There are two things that spawned this blog post. The first being the steamy mug of English Cobble tea sitting beside my hot keyboard that has given me such a warm and fuzzy feeling inside I think politics are cute and cuddly.
The second thing that spawned this blog post is the dozens of people who have contacted me via online form and have asked me the same question. I awoke to my email inbox filled with 89 emails alone from blog readers asking variations of the same question.
They are a new video game writer and want to know how to get review copies.
They write as volunteers for video game websites that don’t pay them and want to know how to get review copies.
They write for bigger, well established, (I’m jealous) websites and their editors are looking to establish connections with video game publishers. How can they do this a bit faster than what the editor is doing?
I should point out that if you write for a bigger video game website, (I’m jealous) then it’s a LOT easier to work with video game developers and publishers. Bigger websites have a team dedicated to developing these kinds of relationships and the like with the needed party. They have people who do that particular job all day long. It’s best to talk with the people who work in that department so that way you don’t have to do all the work like I have to do because I’m not with the big video game people. (I’m jealous)
But all kidding aside though, it’s honestly best if the right people do this sort of thing. The perk is that you can focus more on playing and reviewing. Just tell the person in your magazine your desired platform and develop a dialogue. They are the ones who get the codes and the game titles. In short, they definitely know what’s hot to review, what needs to be reviewed, meaning no claims yet, as well as what’s available.
For the rest of us, editors included, this blog will be a detailed how to about getting video game review copies and establishing relationships with the right people and keeping those relationships.
There is one thing to note. It’s best to start with indie publishers first or publishers who don’t make it in the big leagues like gaming websites such as GameSpot or IGN and get their games and review them. There’s a larger perk to this than any might see. Someone, somewhere, is going to type that unknown title into Google and then the word review after it. Someone, somewhere, will be looking for an opinion about this small game. Its good website traffic and such to get those kinds of reviews out there. everyone and their mom is going to be reviewing Halo and max Payne, so there’s no way you will be able to make articles go to the top of Google search. No one, or hardly anyone, is going to be looking for smaller, less known video games so your review will have a better shot of ranking number one in Google.
Don’t ever publish the same review on multiple sites. Google hates it and it will make the website look bad. Don’t EVER do it.
As I have said above, if you write for a bigger video game website (I’m jealous) this will have been done and then some. Stick with those people, see what needs to be reviewed, and pick a non-popular title and go for it!
For everyone else who are not as privileged… (I’m jealous) here’s how you go about getting review copies of video games.
The best place to start is video game publishers, NOT the developers. They will have the stock, either digitally or physically. If you don’t know a place to start for video game publishers I will provide you with the website that will save your life.
The website is called Games Press. The URL is http://www.gamespress.com/
At http://www.gamespress.com/ they have lists of press releases, video game companies, PR contacts, press releases, images, and documents, release dates, everything you need. You have to sign up and you have to be approved. Video game website designers can also sign up as well.
I’d highly recommend using this site as your one stop source for everything video game journalism.
Sign up and then when you are approved there’s two ways about going about getting contacts. Select PR contacts from the left menu and then choose the video game publisher that you want to get in contact with and then it will have the contact in that listing.
The second is to choose schedule from the left menu. This will show you a list of the upcoming games. Select your gaming platform. Results will display in a table with the video game and the publisher. Click the publishers name and then the PR contacts will be listed it’s a lot easier than it sounds, seriously.
Ask to be on their review list if it’s your first time working with them. These people have a database of some kind that holds reviewers emails, and if they like your reviews, they will secretly move you to the top of the review list. LOL just kidding. This way, you don’t have to ask them every time for a new video game. As they come out, you will get them. It’s that simple. Develop a good relationship with them, and then things will be as smooth as butter.
Again the website is http://www.gamespress.com/latest.asp
The BEST way to do business is via email. In my opinion, a phone call about review codes is just weird and, besides, these people check their email 100 times more than they do their phone messages.
It’s better practice to send them links. If you don’t, they will ask you for your name and who you write for. If you tell them they will contact the editor, or just look you up on the website. If they have to do this from the get go, they won’t like you. Also, needless to say, if they can’t find you, then you won’t get free games to review. It’s that simple. Have links and stuff within the first email to make it easy on them and show that you’re legit.
Share ALL of them, even the negative ones. I can’t stress that enough. If you do just positive reviews than that makes you look like you are too easy to please. People love honesty so give them all honesty, even negative reviews.
There are two ways to obtain review copies.
Physically via the mail.
This method is the MOST COMMON method of getting review copies. Why? Because companies make the physical copies quicker and these are released way before the digital version. There are many perks to this. Your friends get to demo the game along with you if you’re the kind of guy who likes to play video games at friends’ houses.
You will give the PR contact your address, and you’re off!
Usually other goodies will come in the packages like shirts, flash drives, and other promotional items. YouTubers make videos out of this kind of marketing strategy and this is how unboxing videos are done, sometimes, is by review requests.
Digital download also known as redeem code.
This method is semi popular on the editor’s front or the publishers for the sheer fact that it’s a lot of work to keep track of generated codes for reviewers, I’m assuming. I don’t know about that part but it’s definitely not as popular.
You just have to ask.
The downsides to this are as follows. You won’t get as many games. Some don’t even release the download versions until months after the publication date of the physical. This is putting you at a disadvantage because by the time you get it, especially if it’s a popular title, then your search rankings in Google will drop.
Not everything is available via digital, even though it may definitely seem so. For publishers, it’s MUCH easier to do CD’s even though it is not cheaper.
There is just one thing to note. They won’t give you more than one code, unless you ask. If you’re going to be reviewing the ins and outs of a multiplayer then ask for two codes, not just a code. One code works for one person.
I’d STRONGLY recommend getting a good friend, not someone who you just met, and try out games together online. It’s a lot better than with strangers who yell into the microphone and call each other idiot and faggot and douche bag.
Once you have your game, then the PR person is done with you, usually, until the next video game. They won’t look over your shoulder to see if you’ve ever published your review. Make it a habit to send them every review that features their video game. It will make it easier to give you codes for next time because they will have already established a good connection with you and have seen you actually write something. If you can, get them to follow you on twitter or LinkedIn. Facebook isn’t professional enough. Don’t ask if they have a Facebook, EVER. Don’t ask if they have a Facebook. Yuck!
Once you get the hang of the above you will be reviewing like a pro. Of course you can definitely do it out of your own pocket but if you want to review a lot of games, obtaining review copies are the best way to get your name out there. People talk outside of the internet and you may develop your own connections and people may want to have you review games for them.
And lastly, if you want to see my video game news, features, and reviews, go to http://gamingeyes.tumblr.com/
Follow me on twitter @theblindwriter. Thank you and I hope you’ve enjoyed this!