An Open Letter to New Reviewers of Board Games from a Tiny Publishing Company

13 May 2014

Last month I wrote a blog entry about how Kickstarter creators are the new gatekeepers. Honestly, though, in the board game world, there’s a second gatekeeper, and it’s not publishing companies: board game reviewers.

You take the time to play games, dissect them, and express your thoughts about them to the general public so people can decide if the game is a good fit before buying it. This is great for the consumer.

You also serve as an amazing marketing platform for games. For the cost of making and sending you a copy of a game, a publishing company can reach hundreds or thousands of people. You might do this when the game is brand new, or you might do it months later, giving the game a nice boost after the hype has died down. This is great for the publisher.

Reviewers are integral to this industry, and I am so appreciative of what you do, both as a gamer and a small publisher.

However, after seeing a huge increase in requests for review copies this year, many of them from reviewers who have just started reviewing (or haven’t even started yet–if that’s the case, keep in mind these fundamentals of blogging), I’d like to open a dialogue about those requests, things you can do to establish credibility, and my responsibility as a publisher.

Requests for Free Games from Reviewers

When I got a request for a free game from a reviewer, I look at a few different things:

  • How long have you been reviewing games? It’s really, really easy to start a blog these days. Anyone can become a game reviewer in about 3 minutes on WordPress or BGG. The hard part is sustaining the blog. Reviewing games takes time and effort. Can you sustain it over a significant period of time (4-5 months at least)? Have you already? If you’ve only been reviewing games for a few weeks–or your blog isn’t even live yet–I can’t justify the expense of sending you a free game.
  • What kind of games have you reviewed? This is closely tied to my previous point, but it’s important for me to not just look at the number of games you’ve reviewed, but also the types of games. This is for your sake and for mine. If you primarily review miniatures war games, the people who read your blog are those who are interested in miniatures war games. It’s not an effective use of my money or your time for me to send you a copy of Viticulture.
  • Do I like your content? This doesn’t play a huge role in my decision, but when I get a request from a reviewer, I often ask myself, “Would I read this blog?” The answer is almost always yes, as I subscribe to hundreds of game review blogs. But every now and then I’ll encounter a blog that just doesn’t do it for me. I think this most often occurs when a review is 95% game overview and 5% review. I prefer reviews that offer a good, meaty, well composed compilation of thoughts about the game–closer to 40 or 50% of the content.
  • Did you review the previous free game I sent to you? This is more for established reviewers than new reviewers, but it’s definitely something I look at. If I sent you a $60 game 6 months ago and you haven’t reviewed it or even mentioned it, I’m not going to send you another free game. This applies even if you played the game and didn’t like it, in which case you probably don’t want to spend a few hours playing it again and reviewing it. I totally understand that. But you can still mention that you played it, or even reach out to me personally to let me know. I respect that.
  • Did you feature my game at some point during the Kickstarter campaign? If you go out of your way to interview me on your blog or podcast or feature my game on your blog sometime during the project, that goes a long way. Sure, some of the metrics below still enter my consideration, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
  • How big is your audience? This is a business. In fact, for me, this is my livelihood, my sole source of income. I can’t give things away for free with no projected return on investment, and the key factor in determining the ROI is: How many people pay attention to this reviewer’s content? If that number is really small (I’ll define that below), it’s probably better for me to focus my limited supply of review copies elsewhere. That isn’t indicative of your value to me as a content consumer, but as a publisher, numbers matter.

Let’s talk about exactly what I mean when I talk about audience size. Here are the metrics I use, with some examples in parentheses for context (these numbers were last updated in July 2016):

  • Alexa ranking (GeekDad: 60,756; Board Game Quest: 335,171; The Cardboard Republic: 1,185,087): I look for websites in the top 2 million Alexa-ranked sites.
  • YouTube subscribers (The Dice Tower: 125,937; Rahdo Runs Through: 47,234; Board Game Replay: 10,568): I look for YouTube channels that have at least 1,000 subscribers.
  • Facebook Likes (Shut Up & Sit Down: 9,491; Blue Peg Pink Peg: 1,059; Dukes of Dice: 527): I look for Facebook pages with at least 500 Likes.
  • BGG thumbs (Ender’s Reviews: averages over 200 thumbs/review): I look for reviewers that get at least 100 thumbs per review.
  • Podcast: Honestly, I have no idea how to see the number of subscribers a podcast has. Does anyone know? [Update: Sometimes I look at Twitter followers and Facebook fans for podcasts, but as some podcasters pointed out, some podcasts have small but very loyal followers, so it’s tough to go by strict metrics. Which is fine–I consider the other points I discussed above in lieu of hard data.]

Every publisher will use different metrics, and you might see different responses based on the game. It’s a lot easier for a publisher to give away a $15 game that isn’t selling well versus a $70 game in high demand.

Things You Can Do to Establish Credibility

For a new reviewer reading the previous section, you may be wondering how you can build up an audience (and with it, your credibility). The answer is not “ask for free games from publishers.” There are some other methods to try first:

  1. Review games you already own: If you’re trying to build up content, there is no better way to do it than to review the games you already own. The best part about this is that you’ve probably already played the games you own, so other than player a refresher game, you don’t have to put in much time or effort before composing the review.
  2. If you really want a specific game, buy it and review it: I’ve gotten a few requests from new reviewers who really, really want one of my games. The thing is, it’s really not that hard to get our games (at least for Euphoria): If you want to play it that badly, buy it. If if you end up reviewing it, I’ll be much more likely to send you a free review copy of our next game.
  3. For games on Kickstarter, offer to make and review the PnP: With more and more board game projects on Kickstarter, it’s harder for creators to find reviewers to look at the pre-published version of their game. You can provide a HUGE service to those creators–and establish credibility/visibility–by printing out the game and reviewing it during the campaign. If you want to stay ahead of the pack, subscribe for notifications on this Google doc where creators post their projected Kickstarter launch dates. In lieu of making the PnP, you can also feature the game (usually via an interview) on your platform during the Kickstarter campaign–that can make a big impact in the way a publisher views you.
  4. Play and review “free” games at your FLGS or conventions: There are tons of opportunities to play games for free. Actively seek out those opportunities and take notes while you play.
  5. Ask for a damaged game: Most publishers have at least a few damaged games that they can’t sell or would need to sell at a big discount. Ask for one of these games. This shows that you’re interested in the gameplay itself, not just free stuff. (Pro tip: Offer to pay for shipping! Meet us halfway and we’ll respond well to it.)

Here are a few notes for ANY reviewer:

  1. Write positives and negatives in every review: To truly be credible as a game reviewer, you need to say good and bad things about games in constructive ways. If you only talk about what you like, people will wonder if you’re just providing lip service for the publisher. Usually a reviewer simply won’t post a review at all if they don’t like the game at all, but I think a more effective way of doing that is to do a short recap every now and then of games that just didn’t work out for you. Talk briefly about those games and then move on. Some reviewers that do this really well are Board Game Reviews by Josh, Drake’s Flames, and Joel Eddy’s Drive-Thru Review.
  2. If you get a free review copy, review it: I talked about this above, but it belongs in this list too. At least mention the game, or tell the publisher that you’re not going to review it for a specific reason.
  3. Take photos for written reviews: It’s fine if you use existing photos of a game, but I think audiences appreciate seeing your visual perspective on a game, not stock photos the publisher took.
  4. Tell the publisher when the review goes live: I don’t know about other publishers, but I read a lot of blogs, listen to a lot of podcasts, subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels, and keep a close eye on BGG. Odds are, if there’s a review about one of my games, I’m going to see it within 24 hours. But I always appreciate the gesture when a reviewer informs me of a new review, and I particularly appreciate it if they don’t tell me to share it. As I’ll discuss below, I think it’s my responsibility to share it (or at least link to it), but I don’t like being told by someone–particularly someone to whom I sent a free game–that I need to promote their work for them.

After you’ve established your credibility, consistency, and audience, then you can start to request review copies. I would suggest starting off by making general requests. That way a publisher can have complete freedom over the game they send you. After that, you can move on to requesting specific games. When you do that, include some links in your request to similar games you’ve reviewed so they have some context to work with.

My Responsibility as a Publisher

I’ve written a lot new and established reviewers, but a publisher is half of the reviewer-publisher relationship. Here’s what I expect of myself as a publisher:

  1. I will share, link to, Like, thumb, retweet, and/or comment on your review. If you took the time to play and review my game–which, as I discussed above, is a form of marketing–then it’s my responsibility to appreciate your efforts in some way. This is going to vary widely based on the review. I don’t like to share every review on Facebook because I don’t want to come across as self-congratulatory (that’s not the point of my Facebook page). And I don’t always want to comment, particularly on BGG, because sometimes that stifles an open, constructive discussion among the readers. But I’ll still find a way to acknowledge that I read the review, and I’ll almost always link to it on our website.
  2. I will respect your opinion: I will acknowledge that you are entitle to your opinion, and thus I won’t get defensive if you don’t like a game I publish. It helps if you play the game more than once, but I understand that if you really don’t like a game the first time, you probably won’t want to play it again.
  3. I will be open to negative reviews. I personally don’t think it’s ethical for me to only send games to reviewers who have said nice things about my games in the past. I want to give potential buyers a broad array of perspectives about my games, and that means that I will send games to reviewers who have the courage and credibility to have said good and bad things about my previous games.

***

I really love the open landscape of the board game publishing industry, and reviewers are a huge part of that. I hope any reviewer who reads this–particularly new reviewers–will see that the aim of this post is to help you understand my perspective as a small indie publisher who genuinely wants to see you get that critical mass of readers/listeners. You can do it! And for all of those established reviewers out there, thank you so much for taking the time to play and review tabletop games. You are the true gatekeepers of this industry.

This post is meant to be a part of a greater dialogue about game reviewers, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you’re a new reviewer, feel free to post a link to your website in  your comment.

112 Comments on “An Open Letter to New Reviewers of Board Games from a Tiny Publishing Company

  1. This is quite helpful for a fledgling review such as myself. I’ve just been reviewing the games I have and never thought to ask for review copies.

    Thanks for the well thought and we’ll said advice

  2. Hey, Jamey!

    I really value your tips for reviewing games! I know I need to get more critical in my reviews.

    I’m still plucking up the courage (and building up my readership and content) to start asking for review copies. Advice on how to approach that?

    You’ve visited my little home on the web before, but for exposure’s sake: http://www.ifyougiveageekagame.com

    1. Morgan: Thanks! I’ve been enjoying your blog. I think you probably need to build up another 2-3 months of consistent content before you ask for review copies. When you do, if you’re requesting a specific game, link to a few similar games that you’ve reviewed so the publisher has some context to work with. Good luck!

    1. David: Good question. I used the Alexa plugin on Google Chrome. I’m not sure exactly what that measures (US or worldwide), but we’re a worldwide company, so the number would apply either way for us.

  3. Hey Jamey.

    A few podcasters and I were having a discussion on twitter with you on the difficulty of measuring a podcast’s audience (since downloads do not equal listeners). The conclusion we came to is although podcasts have smaller audiences they are often more intimate and can sometimes be where the conversion comes from when someone is on the fence about a game.

    You mentioned that your list of podcasters you send games to is based on those who you listen to personally. Do you mind sharing with use your top 5 podcasts?

    1. Jonathan: I think you all made some great points on Twitter, and I actually added an addendum to my point about podcasters on the above entry.

      It’s tough for me to narrow podcasts down to my Top 5, but I’ll tell you the ones I subscribe to that I always skim for content before deciding to listen to the whole show. These are in no particular order:

      The Secret Cabal
      Plaid Hat’s podcast
      The Dice Tower Showdown
      Board Game University
      Push Ur Luck
      The Cardboard Jungle
      Blue Peg Pink Peg
      Punching Cardboard
      Giant Fire Breathing Robot
      Exploring Games with Gamer Chris
      On Board Games
      All Us Geeks
      The Long View
      Happy Mitten Games
      Dice Hate Me State of Games
      Epic Turn
      Funding the Dream (not for reviews, but it’s worth a mention)
      Strange Assembly
      Garrett’s Games and Geekiness
      Board Game Authority
      DJ Grandpa (again, not really for reviews, but I like the interviews)
      Gamer’s Tavern
      Ludology
      Today in Board Games

      I’m sure I’m missing some, but these are the ones that first came to mind.

      1. Sweet, I made the list! I love making lists. I mean making it into lists, I’m not really sure I actually like making lists. Unless it is lists of boardgames that I love!

        I almost want to write the flip side of this and do an open letter to indie game publishers. I am now getting frequent emails with no introduction, just links to PnP files or .pdf attachments. That’s it. Not a “good day” or “thanks” in sight.

        I’m also getting a lot of “Hey, I launched my Kickstarter last week but it isn’t performing well, can you tell me what I’m doing wrong? Also can you link to my campaign?”

        I hate to be the meanie or the bad guy, but if it is a week into your campaign and you’ve managed less than 5%, I probably can’t really turn that around. It isn’t that I don’t know what it takes to make a successful campaign or what the unsuccessful projects lack that the successful ones have, but that it’s just too late and/or the project just really isn’t that great.

        And, for some reason I feel the need to keep typing. I’m also having a dilemma about what to do with my podcast. On one hand I need content and people are actively contacting me about their Kickstarter projects. On the other hand, I might end up talking about games I’m not really in to and I don’t want to be fake. I’m starting to feel like promoting Kickstarter projects isn’t benefiting most people. The interview I did with Patrick Scott about lessons learned from a failed Kickstarter campaign was very well received and I’d like to do more shows like that, but there aren’t a lot of Patrick Scotts lining up at my door.

        I’m seeing a lot of pushing and grinding of campaigns right now, meaning that half a dozen board game sites are all promoting the same content. And that’s not wrong or bad in and of itself, but I think it can be bad if the game in question doesn’t warrant such promotion (I know, who am I to judge that, right?). Do I want to be part of that? Do I want to just promote games to simply promote games? Who would have thought having a board game review website/podcast would require such depth? Thinkypain.

        I think my answer to those questions is that I want to create something useful/helpful. I want to share information and provide insight/tips about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve just got to figure out the ratio and frequency (and some other finer points) and how to keep that going.

        Okay, end rant or whatever the heck that was. That really took a turn. I welcome a dialog about this and other topics of interest as voicing these thoughts to the wall behind my computer screen isn’t that effective.

        Regards,

        1. Board Game Authority: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m honestly surprised that any publisher would think this is okay: “I am now getting frequent emails with no introduction, just links to PnP files or .pdf attachments.” Wow. I’m sorry to hear that, and I hope the trend doesn’t continue.

          As for the idea of promoting Kickstarters or games, It’s something I’ve had to define very clearly on this blog too. My mission on this blog is to help Kickstarter be a better place for creators and backers. Promoting a specific project doesn’t fit into that mission. However, if a Kickstarter creator is willing to do an interview or guest post that reveals mistakes and insights that will help other creators, I’m definitely open to that.

          So I would suggest that you define your mission (or refine it if you’ve already defined it), and make content decisions based around it.

      2. Great article and very helpful for content creators like ourselves. I noticed you had most of the shows on the Dice Tower Network. I’d love for you to check our our show sometime, Rolling Dice & Taking Names. Aside from our bi-weekly show we also have episodes called 5 Minute Initiative. We use those for our game reviews and they are very popular. We’d found the audience likes a small concise review in a separate episode so that they don’t have to dig through a full episode to just hear a review. We have a to play Euphoria a couple more times then we plan on doing a 5 Minute Initiative for it.

        Anyway, thanks for the tips and enjoy your games.

        1. Rolling Dice & Taking Names: Thanks for your comment! I subscribed to your podcast a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it. I look forward to hearing what you think of Euphoria!

      3. Jamey, you should check out Stephen and Dave on thespiel.net, too (if you haven’t). Great guys, and they do an excellent job on their podcast.

    2. I was in on that conversation. ;-}

      Yes, a podcaster can give you certain metrics, but it doesn’t equate to true “subscribers.” As people can download multiple times (car, work, off the site, etc..). And some streaming sites (less as time goes on) grab the file once and keep their own stats that have to be data mined separately.

      But as stated in the conversation, you can’t underestimate the core audience that a podcast attracts. People can pop in and out of a video and you can do the same with audio, but a lot of podcast listeners are there for the entire thing. And podcasts by nature can be a more intimate medium. So a bond/trust relationship builds between podcaster and listener. I personally interact with quite a few of our listeners. I’ve had people tell me we get them through the bad days, make a decision on a game purchase, and even be the reason (fall guy?) for getting a first tattoo. I’ve helped listeners become podcasters themselves.

      So I’m not pulling in 5-10,000+ for an audience at this time. But I have some pretty hardcore listeners that seek me out; outside of the podcast, for opinions various subjects, companies, and games. And I take that trust very seriously. ;-}

      1. Jeff: Absolutely, I actually think it’s good for those reasons that I can’t rely on metrics for podcasts (and even for other forms of media, I don’t strictly go by the numbers, but they are helpful in informing my decision). For podcasts, I use the other areas to determine if I should send a review copy: consistent content, quality of content, and what types of games you talk about.

        Also, you mentioned something interesting on Twitter that I couldn’t reply to in full 140 characters: You mentioned that you’ve bought all of our games. That’s awesome, and I sincerely appreciate it, particularly if it’s something you feel good about doing. However, for an established reviewer like you–particularly one who has bought our games in the past–if you’re okay with the things I mentioned in the above post, you’re going to get a free copy of the next game we make that you don’t buy in advance. I really do appreciate your generosity and support, though!

        1. Well I appreciate it.

          And I’ve had no issues buying the games. ;-}

          Hell, just give me some lead time on the next project and come back on The Game of Crowd Funding and have a chat. ;-}

          1. How much lead time? :) I reached out to you and other podcasters/bloggers about 10 days before we launched Tuscany with a sneak preview of the project page. I can reach out farther in advance, but usually the page doesn’t have all of the nice graphics and photos at that point.

        2. Jamey,

          If I can fit it in I will. But The Game of Crowd Funding interviews usually book 2+ months out (I’m booked out to late July right now). So the more lead time (just for scheduling the interview) the better so I can make sure we get it in and edited in the time frame you’d want it available.

  4. Great post! During my Kickstarter campaign a year ago, I had three reviewers create print and play copies and review them. A year later now, two of them have thriving blogs and do not do print and play reviews any more; the other one appears to have fizzled out. (I sent all three free copies of the published game.)

    I would add one note for first-time Kickstarter creators who get requests from reviewers. You must have reviews! They remove a lot of fear and uncertainty for potential backers. I had plenty of feedback from playtesters, but I had no independent third-party reviews when I launched my campaign: shame on me. I was fortunate to have a number of people contact me, primarily because of the awesome meeples. In my position, I wasn’t as concerned with these questions, especially the “how big is your audience?” question. In my position, I really needed the reviews on my campaign to help convert potential backers who had found the campaign through other means.

    1. Randy: That’s definitely a testament to a new reviewer’s willingness to scrap together some content at the beginning to help establish an audience. The attention they receive through a Kickstarter campaign can be huge for their future.

      Great tip for Kickstarter board game creators–absolutely, you need unbiased third-party reviews, ideally ready to go on launch day.

    2. Good tip Randy. I’m currently reaching out to reviewers and giving the interested parties a solid PNP of my game. Some are not willing to review a PNP because of the time and effort of creating it, so I really appreciate the one’s that are.

  5. Another great and spot on article Jamey! A good example of someone who started reviewing his own collection is Lance – Undead Viking. He started AVRAW with his own games and look where he is now! Even by putting the frequency of videos in his title established a certain level of consistency with him.

    I started reviewing just because I forget rules all the time and I wanted to create my own resource because I understand me (funny how that works)! I have never asked for a review copy of a game, but I have had several sent to me because I guess a small number of people understand me as well!!

    To be honest, I got the review copies because I contributed to the designer/publisher in other ways (display and teach game locally, help with rules and some minor design things, help with KS video, etc). In these instances I did not ask for the game, I instead asked, “how can I help?” Getting a game was secondary and not my primary motivation. Either way, I do it for the pure fun of it and that reason is what keeps me motivated to keep coming back to do more!

    I would say that one way for a reviewer to start to get noticed a little is to go and buy some of the “hot” new stuff and get out a video early. People are more apt to click on an unproven reviewer’s video if it is not buried in pages of other videos.

    Cheers,
    David (Connect More)

    1. David: I didn’t know that’s how Lance started out, but it’s great information–look where he is now! He has over 9,000 subscribers on YouTube.

      I really like that you ask the question, “How can I help?” I can’t think of a better question for a reviewer (or a Kickstarter creator, for that matter) to ask. Very cool.

  6. Just to add a few things from a “growing game reviewer.”

    I’ve actually never reached out for free games, so I must be the odd man out here.

    But I do get games sent to me all the time now. Sure, not always big publishers, but plenty of games to review.

    I agree starting with what you have is the best way to start producing your content. But even before that, decide how & why you want to review. If the answer is simply, “FREE GAMES!!” You are probably not going to be happy reviewing.

    I’ve been asked more than once how to get in to the “racket” of reviewing. And using that terminology usually lets me know that’s someone that probably shouldn’t.

    I have an entire calendar dedicated to when I can play, review, record, edit everything associated with All Us Geeks. I once added up a month’s worth of time I spent for someone asking about the “racket.” I had put in 68 hours that month on audio alone. That’s not answering emails, playing the game, scheduling, videos, etc… That was strictly recording and editing audio.

    Everything I do, is based around the idea of community. And that’s why I review games, to help the community.

    We started off with games we owned. I help mod the chat at The Game Crafter, so our services extended to indie designers there who needed reviews. From there, it started including prototypes for Kickstarter projects looking for extra reviews to entice backers. And steadily (And slowly <–keyword) grown from there.

    The Game of Crowd Funding grew out of my love for Kickstarter and it's gaming community, but no longer fitting in to the regular podcast. It's a service we provide to give project owners a chance to get personal with our audience and those that share the interview with on the KS page.

    At the heart of it, is what can I do to help the community grow. Ours as a podcast and the gaming community as a whole.

    I already own a lot of games. I still buy a lot of games. But the people Iv'e been able to talk to and become friends with is a different thing entirely. So yeah, don't come to reviewing for the free games. ;-}

    1. Jeff: That is brilliant, simply brilliant–that comment could have been a guest post on its own. I love that you defined your mission and purpose early on and have let that define the path you’ve taken with the podcast. I have a feeling that reviewers who get into the “racket” simply for the purpose of getting free games aren’t going to last very long. If you have a core philosophy like you do, it keeps you going and attracts a much bigger, more loyal audience. Thanks for sharing that perspective!

  7. Great stuff!

    When Corporate America first came out, I was eager to get it into anyone’s hands who wanted to try it, but I quickly learned that review copies are a resource that shouldn’t be wasted. I’m now more picky about who I give free games to, especially keeping an eye on audience size.

    That said, I still like supporting small, aspiring reviewers (just like many people have supported me as a small, aspiring game designer). Lately, when a reviewer has requested a copy of my game but I worry that their audience won’t justify the cost of production, shipping, and a potential sale lost, I have offered to send them a copy of the game if they pay for production and shipping. I’m just curious: does anyone else do this? Is this good practice, or would it be better for both parties for me to just encourage the reviewer to build up an audience and then contact me later?

    1. Teale: That’s an interesting method, and I certainly respect it. I don’t necessarily feel an obligation to support a small, aspiring reviewer if they don’t have much content or much of an audience–I think it’s their responsibility to take care of that by using the methods I described above. And by the time they’ve built up that content and audience, I’m fine with sending them a free review copy of the game instead of charging them for the production and shipping costs.

      However, something could be said for breaking down established reviewers into two groups: small reviewers and major reviewers. You could charge those minimal costs to small reviewers (those with established content and an audience, but much smaller in scale compared to, say, The Dice Tower) and continue to give away free review copies to the major reviewers. Depending on your budget, that could be a prudent approach to take. What has been the response from reviewers?

      1. With a very small sample size (2), response has been mixed. One reviewer agreed and I sent him a game, the other never replied. I hope I didn’t offend the second reviewer… that is one of the reasons I wanted to get your take on the practice.

    2. Teale,
      Personally, I think your practice is more than fair and certainly a respectable one. I agree with Jamey in that I don’t think the publisher has any obligation to support small and aspiring reviewers – we do not have “any skin in the game” (so to speak) whereas you do. (The Major reviewers do have “skin in the game”, because the process of reviewing has become a part of their livelihood, but I digress). From a business and community point of view, I fully support your practice and I think that it is very generous because it still costs you time and effort.

      If, as a publisher, you have to make sacrifices to get to where you are today, then I expect reviewers to have to make some sacrifices too if they want to become well established. But it goes back to motivation (which has been touched on by many others in this thread) – if you are motivated by the community and the love of the hobby, then what some people might call a sacrifice is what you would call a joy or a blessing!

      ps – For what it is worth I bought Corporate America based on the Game Boy Geek’s review.

      pps – If you have any future projects I will gladly pay any associated costs to have the opportunity to do a video of them if it is of no trouble to you – it would be a joy! Feel free to find me on BGG! (ConnectMore)

      Have a great day!

      David

  8. As a casual reviewer, “Play and review ‘free’ games” is my go-to strategy. I don’t have the closet space and am very cheap, so I hardly ever buy new games. But I go to a regular game group through meetup.com and play lots of other people’s games. Then write a review about them if I feel strongly one way or the other. It works pretty well for the “First Impressions” sort of thing that I do.

    I’ve built up enough of a catalog of reviews that I could probably start requesting review copies, though that had never actually crossed my mind until reading this post. Again, closet space. My wife has a lot of clothes…

    1. Isaac: I think that’s a great strategy. And honestly, I think it’s good to remember that new people become involved in this hobby every day, so it doesn’t matter to them if a game is hot off the press or 5 years old. They just want to know what reviewers think about it (and so do I, for that matter). So I think it’s great that you review the free games you have access to.

  9. Jamey,

    As usual a very good article. One question, I guess this path is similar for reviewers in all languages but, how much interested creators are in other languages reviews? WIll you set the suscribers/followers bar higher? I mean, as it is more expensive to ship the game.

    1. Diego: Because I’ve tried to make Stonemaier a worldwide company, I value a review in a different language just as much as I value a review in English. The key with international reviews is that I actually have the copies in stock in or near that country. I only allocate a few games to ship from the US internationally, and in those cases I check to make sure that local game stores in the destination city have that particular game in stock (I think it’s helpful for the requesting reviewer to check on that as well before making the request).

  10. I figure since you gave the offer I’d mention my recently started review site, though I’m filling a very curious nitch: http://rulebookreview.weebly.com/

    All I’m doing to looking at the rulebooks for games and trying to write articles to help people writing their rulebook so they turn out better. I’ve also been offering up my services to proofread and help out with rulebooks for newer or smaller designers/companies so they can have some help.

    I was actually approached by a rather large company as well and was given a game as thanks (something I’ll be reviewing when it comes out to the public) but I guess I never expected anything free, I just wanted to give back to the community and help fill up my spare time.

    Besides, people sending me a bunch of free rulebooks would just end up in a giant pile after a while right? I’m just happy every time someone says how awesome it was to be able to have a proper rule editor when they never imagined they would have that possibility. Hopefully I’m doing something helpful and insightful for the community.

    1. Thanks Erik–I think it’s great that you’re offering a unique perspective regarding an aspect of gaming you’re passionate about. I’ve subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading your work.

  11. Hi David, thanks for offering your perspective on the situation. I feel like it can be a tough line to walk, so it’s good to get support from the reviewer community.

    Also, thanks for supporting Corporate America! Given that you’re willing to review future games, you must have enjoyed it, which is awesome to hear :)

    And speaking of future games, I actually have one coming to Kickstarter in just a few weeks. If you’re interested in taking a look and willing to give the free print and play a shot, it’s available at http://shadowthronegame.com. If you don’t do print and plays, let’s talk in 8 months or so when the game is finally out :)

  12. I think you are right.
    You HAVE to grow your name to be credible in this market, and I think that if an editor gets interested in your work and asks you for a review is a great metrics on how you’re working.
    I never asked for a review copy, but I found really useful asking to be in their blind-playtest groups, or reviewing on-the-fly their games at the conventions. This gives you immediate visibility and you can even exchange a few words with the editor himself.
    Since I started doing this, I noticed that people are enthusiastic in pre-viewing games, even in their proto-form, because they can feel safer in preorder. If preorder goes the way epected by the editor… you’ll find a finished copy of the game in your mailbox!
    Ok, not every review format is suitable for this kind of things, but you can open a “side path” to sneak in this approach.

    As a side note: during last year, 4 new italian reviewers popped on Youtube with their videos, they recorded each 1 video per month, but after a max of 4 videos…. they disappeared. It’s really difficult to keep on a channel, everyone is busy, and if you are not motivated enough, the starting burst vanishes really fast.

    (I’m writing as an Italian reviewer on YT-Blog)

    1. TeOoh: You make a great point about playing games at conventions (and sometimes even getting the designer’s perspective if they’re there). It probably takes extra courage to say something constructive/bad about the game after you’ve talked about it with the designer, but it’s still possible. :)

  13. Very good read, article and comments both!

    I kept being reminded about this IndieGoGo project where a guy needed 1000 monies to buy a PC and several video games because he wanted to get into game reviewing… I laughed but I don’t know why.

    greets,

    Maurice

  14. For podcasts, you can generally see how many plays it has had. I’m still not sure yet what number constitutes a decent listenership, but I’d say upwards of 100 plays seems worthwhile.

    1. Thanks Alicia. Sometimes it also helps if the podcaster (who may have some information on stats that general listeners don’t) can share their stats on their homepage. It might feel like showing off to them, but really it’s just helpful for publishers to see.

  15. Hi all! I think my head is going to burst from all the information written here!

    I’ve been writing reviews for Geek Pride UK (www.geek-pride.co.uk) for the last 6 months or so, plus news pieces that catch my eye. It’s a more generalist site for all things geeky, but it’s got some good stuff on there and my board gaming articles are starting to gain some traction. Some other places I write for include my own website (www.bluecatgames.com) and a little side project, http://www.tinkerbotgames.co.uk.

    I’ve been having an absolute blast doing the word-smithing, but I came from an amateur position in terms of writing ability; doing the reviews has helped with my own work, and then someone points you to articles like this and you go “Wow, turns out I have still got so much to learn!”

    Thanks for all the good work!

  16. Excellent blog, as always, Jamey.

    In my opinion, like most businesses with minimal barriers to entry, people believe it’s easy to do what’s needed to be done. As mentioned in the article and the comments, many people fade after realizing this takes actual work. For me with Crits Happen (thanks for the mention Jamey), it’s never been about work, it’s been about passion.

    I am blessed with a large game group and we play a lot and talk a lot, and having my channel offered me a way of continuing the chatter piece. I do what I do because Iove to do it. Not for the google ads cash (and mind you BOY is that piling up, *cough* #Sarcasm) and I don’t do it for free games (as I bought the games I used when starting and now-a-days, I get many terrible games sent to me that I then have to dispose of), I do it because I put games on my show that I want to showcase. Ones that I want to talk about or that I feel others would be interested in.

    On a side note, as a bit of advice to publishers/designers/kickstarter hopefuls out there, don’t just randomly send someone a game and then expect them, or hold them some standard, to review it. Contact us, talk with us, ensure it fits, and then after planning, send your game if it is the right thing to do. Random games sent our way usually end up on a shelf (note, not our game shelf) and they usually are a stark light shining on your business savvy. Also, respect that you aren’t our only customer. We have many, many kickstarter and publishers coming to us for our time, and if someone wants a review done, especially for a kickstarter, that is needed in 5 or less days, well, honestly, if your reviewer can do that, I’d question their integrity to truthfully play and develop a full opinion on the game or I’d question their popularity and reach of audience. I get a lot of kickstarter hopefuls sending me notes that need a review within a week and it’s just not good business, shows poor planning and honestly, usually speaks volumes for the future success of the project.

    For me, I have stopped taking games from publishers about 6 months ago. Some of them are actually offended I won’t take their game. When I explain that I procure my games from an FLGS, there have been some in love with that idea and one actually called me “antiquated” for doing so. It’s ironic, as most publishers scoff at new reviewers asking for games, but then when established and owning a process, they scoff again. It’s a weird business, that’s for sure, but in the end, my simple advice to new reviewers is to review and blog for the sake of the community. Oh, and be ready to kill it. That may sound harsh, but the moment Crits Happen becomes something I don’t want to do, I have no problems shutting up shop and walking away. As I said, it’s a passion, not a profession, although I treat it professionally.

    Keep up the great work Jamey, yours is a blog that inspires thought and discussion. Well done.

    1. Tox: Fantastic comment. Thank you for sharing your perspective, especially given how big Crits Happen has gotten thanks to all the hard work you’ve put into it. If anyone wants to hear Tox’s full story, I’d recommend listening to his recent appearance on the Happy Mitten Games podcast.

      Also, that’s great advice about not blindly sending games to reviewers. I’ve definitely done that, and as a result, I’ve sent some games to the wrong address! So it’s great advice to check in with the reviewer first.

      1. I suggest listening to Happy Mitten no matter which episode you listen to, but thanks for the plug. That was a fun episode and they are a great team.

        Yes, connecting with reviewers is a big plus. It saves time, opens doors, and more often than not is a positive thing. It allows you to build relationships, which is the most valuable thing in this industry to me, as well as being able to open the dialogue for questions they may have.

        Also, and this may be just me, but if as a reviewer you do agree to review the game, it’s probably a good idea to do an unlisted version of the video first (or send a written copy) and let the publisher/designer see it. They can catch anything incorrectly said or laid out and it will again, go light years ahead with the relationship thing.

        At the end of the day, rushed reviews are obvious and never help anyone so planning, on both sides, is important.

  17. Jamey,

    Great article. I really appreciate the specificity of your comments and the candor of your account. Their is no doubt that one of the most frustrating parts of being a podcaster is the inability to reliably track numbers. Unlike websites, many, many of our listeners rarely visit our site. (though they should, it is a great resource for finding out more about the topics we discuss, also, pictures). Alexa, though a great resource is not very useful for podcast, some of the biggest names out there have rankings well outside of the 3 million mark. We have cobbled together the most reliable metric we have been able to find, but even that is a strange alchemy. But I agree with the many comments above, there is something intimate about the format that makes podcast reviews of special value to publishers. I have never put much stock into written reviews myself, but it is rare that I will buy a game that was not endorsed by one of the podcasters in whom I have placed my trust.

    The primary advice I would highlight as someone that has sought and obtained review copies of games is, conduct yourself professionally. Start with your product and only after you have established yourself should you seek review copies. When you request copies be specific and prepare a written elevator speech, ie. one to two brief paragraphs, that tells the publisher, designer, etc. why they should send you a game, including whatever metrics you can to show them why their budget should include your review copy. Additionally, put in the face time. Go to the Cons and grin and grab. Meet people and be bold (though concise and humble). Again, elevator speech. Chances are you will get a few games if you put in the face time, but then you must do your job and review the games ASAP. Make review copies a priority. You are not obligated to give good reviews, just timely reviews. And most importantly, follow up when you publish, with a link to your review.

    I will say on behalf of reviewers, I hope publishers understand that those of us that have done this for a while do not think of this as a means of getting free new games. Board gaming is an expensive hobby and podcasting much, much more so. Remaining relevant and useful requires a balance of new games, old classics, and hidden gems. As a result, we have to balance our budget between games purchased and review copies. Since we are often the leading edge of game commentary we have to take risk on our purchases. When this pays off, it pays off big. We get to play and point people toward a great game they would otherwise miss out on. But when it does not pan out, it sucks. If we hate something that people are buzzing about we can at least be a dissenting voice that will warn people off, but most of us would rather point our listeners to something they will like. (That said, you should always comment upon a game you have received as a review copy.) That is not to say that we should not be honest in our reviews, they have no value if they are not sincere. But it is to say our discernment may make it harder for us to capture and play a game that is flying under the radar. Publishers (and especially small publishers, IMHO) should make giving out review copies to reviewers they trust a priority as it likely has the highest ROI of all marketing outlets.

    Thanks again Jamey, for your great games and your insightful commentary.

    1. Blue Peg Pink Peg: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree about podcast metrics and the strong connection even a small group of listeners has to a podcaster. I tend to rely on my gut when sending review copies to podcasters instead of the metrics–if it’s a podcast I really enjoy, and they talk about the type of games I make, I’m likely to consider them for a review copy.

      Your paragraph about professionalism is worth its weight in gold. I hope every new reviewer reads that.

      “I hope publishers understand that those of us that have done this for a while do not think of this as a means of getting free new games.” We definitely get that. I think there might be a small percentage of new reviewers who maybe don’t have the best of intentions, but I think it’s very rare, and they don’t last. As Jeff and David mentioned earlier in the comments, having a core mission is what drives a reviewer to keep producing great content for months and years.

      Keep up the great work with your podcast!

  18. Thanks for that post. I’ve actually been reviewing video games for like 4-5 years now on a somewhat personal blog (never got any review copies, I do it for fun so I don’t really want to get all business-y with it), and wanted to get into reviewing board games as well since I’ve been into them for a while, but I don’t think you’ll be seeing me requesting review copies because again I want to keep doing that for fun. If I get offered review copies, great, but otherwise I don’t need ’em, I’ll review stuff that I actually have and want.

    1. jderosiers2: I absolutely respect that, and us publishers certainly appreciate that you buy our games. :) Would you care to share a link to your blog here? I’d love to check it out.

      1. Sure thing. I will note that my writing is still what I’d consider rough even after 4-5 years of writing these reviews, so it might feel a bit amateurish, but I do my best. I write pretty much like how I’d talk in person, rather than trying to be overly verbose and descriptive. And also my blog is not very highly visited or commented on, but I’m totally fine with that. I write for myself and whoever might want to see my opinion. So here you go: http://www.thesavepoints.com

        To keep with the video game theme I think my first tabletop review will be the Street Fighter deck-building game once I get a couple more plays of it in, but after that it’s gonna be a free-for-all. I was questioning whether or not I should be reviewing older stuff because a lot of it is already more than well spoken for, but since, as of now, my blog is more aimed at a video gaming audience, it might not be a bad idea to look at some of the stuff I have that said audience might not know about. I figure it might not be very important to be the most up-to-date board gamer for my own blog.

        Reviewing board games will be a very new thing for me, so I hope I do well enough on that end. I will take your suggestion to take pictures though, I think that should be a pretty easy thing to implement that I don’t do with video games (lack of equipment for that and I don’t like using other peoples’ material).

        1. Thanks for sharing! I must admit I don’t play video games, so I’m missing out on the source material for your reviews, but I’m impressed by the wealth of content there. Tox at Crits Happen has had great things to say about the Street Fighter card game. Good luck as you delve into the world of board game reviews!

  19. Great read, one thing I would add as a newer reviewer is the importance of creating a writing style. It goes along with what you said about not wanting to read a blog that is 95% overview, whatever 40/50/60 % of your review is actual opinion and review needs to have a unique take or something different that other reviewers don’t especially when covering older games in your collection that have already been reviewed. Unless you do other writing this might take a while to figure out just keep playing around with your format until you find one that feels right.

  20. As some of the others said above I’ve only been doing reviews for a short time. I have also only been reviewing games I own. I think that really is the best place to start. There is no time pressure to play a certain game a set number of times and get a review done for it. I have filled out a few companies form for things like beta testing and preview copies and am actually recieving one in a few weeks from TMG. I didn’t ask for a review copy specifically and am just glad to have a chance to review a new game. My readership certainly is not enough to request someone send me a game of any expense. I figure if I do a good job and improve my review writing and up my audience the companies will eventually ask to send games.

    1. Board-Dom: I really like your perspective here. This is how many of the major reviewers started out (reviewing games they already own)–in fact, I learned this morning that it’s how Tom Vasel started out, and look where he is today!

  21. Well I’m small fry compared to most of the names here, but completely agree with all of your points. And have been slowly making my way through my games collection on my site. And been at it now for about a year. Agree with Todd’s point above you need to have that voice and make your review as personal as possible, I hate nothing worse than reviews which are essential the cliff notes version of a game manual.

  22. Good information there, Jamey. It’s nice to know what people are looking for. I’ve never really sought out review copies, but every once in a while, a company will contact me about doing a review. For me, I’m just trying to get better at it, and I have been working through a bunch of my own games. It is definitely good to know what people are looking for. I didn’t know about Alexa – looks like I miss your cutoff by about 300,000. :) Thanks for the post!

  23. Hey, Jamey – Thanks for the shout out. I’m glad that you like my positive/negative style of reviews. Also, to echo something you said, I think that you’ve done a good job of sharing reviews even that weren’t particularly positive (such as my review of Euphoria). I personally gain a lot of respect for different publishers based on how they respond to negative (or “meh”) reviews. The best reaction I have ever seen to one of my bad reviews was from Conquistador Games, who basically said, (paraphrasing) “he played the game wanting to have fun, but he didn’t – and that’s on us.”

    1. Thanks Josh! I really like the way Conquistador Games said that. One of the things I often find myself saying to people about Euphoria is, “The first game can be overwhelming.” It’s my responsibility as a designer and a publisher to not create a game that is overwhelming on any play–first, third, tenth, etc. Similar to what Conquistador said, if someone has a negative first impression of Euphoria, that’s my fault, not theirs. I like to see other designers and publishers take ownership of that.

  24. Thank you for this really interesting blog post, Jamey. I’ll go through your other articles too. I’ve started a blog in January on http://www.boardandgames.com/blog. I don’t want to ask for demo copies. I want to work on the road and I’m hoping to reach the point one day where someone asks me to review his or her game. As a new reviewer, it’s not easy though. You don’t get a lot of feedback in the beginning, you don’t know who actually reads your blog, if they like your style, … I write my articles in English and Dutch. It doesn’t only take a lot of time, but English isn’t my native language, so I know I’ll not be writing 100% correct English. Do readers find this disturbing? …

    These are all questions you have to cope with as a starting reviewer. When you happen to see your article mentioned on a website or see a quote from you article, this give you a boost to go forward. As would the opportunity to review a game a publisher asks you to review. But I completely understand the publishers viewpoint. For them, their games are their source of income, which is not the case for us as reviewers.

    1. Matthias: Thanks for sharing your blog! It’s admirable that you’re writing all entries in two languages. I think readers will appreciate that–they won’t find it disturbing at all. I’ve subscribed to your blog (I had to use page-to-RSS because it doesn’t look like you have an RSS feed), and I look forward to reading more!

  25. I will likely never do game reviews. I prefer to playtest/refine games for designers. I like to teach people, without influencing. Also, I’m too lazy to write reviews regularly ;)

    Though if people were sending me free games, I suppose that could change lol.

  26. I have been reviewing games for about 4 years now, but in a completely different format than listed above. I manage two radio stations at a university and I host a review show called Bags and Boards on one of the stations.

    It’s kind of tough to measure radio. We host our show during drive time, so we know there is the potential to have up to 1,000 or more people listening every week. However, Nielson Audio data is around $60,000/year and is just not a reality for most college radio stations.

    We reviewed games we bought for about 3 and a half years and about 6 months ago, we began asking for review copies.

    In this case, we wanted to give the companies as much of a benefit as we could. We gave them the information about radio drive time, the number of students at the university, the population of the town, the fact that we stream online and that the local game shop plays our show live each week in their shop. We didn’t stop there though. We also began demoing games that were sent to us at our local game shop and we began posting all of our reviews to a soundcloud page for added, extended benefit.

    Take our Munchkin Summer Preview we did. We can guess, based on anecdotal data, that there were at least 250 people listening to 100.7 FM, then you add in our actual online stream numbers of 74, the 35 or so people listening at the game shop, the people we played with to review, the 30 people we demoed Munchkin Legends for a week later, word of mouth, and the 110 people that listened to our soundcloud stream of that audio and you have a solid amount of people reached. However, any of those by themselves don’t add up to much. That is why we have done our best to offer every possible way we can help promote a game.

    One reason we began asking for review copies is that we noticed that the gaming going on in our community was not varied enough. We live in a pretty rural area, so you get a lot of magic the gathering, settlers, carcassonne and ticket to ride. We wanted our community to start playing more games and to learn what was out there. So, we started partnering with the game shop to do demos, but needed the materials to really get out there.

    I tend to just ask a company to send me what they are trying to promote. The problem I have with just asking for something I’m interested in is how many times I have been surprised by a game. Something like Get Lucky from Cheapass games. I wasn’t very interested at all, but they sent me the game and now I can’t stop playing it.

    Anyway, that is long winded, but there is the perspective from a reviewer trying to use traditional media to get the word out about board games.

    1. Lance: Sorry I didn’t reply to this earlier, but I just wanted to thank you for this very interesting perspective. It’s awesome that you have some great data from the Munchkin preview. That type of data is really helpful for publishers, as well as your willingness to review games that publishers want to give a little extra attention to.

      1. Absolutely. We love what we do and honestly, it’s not meant for everyone.

        Someone may think it’s great getting games to review, but you really have to be okay with playing a game a few times and then moving on to the next one and also the concept of playing games that you really don’t want to, while still staying open minded to them.

        One of the keys to all of this is not getting a game in and then letting it sit there for months on end. Publishers aren’t sending you these games out of the kindness of the hearts and definitely expect some sort of a return.

        And like you said, even if you don’t plan on reviewing it, at least contact the publisher and let them know why.

        We’ve been setting up some interviews to talk about this exact thing. How to get into reviewing and if it’s really right for you. We’ve got Rahdo coming on and I would love to have the publisher’s perspective of this. I will send you an email about it.

  27. Excellent post. I think some of this information could be applicable to me despite the fact that I don’t review games, only interview designers. I’ve applied some of this advice in figuring out who to interview because few publishers send me review copies (and that is perfectly fine by me). I frequent enough game nights that if there are specific games I want to play, I will probably have the opportunity. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been quick to play some of the games I’ve been sent. I need to get better at doing this because it isn’t fair to the publisher or designer. Thanks for the interesting, Stonemaier games.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree that it’s a little different when your focus is on interviewing. Often the games publishers might send you are more of a token of their appreciation than an actual review copy.

      1. I appreciate any games that a publisher is willing to send to me and never expect it from them. Having an expectation would seem ungrateful on my part. I should send an email to you to have you on my show. Thanks for the interesting information and this little chat.

  28. I have had my blog for just over a year now. I do more than just review games since it’s about all of the hobbies I enjoy, but I try and do a game review once a week. This was full of very helpful information. I think I am going to go through and take some notes. I’ve been wondering how to grow my audience and do better reviews. Thank you for putting this out there.

  29. This is a lot of information that is incredibly important, mostly the part to let know the publisher,e tc that the review is up (oops).
    Believe me that all of this will be taken into account (if it hasn’t been before)

  30. Hey there!

    I’ve been looking at companies to request a game from, and came upon this great post. Although I’ve been running my blog for about nine months or so, I still don’t feel that I qualify for the parameters that you have set out. I will be going back to the drawing board and writing reviews in hopes of some future considerations hopefully! In the meantime, I’d like to leave my website here in hopes that you enjoy. Thanks for this wonderful post!

    Page

    BoredGamesCo.com

  31. I know its been a while since you got a fresh comment on this one, but I thought I would add something that is working for me recently.

    Note: I am mostly doing reviews to build more subscribers and followers for my YouTube Channel as yet another method of promotion for my upcoming game.

    I was having a lot of trouble getting anyone to send me game for review. I had tried both established companies as well as games just going up on Kickstarter. I did a couple of reviews for games, but that didn’t really seem to help.

    I knew this was a bit of a chicken and egg problem. I didn’t have subscribers, so no one would let me review their new game. Since I wasn’t reviewing new games (pre-release or Kickstarter preferably), I was having trouble building my subscribers.

    So, I dug in and decided I needed to create a new value-add proposition. I had to give people a reason to take a risk on me and send me a game to review.

    What did I do? Well, I went beyond reviews. Everyone who sends me a copy of their game to review also gets two additional videos produced. You get the Review, a How To Play, and a Session video.

    It turns out that this hat-trick has proven very interesting to many game designers that are going up to Kickstarter. It give them videos beyond reviews that help potential backers to know more about their game. It also turns out that many designers don’t have the equipment or resources to make these videos themselves. So I am providing a nice extra service to them.

    In addition to this, I found that streaming hard-to-get games on Twitch and YouTube has also helped me to build my subscriber base which in turn is also helping me when talking with game designers and publishers.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Anthony! I think it’s great that you found a way to add extra value to the creators whose games you were trying to get for review, as well as a way to grow your audience to make your platform more appealing for creators.

  32. Thanks Jamey. Being a film and video producer/director Im super new to this whole gaming world. Scythe inspired be to make board game into a Kickstarter campaign and my wife inspired me to go slow and make my “complicated” board game into Card game for Kickstarter first. ;)
    Congratulations on people reporting their excitement getting their Scythe games dropped off on their door steps. My goal is to one day be like you guys! or Steve Jackson. (et All) I got a lot to learn.

    -Braden

  33. Jamey,
    I just had to say thank you for all the work you have put into your blog. I’ve been reading it for years, reading several posts many times, in order to help focus myself into where I want to be. It has been very helpful.

    Although late to the game, I have finally started my blog at peaceloveandgames.com

    Thanks again for everything you’ve contributed to the community!
    -Kristi

  34. Wanted to thank you for a great article. Most of this SHOULD seem like common sense, but without someone pointing these things out, I can imagine reviewers perhaps losing perspective on the matter, expecting or even demanding unreasonable treatment that simply isn’t reasonable or justified. Sometimes it’s better to spell things out.

    I’m personally looking to start doing video reviews again, I formerly reviewed/previewed video games and did quite well for the time I worked at it. It was helpful getting perspective and validation to the idea of reviewing games already in one’s own collection.

    I do have a question for you -is there a certain point at which you would say publishers or creators are likely to initiate review requests from video producers? I understand that”The Dice Tower” receives more requests from creators and publishers than they can really end up reviewing, even with their extended network (before you assume I’m a full of myself, please see my point of clarification below.) Do you (or do you know of others who do) contact what you believe to be higher profile reviewers/networks/sites yourself, or is it mostly on the basis of them contacting you?

    POINT OF CLARIFICATION:
    I’ll be blunt here. I have NO anticipation of reaching “The Dice Tower” level of success -they’re well established, they provide a wealth of content, and they’ve truly EARNED their audience by being good to people for many many years. I don’t plan to invest the kind of time they do, nor am I so prideful/delusional to assume I would be as successful as them even if I did. They’re simply an extreme-case example.

    1. Daniel: Thanks for your comment! I’m glad this was helpful.

      When I discover a reviewer (video or otherwise) who I previously didn’t know about, if I like what they’re doing and think they have a decent reach (it’s not always a hard number), I often reach out to let them know I like what I see. An offer of a game to review often goes with that message. And sometimes the converse happens–a reviewer reaches out to me to introduce themselves. I appreciate when first-time messages from people aren’t asking me for something, though. “Hi, my name is X, can I have a free game?” rarely goes over well.

      At this point I have a long list of reviewers I reach out to whenever I have something to review. I’m always happy to add to that list, even if a reviewer is just starting out. It doesn’t mean they get anything for free, but at least they can stay informed.

  35. Hi Jamie, (my apologies if this comment has appeared repeatedly – due to local connection issues I was unsure if it got through.)

    Thanks for the great article. I enjoyed reading it tremendously.

    I noticed that you made little mention of Instagram in your article. Given, this was written 3 years ago when it was relatively less known. But I am curious, as a publisher, what are your thoughts now on Instagram as a marketing platform?

    Personally, I run an Instagram channel call “Playtography” and have been creating & posting content almost everyday for the last five years. I am an art director by profession, and this is the best way I know how to help share the games I love and the hobby I am passionate about. I wouldn’t consider my channel fully as a review site although I do share my thoughts on the games I showcase. As an art director, I believe in the power of a well-composed image to create desire and brand recall for a game.

    Just to share, my approach to the Playtography channel is to run it like a “visual radio-station”. This means that the dozens of different images I create for a certain game are placed in a “playlist” – which will then regularly show up on rotation before an audience who “tune in” on a daily basis – just like how songs work on a radio. The audience never know what game will be featured next, but they tune in to find out. Because over the years, I’ve built up a substantial following, I have increased postings up to 2 – 3 times a day. Sometimes I cross-post it to Twitter, but Instagram remains my primary platform.

    Interestingly, I have found this format to best benefit games post-hype. The continuous reappearance of the same game in different compositions helps booster awareness and put them on people’s radar. Thus, I tend to showcase games, not for accuracy or completeness but drama. Like “food photography”, but for boardgames. My goal is to help people discover or rediscover games, and for them to go onto BGG to find out more.

    From a marketing standpoint, thats my brief take on Instagram as a platform.

    What are your thoughts on this? 8)

    Thanks Jamie!!

    https://www.instagram.com/playtography/

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