IGM is charging for Reviews, and I Know Some Indie Devs Would Pay

IGM's offer to have you pay to have your game reviews is messed up. And incredibly tempting.
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Indie Game Magazine (IGM) has just announced a policy of asking money from independent game developers to write reviews. The practice was recently put into effect because IGM wants to pay its staff writers and keep the site afloat, but has received major backlash from the community. 

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Right now the fee structure is pretty basic. If you want IGM to do a quick “preview” of your game, they’ll do so at no cost. However, if you want “a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game” you can pay IGM $50. Another $50 will get you a Let’s Play video. There is also an amorphous other option wherein indie devs trade services for Reviews like “doing a graphic for IGM, write a code.”  This is definitely not a new practice, which Chris Newton (the new owner of IGM) illustrated in his blog post — mobile app review sites have charged fees for a long time to developers for reviews. But it’s a policy that has garnered a lot of hate from the indie community

Don’t give them a dime. It’s crooked as hell to expect someone to pay to have their game looked at. Send it to IndieStatik or something if IGM is gonna act like that.

The policy is, without question, a bit shady. As Indiestatik points out in their blog post on the subject, the impetus for positive reviews goes up when there is money attached. As a cash strapped indie dev, you don’t want to spend $50 if your game isn’t going to be seen in the best possible light. That would be a waste of good marketing. If you knew a reviewer was prone to being extra harsh then you would be less willing to spend the money on them. So, as a writer whose job depends on getting reviews, you’re going to want to write a more positive review so that you don’t turn away potential customers. 

If I’m going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased! — creator of Twisty’s Asylum Escapades

It’s not a good system. 

My first thought was that I knew at least three people who would be willing to pay $50 to have their game reviewed. 

I work with a game development group in my hometown, and it’s hard for indie developers to get the press they desperately want and need. $50 for a guaranteed review in a well-known publication? $100 for a 15 minute review? That’s a hard offer to resist. 

It even comes off as a good business strategy in the email Chris Newton has sent in response to requests for reviews: 

The $50.00 will purchase a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game that will be broadcast to our audience of 100,000+ website visitors. We will also provide two Tweets from our Twitter account which has a growing followership of 30,000 followers. 

I worry that this practice will spread because of how tempting it is to indie developers, how seductive it is to have a promised review. Because it is a bad idea, not simply because it cannot produce truly unbiased reviews, but because it’s predatorial against indie developers who desperately want and need the exposure. 

What do you think about IGM’s policy? 

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Amanda Wallace
Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.