Change to paid review policy at Game Tunnel

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by cyrus_zuo, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. princec

    Indie Author

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    It does now but without a clearly defined statement for both developers and punters alike about where the opinions come from and why, I can't get behind it.

    If Russ wants to make the site into a paid-for-reviews site he needs to be clear about it, and then he needs to get into the idea that he can't "rate" games or say anything particularly negative about them or he'll stop getting games to review and we'll be going elsewhere. The punters visit the site to find out about new games and get links to demos of stuff they might be interested in. Russ can effectively make money from advertising and affiliate sales this way. After all there's little point in affiliating anything getting less than "9/10" as people do generally stick to the best. I'm fine with that.

    If Russ wants to sell advertising then that's got to become his core revenue stream, and he can write what he likes. The punters visit the site to read quality unbiased reviews and they have to understand that the reviews are truly unbiased. We can still give him free games to dole out to his reviewers and they can still say what the hell they like about them because there's no financial interest for the reviews to be biased. He'll probably lose the advertising for a bad review but so what? There's plenty of good ones to take their place. I'm fine with that too.

    I just can't see any overlapped situation working.

    Cas :)
     
  2. Hamumu

    Indie Author

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    I don't like previews myself, though I like interviews. But I'm gonna go back to what I said before because I still don't get the concern: how is it even POSSIBLE for there to be concerns of impropriety when it's a flat fee charged equally for all reviews? If anyone can give a scenario where that would pose a problem, it would be very illuminating.
     
  3. Andy

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    Mike,

    May I wonder if you were paying for your review of Kid's Mystic?
     
  4. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    It's not so much impropriety - it's paying for negative press.

    You hand over $70 for a review and then the game is slated - would you be happy?

    The game might even deserve it (even worse, it might not) but you've still had to pay for the privelige. Sure it'll make you want to write the best game possible, sure you might get useful feedback but we should be doing that already.
     
  5. Hamumu

    Indie Author

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    No, I didn't pay for it. I actually have never paid for a review, and I'm not sure I would. Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn't mean people shouldn't charge for their work (which surprisingly, reviewing is). He could get that money from ads or whatever, but apparently that's not cutting it. It's all business decisions and whatnot, I just don't see where ethics keeps being brought into it. If it's equal to all takers, it can't be unethical (well, unless he had a monopoly and was equally SCREWING all takers)!

    I see how it would be sad to have paid for something that turned out bad, but you pays your money, you takes your chances. You're not required to get a review! I wouldn't do it with a game I knew was bad (Amazin' SPISPOPD is dramatically unimpressive, even though I think the 2-player competitive mode is very fun - I would never pay to have it reviewed). And maybe that's the problem - that people will rarely pay to have a bad game reviewed. But is that a problem? The monthly round-up, believe me, is chock-full of bad games each month, free of charge, and pretty much tells you all you need to know! Bad games don't need long reviews.

    A good game isn't going to GET slated. If it is, there's a factual problem, which needs to be resolved. If there are no facts wrong, then you might just be wrong about the quality of your game! Look, you can read GT extensively before buying anything from them - decide if they review how you like. It's your call. Nobody's twisting any arms.

    I'm not really trying to argue any one side vehemently here, I just don't understand this as an ethical issue. I totally get the idea of "paid for reviews" being a very dirty concept. But if the reviews are all paid for in the exact same amount, there's no issue, it can't be biased. You've got a marketing budget - choose where to spend it. If you believe in your product, you can spend it on reviews, which are worth more than ads because they are in someone elses' words, they have integrity to the reader, and they give you a bonus of professional feedback on your game. If you don't believe in your product, go buy some ads - that's the ultimate in "paid for reviews"... you even get to write the 'review'!
     
  6. Farmergnome

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    Stop listening to that inner voice that says everything on the internet is free... People pay to play your games, your offering them a product/service, GT is doing the same thing, sure your supporting the indie community at the end of the day, but business is business.

    You work long and hard developing your games, and creating a business from it, you want it to be profitable so you can have some security/watever. Im sure GT works the same way, I know theres some uneasy ground when it comes to paid reviews, but on the flipside, theres some uneasy ground for paying for games, so get over it, nothing good is free for long.
     
  7. Mark Fassett

    Moderator Indie Author

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    No. Being indie is about doing what you want, when you want, and how you want. For many, that may mean building a better world, but for me, it means freedom to be what I want to be.
     
  8. mkovacic

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Russel, do you have any plans for accepting payment other than through PayPal? PayPal does not work worldwide, and in particular does not work where we are.
     
  9. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    Wow...another long day at the office another long line of threads I unfortunately don't have time to read in their entirety...

    Since the community wants to be involved (calling out for my books makes it just that) I'll issue a challenge I'll stand by...once I move over to the new backend we won't charge for reviews anymore, we'll just hand pick them...but we will also double whatever our advertising rates are.

    (so discuss)

    On the books...here you go...
    Our biggest expense is the GDC conference. To get me there, pay for room, food and what not is a minimum of $500 each year. The first year that put me several hundred in the whole. Last year it was paid for by site income.
    Other expenses over the last two years have included hosting for 2 years at $100 each and paid reviews to the total of $200. There are other misc expenses such as domain fees, mysql setup fees, prweb, business cards, and what not...total of all expenses (and I should include I've already gotten my plane and hotel for this year's GDC) is near $2000 (+ 2days in LA...which runs about $100 when you have no car and aren't near any eating places). Total income to date is just under $3000. Leaving the site plus $1000. Currenty, as mentioned the site is working to have the back-end redone, cost is $5000...(and I've talked to now 3 developers about what I want done, all think that the fee isn't high enough for what I'm expecting based on what I'm asking, before anyone think that $5000 is unreasonable...the fact is you are right, I should be paying more)

    January was very good, but I haven't yet gotten any checks for it yet, but I think we will be perhaps 60% of the way to the goal at the end of the month, maybe 75%.

    So there you have it...my estimated 2000+ hrs of work, half of my vacation time each year and all the time spent away from my family, sometimes like last night being on for 4 hours straight due to some change that occured with a php program you are using...all of it turns into trying to make things better.

    I want to say a big thanks to the reviewers for making it happen GB hits these forms fairly often and he has been a wonderful reviewer, going the extra mile to get the right information, I wish I could pay him 10x what I do...

    Anything more? I find it interesting and perhaps a little upsetting that everyone is unwilling to share their sales numbers, but they feel it is their business what my site is doing financially... needless to say I find the way the discussion has turned more than a little disheartening.

    I will also add that in December I wrote up my 'yearly introspective' article. In it I stated quite clearly that the site was not going to finish the year in the same form it started. I couldn't justify my time on it to my employer, my family or to this community. January has changed that, by showing that there is a reason to keep doing it. It has been a great month for indie games, and made me believe that I could turn the site into a full-time gig and give it the attention it deserves in perhaps another year's time. Maybe I'm just giving fodder for more random conversation, but I really feel that it is hard to appreciate everything that has really gone into the site and all that I've tried to do. I hope that maybe this post will help everyone have a clearer picture.
     
  10. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    Um...sure...lemme think...is there another way to do this that anyone would suggest? I have had people transfer money through regnow and cut me checks...I can do invoicing...
     
  11. mkovacic

    Original Member Indie Author

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    Ah, RegNow transfer will work for us (well, if affiliate sales pick up a bit :D).

    Generally speaking - it would probably be the best to setup a Plimus or whatever account with your advertising packages as products. That way you get all the usual payment options (cc, wire, etc.).
     
  12. Andy

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    Thanks for pretty interesting inside info Russell. If you felt dissapointed by my my question specifically - I didn't mind something of this type - but I'm sorry anyway! I was just wondering to check if I get all information correctly. So, I'm happy to hear at least that you are not in terrible finance hole with all your efforts on the site. (Let we exclude that terrible 5000$ for now - I have no any idea what you consider and have no any idea about site development anyway :) ).

    Speaking about disclosure of sales figures - well, but they were already disclosed before. :D I was just wondering where you spend that income to have the site even better - we should learn some lessons from the professionals you know? :) And of course you have the right to not answer. OK? Still friends? ;)

    And if you don't mind I'd like to ask just one more (last!) question.
    Have you noticed any visible additional income in sales from your site after your TV interview and addtional traffic?
    REM: I'm obviously trying to stay in frames of topic - just to explain - what ever you increase either the price for reviews or the price for advertising (I'd increase them both really and go with them) it would be very useful to know at first how valuable were resulting changes for the site itself.

    Thanks,
     
  13. Anthony Flack

    Indie Author

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    Good point! Bad games don't need more than they get at the round-up. So here's a request -

    RUSSEL! READ THIS NEXT BIT!

    Since you're getting the back-end re-done, I hope you'll be able to have the review index cross-reference to the monthly round-up, so all the games reviewed or monthly rounded-up will appear in game lists side-by-side. And also have a link from full reviews to the monthly round-up if the game has both. Then you'll have a frighteningly comprehensive database.

    The only reason I asked about your expenses was because you said you hadn't seen any profit, combined with the aforementioned wanting-to-be-supportive thing. For the record, I don't mind if you end up making a lot of money off this in the end. Er, somehow. Double advertising costs? That's fine by me. Serves people right, too!

    Since you ask, as far as my books go, Squashy Software has brought in about $200 in the last couple of years, minus expenses. I haven't bothered to track expenses, but I haven't really spent anything recently. I guess since starting up, I've spent... oh dear, probably about $15,000. Oh well.

    Fair enough. I'm not seriously claiming that that's what it's all about fofr everyone. Although for me, there is definitely an element of wanting to be a part of an honest, creative homegrown industry in a corrupt world.
     
  14. Promaginy

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    Promotion vs Public Relations - Some Options

    My marketing course taught me that Advertising consists of Promotion (paid advertising where you control the content) and Public Relations (you don't pay but have no control over the content).

    What GT is practicing is a strange mix of the two. GT selling advertising via banner ads is obviously legit because that is how a traditional seller/advertising relationship should work. An indie paying money for advertising MUST control the content - as many have said, it is completely absurd to pay money and then get a poor review which is what currently can happen.

    GT also does reviews. This is the Public Relations side of the site. A legitimate review should not be based on being paid for because of journalistic integrity. The readers deserve to know that the opinions written about a game are based only on personal experience, not being influenced through financial incentives such as getting more money to give a really great review on a game.

    I see Russell having 3 options - none of them are exclusive of each other:

    - Charge people to get their game reviewed more quickly (say within 1 week) while a free review would take 1-3 months to be reviewed. This is what Yahoo does. The effort to review a game should be exactly the same.

    - Create a Promotional Review section of the site where it is clearly stated that the Reviews were paid for. Many magazines allow advertising supplements which are essentially info-ads. Now if GT should decide to give every single game a glowing review just because it was paid for, GT will soon decline because people won't read the site anymore. The format of the Promotional Review would be generally upbeat and positive and touch on few of the negatives of the game. Make it clear that people who like Bejewelled like games will find this game interesting, etc. There should be no rating system for this kind of review.

    - Don't charge for reviews, but charge only for advertising space. Review games as you can and pay the reviewers based on advertising revenue. Don't guarantee a review. Set a quota of reviewing games that are across a broad spectrum of genres and developers.

    Good luck to Russell and GT! I hope you can make a return on your investment. You have done much to help the industry.
     
  15. Ryan Clark

    Indie Author

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    I believe I've read every post here (although my eyes were glazed over at times :) ), and I hope cyrus_zuo reads this:

    DONATIONS.

    I would feel a little bit funny about paying for a review, but what I would NOT feel funny about is giving you a donation. People around here say that your website is a big help to the indie community... and it's true. As a result, they should be willing to help support you when you are in need. When you need money for plane tickets to the GDC, put up a "donation meter" and let us know what you need.

    Currently you need $5000 for a back-end overhaul... put up a donation meter, and I'll put my money where my mouth is and give you $50.

    When people send in their games for review, you can tell them that it would benefit the site if they gave you a "suggested donation" of $50, or somesuch. Tell them that doing so will enable you to pay reviewers to review more games, though sending in a donation is no guarantee of getting a review, let alone a favorable review.

    Anyway, if donations and advertising can help you to make ends meet for a while, I believe that eventually your readership will increase to a point where you can make GameTunnel a full-time gig.

    Please stick with it!
     
  16. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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