For a while I’ve been planning on writing something about this topic and briefly touched upon it in my latest blog post. Given the frenzy around IGM’s review policy and the fact that I’ve changed my approach, it feels like the right time.
Getting a game coverage is hard, in particular when it maybe isn’t the prettiest (yup, I know my artwork sucks) and when you are unknown. There’s a lot of games out there and getting attention isn’t easy. Usually as my game is ready for review or to be announced, I’ll start off with sites that I actually read and feel may be interested and then expand to sites that may also be interested. In truth I hate this. I don’t feel too comfortable sending the mail but even worse is the wait for replies that don’t come. It isn’t fun and can be very demoralising.
Occasionally I’ll get people contacting me wanting to review my games. One or two times I’ve been asked a few questions, which is great! A few times I’ve given out keys/links only to never hear back, which really sucks. However most of the time after a few emails back and forth I get asked to fork up money. Ha!
At a Cost
When most my games are free and I’m making them in my spare time, do you really think I’d pay for a review? Be better putting it on Greenlight, which is an expense I can’t justify as a hobby developer. If the stats are anything to go by, even the most positive review I’ve received haven’t led to many hits and no doubt fewer sales.
The other thing that I dislike about companies approaching me to pay for reviews is that they probably have no interest in the game. If they did really want to review the game, they would just review it. I suspect that they’d gather information and just dump it on the site, barely touching the game. I’d feel very hollow with that. In fact one review out there I actually pretty much wrote myself. It was a free thing to do where I was putting in a review request and filled out a questionnaire. The review was then a copy paste. Imagine being charged for that!
It was a real shame when I read that one of my favourite sites, and one that has given me great coverage in the past, has chosen to charge developers. I do like the site and if there’s any I’d pay for, this might be one… however as mentioned this is an expense that if I’m being honest, won’t pay for itself and there’s better ways to invest money. Its not like there’s a shortage of sites, although IGM was one of the few that actually responded to my emails!
I do get their reasoning. Their staff have always been great and I agree they do deserve to earn money. When I think about it, Invertical probably takes 8 hours to complete when you’re new to it. To do that whilst analysing it, then write a review… $50 it sod all per hour. I also believe IGM and their writers would still be impartial, unlike the dodgy emails I get. Nonetheless, IGM is a no-go for me.
Could Be Worse
Obviously there’s some ethical questions here but perhaps the worst I’ve encountered is a few companies trying to charge me for them to download my free games or provide 5 star reviews.
I can see why developers might go for it. To be successful you need to be in a good position in the stores. To get that you need success…
I turned it down.
Nowadays there’s an increasing number of ways to get attention. Obviously via social media you can share game news but that of course requires people to follow you first. Of course there’s traditional advertising etc but what I’ve grown fond of is IndieDB. Through there I can post up screenshots, videos, news and more. It gets plenty hits and I can distribute my free games through there as well! Excellent.
You’ve also got GameJolt. I can upload my game, get it shared with the world and whats more I can even get a cut of the revenue. Awesome!
What I really like about sites like this is that I can straight provide news to gamers beyond the narrow audience on Facebook / Twitter. It also makes like a little easier with timing. When I’m wanting to share with the world, I can. No doubt over the coming months I’ll learn about more great places where I can connect with players directly.
Due to the effort this all involves and lack of results, I’m just not bothering. I make games for fun as a hobby, so why make it incredibly stressful? If someone reviews my game and it gets a positive write up, well that’s just an awesome bonus! The same goes for announcements, updates and other news. Of course they won’t be silent launches. I’ll still post on here along with Facebook, Twitter and IndieDB. Where possible I’ll submit games for download on various sites (eg GameJolt).
If any writers are interested in my games then I am more than happy to provide artwork, free copies or just email back and forth. Just get in touch. I know that I’ve effectively said that I want to go straight to gamers, but as a gamer myself I can appreciate the value of reviews. In particular I love articles that aren’t just reviews. Things like round ups, interviews and articles there to stimulate debate… love it both as a gamer and developer!
Quick Final IGM Note
I hope the reputations of none of the writers suffer and also that IGM doesn’t get too much abuse. I get the “why”. I just think its flawed and worry it may hurt them.