Previews, Reviews, and Everything in Between

31 July 2017

I had the pleasure of chatting with Denny Weston at Gen Con 2016 about a game he was preparing for Kickstarter. It was no ordinary game; rather, it was a lawn game for which Denny had extensively researched and tested the components. He asked me a key question about high-cost products that I couldn’t answer, which lead to a fascinating conversation on this blog post.

Flash-forward a year later, and Denny has taken all that insight into consideration as he launches his Kickstarter campaign on August 1. I invited him to share some of the things he’s learned along the way (unrelated to the original blog post), and he agreed. Thanks Denny!

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Tomorrow I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign for my fantasy-based outdoor game called Kingdoms Lawn Game. The road to get from idea to this point has been winding and full of many turns. One such turn has been getting previews, reviews, and everything in between.

Previews VS Reviews

Let’s start with the obvious, what’s the difference between a preview and a review of a game?

A preview of a game is typically a general overview of the game from an objective point of view. A review is a more in-depth look into the game and contains the reviewer’s personal feelings about the game.

Previews often are paid for, while reviews are usually free.

Where to Start?

Like most who are launching a Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to have a few reviews/previews of my game on my Kickstarter page.  There are plenty of people/companies who offer these services. A few great examples in the game industry are:

  • Bower’s Game Corner
  • Cloak and Meeple
  • Tantrum House
  • Jon Gets Games
  • Rahdo Runs Through (must play with 1 or 2 players)
  • The Dice Tower (published games only)
  • The Secret Cabal (published games only)

With these options and so many other choices, where does one begin with choosing a third party reviewer or previewer to check out your game?

  1. Research their guidelines: Most companies reviewing/previewing games specifically tell you on their website what kind of games they review/preview. I tried to make a good first impression by making sure my game fit their criteria before emailing them a request.
  2. Consume some of their content. Before contacting a content creator blindly, I took some time to watch their reviews/previews. What stands out about their reviews/previews? What makes them a good fit to preview your game?  I love the clean, crisp, professional look of the Tantrum House previews….so I reached out to them. I included in my email why I liked their previews so much and how I felt my game was a good fit to be previewed.

Contact

The most important thing about reaching out to previewers/reviewers is that you send each of them an individual, personalized email. Content creators get tons of generic mass mailings, so you’ll stand out if you take the time to show that you’re targeting them specifically. Beyond that, here are a few tips:

  1. Time Frame: I contacted content creators at least 3 months before I needed the preview.  I know that might sound extreme, but most previewer’s schedules fills up fast.  Plus, the previewers I’ve worked with were willing to wait and post their preview until I needed it….so there’s no harm in getting the preview done early.
  2. Include graphics. When I first contacted one reviewer, I did not include any images of Kingdoms Lawn Game…that was a mistake. Their response, “I’m sorry Denny, but I’m all booked up”. When I responded to them for their time, I included a few pictures of the game and received a more excited response.  “Denny, this looks awesome! On second thought, I can make some time for you.” When contacting a reviewer always include graphics. And if you have a one minute or less video demonstrating the game, send that too.

The Cost of Previews

As I mentioned above, previews usually have a cost. Now, that cost is not always monetary or mandatory.  Here is a list of what you might find:

  • A monetary value ranging from $50 to $200 ($200 is the most I’ve come across)
  • A suggested donation to their Patreon profile
  • A copy or copies of the game if the Kickstarter campaign is successful
  • FREE, if a previewer is new and looking for exposure

Corrections

When sending out Kingdoms Lawn Game for preview, I emailed beforehand asking to please send me the preview before posting/sharing. Why? So I could confirm the game is being demonstrated correctly.  On a few occasions, the game was being played incorrectly and/or terminology in the game was being used incorrectly.  On these occasions, I first thanked them for the preview, mentioned a few positive points of their preview, and then communicated the errors. In all cases, they were more than willing to edit the video with the corrections.

I also asked the company about the root of the errors. It was a good learning experience to ensure my rulebook provides clear instructions. Is there something in the rulebook that made them do that action or say that word?

In the End

Reviews, previews, and everything in between were a vital part of my journey. It allowed me to see Kingdoms Lawn Game through the eyes of an experienced game player who also was a blind play-tester.  The information and insight was priceless. To watch some of the previews on Kingdoms Lawn Game, check out our Kickstarter campaign!

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What do you find more helpful when you consider backing a Kickstarter project, the previews or the reviews?

Also read:

10 Comments on “Previews, Reviews, and Everything in Between

  1. Another bit of advice I’d offer is to make sure your game is in its final form before contacting a previewer. Nothing is more frustrating than playing the game, being sent a new version of the rules, and then having to play it again. We have even been given multiple rules updates over the course of trying to get an article ready.
    Minor rule corrections can always happen, but please try to keep that to a minimum. Especially if you want your preview done in time.

    1. Tony, that’s great adivce. Also, in regards to the rule-book, make sure your rule-book is clear, concise, and formatted properly. You want anyone and especially reviewers to easily access the information without getting lost or confused. And any pictures, graphics, or diagrams you can include in the rule-book will go along way in ensuring the game is played correctly. I even emailed the reviewers a 1 minute “how-to-play” Kingdoms Lawn Game video I shot in my front yard.

    2. I very much agree with this having experienced the exact problem. It also meant I was hesitant when writing the preview to specifically praise rule choices in case they changed again, leading to a more overarching preview than I would have liked to give.

    3. I think this is spot on. There is such a temptation to send out games before they are entirely ready and it can really sabotage the results. Rules are tricky to write and you want to make sure things are thoroughly playtested before moving to reviews/previews.

  2. Reviewers are not playtesters. They are the people who will tell your customers that this game has not been play tested thoroughly. lol. Stole that one from Cassie Elle in the Board Game Reviewers Group. I also noticed there is no mention of the Board Game Reviewers Facebook Group in this post, where all potential publishers are welcome to absorb the banter that goes on between reviewers and pitch for content to be produced. We maintain an active roster similar to what James’ website shows.

    1. Hey Daniel. I’m unfamiliar with the Board Game Reviewers Group….thank you for bringing it up. I will check it out. I know Kickstarter has stats on having a video VS not having a video. As a Kickstarter expert in the gaming field, do you have any advice, thoughts, or stats on Kickstarter campaigns with reviews on their page?

  3. Something I’ve been curious about, obviously you must send reviewers and previewers a prototype copy of the game, is it common that you’d include paid return postage and they’d send it back to you when their review is complete? Or should you factor in the cost of the prototype as an additional cost for having the review done?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. My sense is that reviewers prefer to keep the prototype. Even if they don’t play it again, it’s just more convenient for them to keep it or throw it away than to take it to the post office. However, I’ve certainly approached reviewers in the past and asked them if they would forward the prototype to another reviewer, and they’re usually very accommodating. I always send all of them a final copy of the game to keep, though.

      1. Yeah, I suppose doing a bit of planning for each of your prototypes to make a short tour through a couple reviewers hands could really add some efficiency to that process! Thanks for the feedback Jamey!

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