Paid Reviews- Indie Game Magazine (IGM) charging developers to review their games?

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Avatar image for TwistedJenius
Posted by TwistedJenius (25 posts) -

Earlier this week I sent out a round of emails to various indie game sites about an update to my game (Twisty's Asylum Escapades). One of the responses that I got was from indiegamemag.com. I must admit that I was a bit surprised by what the e-mail had to say.

It began by going out of its way to explain how "unbiased" IGM is, and explains that they "will never offer or accept payment or other forms of compensation for a favorable review".

Then the next paragraph went on to solicit money for their unbiased reviews. They explained that because they are independently owned and not funded by another company, they need support from their community (and evidently their ad revenue that they get from the site is not enough). As a result they are forced to ask for a "small review fee" from the developers.

"The $50.00 will purchase a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game"

It's important to note that they did specify that the 50 bucks was for an in-depth review and that they would be willing to provide a briefer preview of the game for no charge.

So apparently, paying them will not get you a better review of your game, just a longer and more detailed one (they also mentioned that another $50 could buy a 15 minute YouTube video review/walkthrough of your game).

While they do seem committed to unbiased reviews, this business model still presents the problem of the quality of the actual games themselves that will be receiving these in-depth reviews and whether the right games will be given the kind of attention that they deserve.

Now I'm relatively new to indie game marketing, but something seemed a little off about this to me. This isn't a practice that I'm familiar with and, after doing some searching around the Internet, I can't seem to find anything about this going on as a regular thing (if this is something that happens often, or is a normal practice, feel free to correct me).

One other thing that I'd like to point out is that this e-mail was sent "On Behalf Of Chris Newton". According to this post (http://www.indiegamemag.com/under-new-management-sort-of/) dated November 1st, 2013 on IGM, Mr. Newton only recently gained ownership of the business. Perhaps this move towards paid reviews is part of his "re-focusing" efforts?

I can understand why something like this would raise some red flags for many gamers out there. Personally, as a developer and businessman myself, I can understand why IGM would want to monetize in this way. On the surface it seems like a good symbiotic relationship between this online magazine and game developers who want their games to be covered. The thing that I was a bit offended by is the "unbiased" element of this. This sort of bizarre compromise between minor corruption and journalistic integrity is a bit inefficient. It would be best just to go one way or the other. If I'm going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased!

Avatar image for c_rakestraw
#1 Posted by c_rakestraw (14870 posts) -

It's a dirty tactic. Common in the mobile games space (which is just tragic), but terrible all the same. Forcing developers to pay to get their games reviewed is ridiculous, especially when they still try to claim they're completely unbiased. Those are two things that don't mix. It destroys any semblance of integrity they have.

I can understand the desire to get their writers compensated for their work, but this isn't the way to do it. They're flushing their careers down the toilet by pulling stunts like this.

Avatar image for branketra
#2 Edited by BranKetra (51726 posts) -

I expect that website to change its reviewing policy completely or fail. Either way, it will be a short-lived one.

Avatar image for AdrianWerner
#3 Edited by AdrianWerner (28438 posts) -

Yeah. I think developers have obligation to deliver free copies of the game, but that's where it ends. If the site can't sustain itself from adds then it doesn't have enough readership to make it worth paying for review anyway.

Avatar image for TwistedJenius
#4 Edited by TwistedJenius (25 posts) -

Here's an article from IndieStatik about this event: http://indiestatik.com/2013/11/28/charging-indie-game-devs-reviews-bad-practice/

And here's a conversation between TotalBiscuit and the owner of IGM: https://twitter.com/Totalbiscuit/status/405834805343830016

Avatar image for LoG-Sacrament
#5 Posted by LoG-Sacrament (20397 posts) -

@TwistedJenius said:
If I'm going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased!

i lol'd

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#6 Edited by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@TwistedJenius said:

Earlier this week I sent out a round of emails to various indie game sites about an update to my game (Twisty's Asylum Escapades). One of the responses that I got was from indiegamemag.com. I must admit that I was a bit surprised by what the e-mail had to say.

It began by going out of its way to explain how "unbiased" IGM is, and explains that they "will never offer or accept payment or other forms of compensation for a favorable review".

Then the next paragraph went on to solicit money for their unbiased reviews. They explained that because they are independently owned and not funded by another company, they need support from their community (and evidently their ad revenue that they get from the site is not enough). As a result they are forced to ask for a "small review fee" from the developers.

"The $50.00 will purchase a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game"

It's important to note that they did specify that the 50 bucks was for an in-depth review and that they would be willing to provide a briefer preview of the game for no charge.

So apparently, paying them will not get you a better review of your game, just a longer and more detailed one (they also mentioned that another $50 could buy a 15 minute YouTube video review/walkthrough of your game).

While they do seem committed to unbiased reviews, this business model still presents the problem of the quality of the actual games themselves that will be receiving these in-depth reviews and whether the right games will be given the kind of attention that they deserve.

Now I'm relatively new to indie game marketing, but something seemed a little off about this to me. This isn't a practice that I'm familiar with and, after doing some searching around the Internet, I can't seem to find anything about this going on as a regular thing (if this is something that happens often, or is a normal practice, feel free to correct me).

One other thing that I'd like to point out is that this e-mail was sent "On Behalf Of Chris Newton". According to this post (http://www.indiegamemag.com/under-new-management-sort-of/) dated November 1st, 2013 on IGM, Mr. Newton only recently gained ownership of the business. Perhaps this move towards paid reviews is part of his "re-focusing" efforts?

I can understand why something like this would raise some red flags for many gamers out there. Personally, as a developer and businessman myself, I can understand why IGM would want to monetize in this way. On the surface it seems like a good symbiotic relationship between this online magazine and game developers who want their games to be covered. The thing that I was a bit offended by is the "unbiased" element of this. This sort of bizarre compromise between minor corruption and journalistic integrity is a bit inefficient. It would be best just to go one way or the other. If I'm going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased!

Well, if they are truly unbiased and you can read that from the reviews, then good for them.

But i really don't see a problem if companies want to pay and the magazine doesn't hide the fact that they get money for the reviews.

Avatar image for c_rakestraw
#7 Edited by c_rakestraw (14870 posts) -
@Jacanuk said:

Well, if they are truly unbiased and you can read that from the reviews, then good for them.

But i really don't see a problem if companies want to pay and the magazine doesn't hide the fact that they get money for the reviews.

Because you end up looking corrupt as hell. Even if you remain unbiased in your work, all anyone sees is that your words were bought and are thus useless and untrustworthy. Especially when countless other sites gladly review games without charging the developers. It makes them look like greedy assholes.

There's absolutely no justification for this. This is a gross breach of basic journalism ethics. We wouldn't tolerate it if GameSpot or IGN used such tactics, so why these guys?

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#8 Posted by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@c_rakestraw said:
@Jacanuk said:

Well, if they are truly unbiased and you can read that from the reviews, then good for them.

But i really don't see a problem if companies want to pay and the magazine doesn't hide the fact that they get money for the reviews.

Because you end up looking corrupt as hell. Even if you remain unbiased in your work, all anyone sees is that your words were bought and are thus useless and untrustworthy. Especially when countless other sites gladly review games without charging the developers. It makes them look like greedy assholes.

There's absolutely no justification for this. This is a gross breach of basic journalism ethics. We wouldn't tolerate it if GameSpot or IGN used such tactics, so why these guys?

Of course there is a justification for it, The magazine makes money which keeps them alive.

Also who cares what some people think? if the magazine dont lose readers and lose money on it, then i can't see a problem as long as they don't hide the fact that they are paid.

Its a nice thought you have about Journalists and ethics but all journalists have their agenda and no media in the world is free from having to think twice when it comes to some areas. Also Gamespot and IGN are not different, the only thing that separates the first from the latter is that gamespot and ign are more secretive about it.

Avatar image for c_rakestraw
#9 Posted by c_rakestraw (14870 posts) -
@Jacanuk said:

Of course there is a justification for it, The magazine makes money which keeps them alive.

Also who cares what some people think? if the magazine dont lose readers and lose money on it, then i can't see a problem as long as they don't hide the fact that they are paid.

Its a nice thought you have about Journalists and ethics but all journalists have their agenda and no media in the world is free from having to think twice when it comes to some areas. Also Gamespot and IGN are not different, the only thing that separates the first from the latter is that gamespot and ign are more secretive about it.

If you truly believe that, then you really are hopeless.

Avatar image for Pedro
#10 Posted by Pedro (27909 posts) -

They clearly state that there is a flat cost to the reviewing of games, so what exactly is the problem?

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#11 Edited by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@c_rakestraw said:
@Jacanuk said:

Of course there is a justification for it, The magazine makes money which keeps them alive.

Also who cares what some people think? if the magazine dont lose readers and lose money on it, then i can't see a problem as long as they don't hide the fact that they are paid.

Its a nice thought you have about Journalists and ethics but all journalists have their agenda and no media in the world is free from having to think twice when it comes to some areas. Also Gamespot and IGN are not different, the only thing that separates the first from the latter is that gamespot and ign are more secretive about it.

If you truly believe that, then you really are hopeless.

ouch kitty got claws.

but nice response.

Avatar image for The_Last_Ride
#12 Posted by The_Last_Ride (76371 posts) -

That's a total contradiction, you can't be unbiased when you take money for the review. If it's for ads and stuff like that i get it. But actually getting money for their reviews and saying their unbiased is stupid

Avatar image for POKE777GM
#13 Posted by POKE777GM (53 posts) -

Well it looks like you pissed the guy off enough to have him come out of the closet:

http://www.indiegamemag.com/igms-review-policy/

I think it's wrong to charge money for reviews, should be the other way around IMO, in fact not only does the company get free games, exclusive interviews, press releases, etc...all of this added content does transform into page views and revenue for the site.

The owner is a total moron and a hypocrite:

"I purchased this publication out of the love, resolve and aggressive confidence. I know that I can build IGM into a focal point of the industry. I am confident that my decision is right and the the price attached to the fee is low enough to be affordable to most developers and yet enough to add up to a decent part-time wage for my team...."

Providing wages to your team is your job not the indie dev that barely kept going under financial burden.

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#14 Edited by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@POKE777GM said:

Well it looks like you pissed the guy off enough to have him come out of the closet:

http://www.indiegamemag.com/igms-review-policy/

I think it's wrong to charge money for reviews, should be the other way around IMO, in fact not only does the company get free games, exclusive interviews, press releases, etc...all of this added content does transform into page views and revenue for the site.

The owner is a total moron and a hypocrite:

"I purchased this publication out of the love, resolve and aggressive confidence. I know that I can build IGM into a focal point of the industry. I am confident that my decision is right and the the price attached to the fee is low enough to be affordable to most developers and yet enough to add up to a decent part-time wage for my team...."

Providing wages to your team is your job not the indie dev that barely kept going under financial burden.

But isent that what he is doing? he has made a business decision to ask for cash in exchange for reviewing the game. meaning the site is making money and can actually afford to pay of its staff.

Honestly i dont see a problem here and its not like there isent a ton of sites out there where a indie developer can get free publicity , Indiegamestand.com is one or notonsteam is another.

Avatar image for Black_Knight_00
#15 Posted by Black_Knight_00 (20915 posts) -

Why can he make an 83 characters thread title and I am stuck with a 60 characters limit?

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#16 Posted by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@Black_Knight_00 said:

Why can he make an 83 characters thread title and I am stuck with a 60 characters limit?

Think its because he made a blog which was posted here and unfortunately gamespot´s forum seem to have bugged out and doesnt put the blog tag on anymore.

Avatar image for YukoAsho
#17 Posted by YukoAsho (2129 posts) -

Nice. Charging for reviews, that's gorgeous. Nothing says "impropriety" like charging for "more in-depth" reviews. Makes it sound like they'll slag your game if you're not paying them.

The unfortunate thing is that we are once again exposed to how untrustworthy 90% of the games media is. It's not enough not to have improprieties; even the appearance of improprieties is unacceptable. It casts the whole operation's integrity into doubt.

Seriously, this is nearly as bad as IGN's chief Nintendo editor being married to someone in Nintendo PR...

Avatar image for POKE777GM
#18 Posted by POKE777GM (53 posts) -
@Jacanuk said:

@TwistedJenius said:

Earlier this week I sent out a round of emails to various indie game sites about an update to my game (Twisty's Asylum Escapades). One of the responses that I got was from indiegamemag.com. I must admit that I was a bit surprised by what the e-mail had to say.

It began by going out of its way to explain how "unbiased" IGM is, and explains that they "will never offer or accept payment or other forms of compensation for a favorable review".

Then the next paragraph went on to solicit money for their unbiased reviews. They explained that because they are independently owned and not funded by another company, they need support from their community (and evidently their ad revenue that they get from the site is not enough). As a result they are forced to ask for a "small review fee" from the developers.

"The $50.00 will purchase a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game"

It's important to note that they did specify that the 50 bucks was for an in-depth review and that they would be willing to provide a briefer preview of the game for no charge.

So apparently, paying them will not get you a better review of your game, just a longer and more detailed one (they also mentioned that another $50 could buy a 15 minute YouTube video review/walkthrough of your game).

While they do seem committed to unbiased reviews, this business model still presents the problem of the quality of the actual games themselves that will be receiving these in-depth reviews and whether the right games will be given the kind of attention that they deserve.

Now I'm relatively new to indie game marketing, but something seemed a little off about this to me. This isn't a practice that I'm familiar with and, after doing some searching around the Internet, I can't seem to find anything about this going on as a regular thing (if this is something that happens often, or is a normal practice, feel free to correct me).

One other thing that I'd like to point out is that this e-mail was sent "On Behalf Of Chris Newton". According to this post (http://www.indiegamemag.com/under-new-management-sort-of/) dated November 1st, 2013 on IGM, Mr. Newton only recently gained ownership of the business. Perhaps this move towards paid reviews is part of his "re-focusing" efforts?

I can understand why something like this would raise some red flags for many gamers out there. Personally, as a developer and businessman myself, I can understand why IGM would want to monetize in this way. On the surface it seems like a good symbiotic relationship between this online magazine and game developers who want their games to be covered. The thing that I was a bit offended by is the "unbiased" element of this. This sort of bizarre compromise between minor corruption and journalistic integrity is a bit inefficient. It would be best just to go one way or the other. If I'm going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased!

Well, if they are truly unbiased and you can read that from the reviews, then good for them.

But i really don't see a problem if companies want to pay and the magazine doesn't hide the fact that they get money for the reviews.

The fact he has staff means he's able to afford them in the first place. This guy is just trying to pressurize indie devs into paying him for positive reviews..just imagine yourself, would you risk your game rep for $50 dollars? Of course not especially when the free option is just a "brief" review.

Also what kind of ethical journalist would do "brief" reviews? Are indie games filled with hours of deep plots that require the extra fee for "in depth" analysis? Would you as a reviewer/journalist not write your full and exact views on a product just because of 50 bucks, is that what you are worth? Is $50 bucks so large and motivating for you that you don't care whether your viewers spend their good money on a mediocre title just because of your "brief" reviews or "in-depth" positive review?

Isn't this the same reason why people still don't buy games just based on the demo? Because a brief experience doesn't mean anything.

Eitherway, "paid in depth" and "free brief" are both unethical and pure BS. Both high and low budget games should be treated indifferently.

Avatar image for 1PMrFister
#19 Edited by 1PMrFister (3134 posts) -

I like to consider myself a very unbiased and ethical person. However, recent times have been tough, and because I am an independent source, I do not receive funding from other sources. Therefore, I have no choice but to ask for a small fee of $50 from every user who wishes to hear of an in-depth opinion of mine regarding all future forum subjects. This $50 will not affect the final opinion in any way, and there will also exist an option to provide a 1-line post in any topic free of charge.

For the love of god, please do not take this seriously.

Avatar image for Black_Knight_00
#20 Posted by Black_Knight_00 (20915 posts) -

@Jacanuk said:

@Black_Knight_00 said:

Why can he make an 83 characters thread title and I am stuck with a 60 characters limit?

Think its because he made a blog which was posted here and unfortunately gamespot´s forum seem to have bugged out and doesnt put the blog tag on anymore.

I see, but still: why are blogs ok to have long titles but threads aren't? ARGH!

Avatar image for Ish_basic
#21 Edited by Ish_basic (4709 posts) -

The indie scene right now reminds me of Atari in the early 80s. Just free-for-all everyone making games, everyone making their own version of someone else's game and it's just a sea of shit. Who has time to review everything, and how do you identify a particular game to review when there are just so damn many that most people can't even keep track? How can you be sure anybody knows or cares about this particular game you are reviewing? How can you be sure it will help your readership? Since the devs certainly benefit from the exposure that a review provides, it only makes sense in this particular mad house of a market to ask them to shoulder some of the financial burden. No problem with it.

Avatar image for Jacanuk
#22 Posted by Jacanuk (11712 posts) -

@Black_Knight_00 said:

@Jacanuk said:

@Black_Knight_00 said:

Why can he make an 83 characters thread title and I am stuck with a 60 characters limit?

Think its because he made a blog which was posted here and unfortunately gamespot´s forum seem to have bugged out and doesnt put the blog tag on anymore.

I see, but still: why are blogs ok to have long titles but threads aren't? ARGH!

The wonders of Gamespot :D i get some of the design idea´s behind the forum but wow are they just badly implemented.

Avatar image for UpInFlames
#23 Edited by UpInFlames (13301 posts) -
@c_rakestraw said:

Because you end up looking corrupt as hell. Even if you remain unbiased in your work, all anyone sees is that your words were bought and are thus useless and untrustworthy. Especially when countless other sites gladly review games without charging the developers. It makes them look like greedy assholes.

There's absolutely no justification for this. This is a gross breach of basic journalism ethics. We wouldn't tolerate it if GameSpot or IGN used such tactics, so why these guys?

Agreed. This site is equating reviews with ads which is a horrible practice for a million reasons and should be abolished instantly. The most obvious being, of course, is that if you are looking at your review as a means to promote an indie game, then your unbiased argument flies right out the window.