I write this article as a participant, an onlooker of SMBHQ. I have seen it since the early year of 1998.
It all started nicely enough; Jay Resop and Kyle Orland, two high school buddies, creating a Mario site. But in the late 90's, the internet was booming; so, interest in their little page exploded, and they, in turn, expanded it. Soon, it became host to a marvelous field of fan subsites, and was one of the top Mario sites on the web. Most if not all were happy; Jay's sprite comix were very popular, and Kyle's weird driver's ed humor was 'funny' all the way back then.
But if that had gone on for all this time, I'd have nothing to write. Around the year 2004, a dire problem began: Jay Resop's time was running out. He was going to College--and not just to get a normal degree, but some massive PHD. As a result, he could no longer help SMBHQ in any major fashion. Kyle himself had become inactive and let Jay practically take over--so this was a major potential disaster.
The site was still burgeoning with viewers and section editors, and it seemed like it would continue. Kyle found his replacement: Sean Kelly. But there was a problem...
Sean Kelly was the editor of Mario Mysteries, a section that probed into the more confusing aspects of Mario's past. But what was even more mysterious was... his section had gone inactive. Kyle Orland was promoting someone who couldn't even keep their own section active to head of SMBHQ; but apparently, he didn't notice. Instead, he paid Sean Kelly to keep the place afloat.
What he got was probably not what he was paying for. Ads had to be expanded to pay for Sean Kelly (and by extension, some of the money went to Kyle.) The section editors, unused to ads, questioned this; but freshly minted head of SMBHQ, Sean Kelly, had nothing to say about it. He just pushed more people to put the ads on their pages--including people who had little experience with HTML. Jay tried to aid these people, but it was in vain...
The new tone had been set. One by one, the guest editors left, as front page updates ceased to mention their comings and goings. Sean Kelly did not know what Jay had done prior to him, and made no attempt to emulate it. Instead, the site's front page was changed. For the first one or two changes, it was fine; however, things took a turn for the worse as time went on.
Kyle had a new plan in mind--one which ignored these section editors entirely. He wished to make a new Mario site--one based on Mario information. Nevermind that TMK and soon, Mario Wiki would do such a job better than SMBHQ could ever do, or that both of them had far more staff... Kyle wanted the Mario eras. And so, he prodded Sean on, such that Sean himself lost his passion for the site. What little of it remained, that is.
The main page was remade multiple times, and each time the guest sections were made less important. Sean seemingly forgot they existed; instead, he futilely worked on the Mario Eras, which were too large a task for him... or anyone... to do alone. The site lost viewers, and the ads became less profitable.
But Kyle had a solution: more ads. Soon, intelliTXT ads graced every page, making the site look like a domain squatter's google adwords site. What little remained of the guest editors vanished after this; I and Codiekitty packed our bags and left, disgusted with the ads. SSS remained as the sole fan section, surviving mostly due to its stubborn staff member, Pat, locking out the ads behind Sean Kelly's back.
By now, little remained outside SSS and the mailbag. And with every month, Kyle added something new that was an ad or a service; rather than focus on rebuilding SMBHQ, or refilling the great hole in guest sections, he chose to forge on in his new agenda. An agenda to nowhere.
Continual Vaporware-like mentions of some 'better SMBHQ' being on the horizon were thrown, but it was a lie; there was nothing to be seen. Sean Kelly worked for years on end on the Eras, and changed the front page multiple times, but nobody cared. There was nothing to see on SMBHQ anymore; the eras consisted of recycled information that was already there long ago on the wiki and TMK; the fan sections were dead, sans SSS; and finally, the front page had morphed into a bizarre abomination, filled with boxes and links thrown about at random.
The meltdown continued, as irrelevant social networks and blogging features were added and mentioned everywhere. Once again, they did nothing to help SMBHQ, for SMBHQ's strength had been its user sections; those were, by and large, dead. The years passed, and even SSS left. The last embers of NC, Jay's section (and the section which had TRULY kept the site alive, back when he ran it) died.
But the site continued anyway. Kyle continued placing ads on the corpse, while even Sean began to question the point of it all. He asked about it on the forums, where it became clear--nobody ever looked at SMBHQ anymore. It was a relic from the early 00's; the lack of real updates had killed it as early as 2006.
And so, after many, many years of neglect and abuse, SMBHQ itself was declared over... and a retrospective that as of this writing (September 2010) has not yet surfaced remains a symbol of the post 2005 SMBHQ: Nonexistent vaporware.
I write this as a message to would-be webmasters elsewhere... if you have a site that gets big... do not sell out. Do not throw away what it does best for something everyone else is fighting over. Your reward will not be cash; nor will it be fame. You will not get anything; you will get... SMBHQ. A bloated, ad-infested carcass of a once great site.
I can only hope Jay eventually does something in the future, to help restore a sense of the old SMBHQ to being. Otherwise... it's going to be a long, lonely, SMBHQ-less trek from now on.