As we celebrate 15 very successful years of Cheat Code Central, I would like to tell you all about how Cheat Code Central started. Very few people actually know the full story about how I started this site and how the site almost ended just one year later.
15 years ago when I started Cheat Code Central, I was only 16 years old and a junior in high school. I knew nothing about starting a website, and I definitely never could have imagined what lay ahead.
I decided to start Cheat Code Central because I knew I could create a better cheat codes site than the ones already on the net. Back in 1997, the internet was still a very new place. Even though I didn't know anything about creating a website, I decided to give it a try and teach myself. I started Cheat Code Central back on May 9th, 1997 as a hobby since I was heavily into video games.
As I learned HTML and built the site, I thought I could try to use the site as a learning tool to teach myself enough about HTML and Java to start designing websites as a full-time job once I graduated high school. That was my plan for the first year.
It originally started out as a small site on Geocities. Over the first year, I tried to build as much traffic as possible to the site. After the first year, the site was getting approximately 1,000 visitors a day. I was very excited to be getting that much traffic after a year of trying very hard to build awareness of the site. I then got listed in the Yahoo directory in May 1998. Back then it was a huge deal to get listed in the Yahoo directory, as it was a guarantee to send a pretty sizeable amount of additional visitors to your site.
I began getting approximately 2,000 daily visitors to the site after the Yahoo listing. I was so excited that I thought I needed to move the site to a shorter URL and start spending even more time on making the site bigger and better. I decided to move the website to Simplenet (my URL was cheatcodes.simplenet.com) in June 1998. I also decided I was going to try to start generating some income from advertising on my site. I start running some banner ads on my site where I got paid per click. I was able to generate enough income from that to pay for the Simplenet hosting costs of Cheat Code Central.
I started redirecting traffic from the Geocities site over to http://cheatcodes.simplenet.com around the middle of June 1998. However, after just a few days of redirecting people to my new Simplenet site from Geocities, something tragic happened that put me at the most important crossroads in my life.
Geocities deleted my website because I was redirecting people from Geocities over to my new website at Simplenet, which they said was against their "Terms of Service." This type of redirection was common practice on Geocities, and several days after my website was deleted, I found out that one of my competitors had notified Geocities about my redirection. It is unlikely Geocities would have chosen to take action against me if it weren't for his complaint. To add insult to injury, this competitor got my Geocities URL and started redirecting traffic to his website instead of mine.
I was extremely devastated when I found all of this out. I had spent over a year trying to build my website, finally getting 2,000 daily visitors -- and now I was just getting around 50 daily visitors because most people still didn't know my new URL. Yahoo was still sending people to my old URL. I was very close to just giving up and never continuing the website after that. I thought about it for a few days, and then decided I can't give up and I have to continue no matter what. I was now more determined than ever to create the best cheat codes site and make it very popular.
For the rest of June 1998, I worked around the clock trying to get more traffic to my site. I tried to figure out how I can get a lot more traffic to my site quickly. I tried to get Yahoo to change the URL they had listed for my site in their directory, but they took over a month to change it (at the time, I didn't know if they would ever change it). However, I knew Yahoo was the answer to getting a lot of that traffic back to my site and possibly even more. I also knew that Yahoo was listing some terrible cheat sites in their directory that didn't even deserve to be listed. So I decided to start a few new cheat code sites at free web site hosting companies like Geocities and Angelfire. I made each one a little different and gave them separate names like "Cheat Palace."
I submitted these sites to Yahoo for approval in their directory. I then waited weeks hoping they would be approved. In July 1998, not only did my old listing on Yahoo get changed to my new URL, but a few of the sites I submitted to Yahoo also got approved. I then redirected those sites over to my cheatcodes.simplenet.com URL. By the end of July I was getting approximately 7,000 daily visitors to my site. It was a huge turnaround from June and a massive success. I couldn't believe what had happened and how much traffic I was now getting to my website.
With the amount of traffic I was now getting to my website, I figured I could maybe start making a decent income from advertising and possibly make this a full-time job instead of doing website design or something else. At the end of July 1998, I started running banner ads on my site from a company called Flycast. I really hoped I could make enough from running ads on my site to generate an income where I could run my website full-time.
In August 1998, I spend almost every waking hour trying to add as much content as possible and make Cheat Code Central even better. My traffic grew to around 10,000 daily visitors in August. At the end of August, my Flycast report said I earned a few thousand dollars. I couldn't believe it -- and neither could my parents who I still lived with. This was much more money than I had ever earned in my life. However, there was a catch. I had to wait until November before I received the check.
Since all of this was so new, I really wondered if I would ever receive that check since it seemed too good to be true. My parents doubted I would ever get paid that kind of money. In September 1998, my traffic and revenue grew even more. The same continued in October as well. As I waited for that first check, I just kept working around the clock trying to improve Cheat Code Central and keep making it better. It October 1998, I decided to finally get the CheatCC.com URL so the site had a shorter URL and was even more professional and legitimate.
When November rolled around, I was checking the mailbox every day hoping I would get that check from Flycast for my revenue in August. When it finally came, it was for the exact amount they reported. I went to the bank and cashed the check -- and that is when I knew all of this was for real. I knew all of my hard work was finally paying off and that I could actually run Cheat Code Central as a full time job.
From there the site just continued to grow, and that made me just work harder to keep making it better and better. Today, Cheat Code Central gets over 350,000 visitors a day. Over 500 million people (almost the entire population of North America) worldwide have visited the site since it start back on May 9th, 1997. I, David Allison, still fully own and operate the website completely independently. I have a small number of freelance writers and independent contractors that help me to maintain the website. We are the last large independent video web site left on the net, as everyone else has sold their site to a large corporation. We are the third most popular video game web site on the net, which is a huge accomplishment in itself, as we have nowhere near the resources or money at our deposal as the two game sites that get more traffic than us or lots of the game sites that get less traffic than us.
This all happened because of a dream. I dreamed back in 1997 that I could run a popular video game web site of my own, and that is what I am doing today. I had no education or training in how to build a website, drive traffic to a website, generate income from a website, run a successful business, and the many other things that came along with making Cheat Code Central what it is today. It's hard to explain, but one day I didn't have the skilled necessary to do all of this, and then the next day I had the required skills. All I can attribute this to is God. There is absolutely no other way to explain it, especially if you could have witnessed everything that has happened over the years and the unbelievable successful I have been blessed with.
I would like to thank all of our loyal visitors that have helped to make Cheat Code Central so successful over the years. If it weren't for you, Cheat Code Central would never be the success it is today. I hope you continue to enjoy the last major independent video web site left on the net. I hope Cheat Code Central has another successful 15 years, and you are all still visiting the site and enjoying it when we are celebrating our 30th anniversary. Happy Birthday, Cheat Code Central!
Date: May 9, 2012