some public wariness about Fandom’s growing influence over fan-led Wikis that have provided useful free resources to the community about big franchises. As such, there are now even resources shared for alternatives to Fandom Wikis, and some encouragement in the comments from this announcement to get more Wikis to do the same. While independent Wikis do exist, over the years Fandom has become the more dominant website when people Google for certain topics.
In Discord messages with Kotaku, community staff member ModdedInkling said the old Fandom wiki will “continue to be updated” by a few volunteers that have chosen to remain there. Just about everyone else, however, will move to the website’s new domain. ModdedInkling also explained what this independence means for the staff.
“Being ‘editorially independent’ means having full creative control over the wiki’s content under its own policies as opposed to Fandom’s policies,” ModdedInkling said. “This also includes the wiki’s overall appearance (user interface, templates, etc.), which has been one of the main subjects discussed by many independent wikis splitting away from Fandom. Another topic of interest involves avoiding mandated censorship. Certain wikis also have content that involves socio-politics and ethics that are often restricted by Fandom, but are deemed relevant by the community.”
ModdedInkling extrapolated on the nature of Fandom’s alleged censorship. He said that while nothing has been blocked on the Zelda Wikia (to his knowledge, anyway), there have been some alterations made to entries post-publication on other wikis.
“Basically, Fandom’s policies may invoke a level of censorship on certain sensitive topics, even if it is relevant towards a work of fiction, if it is deemed to go against their policy,” ModdedInkling said. “Sometimes it may involve altering one’s information as well even if it is less accurate. This can happen through a variety of topics, such as discussions involving the retroactive change of a character’s traits, even if it was historically inaccurate to change it.”
ModdedInkling brought up one instance where Fandom’s policies got in the way of making what they consider accurate information available. On Wookieepedia, the digital encyclopedia for Star Wars, there were allegedly complications around changing the name of someone who later came out as trans.
“There was debate involving the naming conventions of someone identifying later as trans,” ModdedInkling said. “The mandate was to retroactively change any of the names displayed for the person or character, even though that was not how they were referred to at the time. I don’t remember if it was a real-life person or a fictional character. It did not cause them to fork, but it was one concern that NIWA had in potential examples involving character pronouns like Vivian from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Sheik from Ocarina of Time, or Vilia from Breath of the Wild.”
ModdedInkling clarified the example to Kotaku, saying it isn’t representative of his or the rest of the Zelda Wiki team’s beliefs. He noted the Nintendo Independent Wiki Alliance, a network of other wikis for Nintendo games, has a goal to “handle sensitive topics with care to prevent any sort of misrepresentation.” This, he noted, aligns with the Zelda Wiki teams’ ideals.
Kotaku has reached out to Fandom for comment.
The Zelda Wiki is just the most recent digital encyclopedia to split from its parent company and the third to break away from Fandom specifically in recent memory. Earlier this year, the team behind the Terraria Wiki announced on Steam that it’ll host a new site separate from Fandom. Meanwhile, the Runescape Wiki went indie years ago in response to corporate mandates forcing autoplaying videos in posts. The Zelda Wiki can now be found in the NIWA database, which includes other independent, volunteer-run websites like Bulbapedia (the digital encyclopedia dedicated to all things Pokémon) and SmashWiki.
Update, 10/21/22, 6:30 p.m. ET: Added a clarifying statement from ModdedInkling.