The answer: Ask.
(It’s really tempting to leave this entire article with just that, but let’s be a bit more helpful. ; )
When asking a reviewer to do review your game remember a few tips:
- Decide how many prototypes you can [afford to] make.
- Research your reviewer options (list below), and select 1.25x the number of Reviewers as you have Prototypes. (Many will say ‘no’ for various reasons.)
- Send them a nice personalized 1-on-1 email, asking if they’re available, and tell them about yourself, a short blurb about your game and why they might like it, and your general soft-deadline for the review if you have one. Sample email below.
- Remember: Not every reviewer likes every game. Know who likes what kind of games where possible, noting that most reviewers like most kind of games. Even still, we all have our preferences. Example: Rahdo, who loves The King’s Armory and reviewed it TWICE, denied our next game because it’s competitive and he only games with his wife. On the flip side, we once got a scathing review for TKA from a team, who at the end of ripping it apart for 10 minutes, said “We really only like super lightweight card games that play in 20-30 minutes.” … Ugh!
- So be very honest when describing your game to your potential reviewers.
- Even if they’re paid, they’re still a person. Treat them accordingly.
- They’re giving you their time, paid or not. It’s important to respect that.
- Be prepared to pay for a review or two (or at least act like it when you ask). If you’re paying, it’s probably between $50 and $600. It’s a “gate-keeping fee”, an effort to scare away people that aren’t serious or don’t actually believe in their game. (Not a reference to my company. ; ) It’s also ok to avoid paid reviews when yer dirt poor. There are plenty that review for free.
- Ask. It’s unwise and unfair to assume that they can, have time, or would want to. The paid ones are often the most heavily booked. Hence, popular enough to get paid to play board games! (what a life!)
- Chances are they’re booked out for weeks or months. Most reviewers request at least 1 month, maybe 2 to get to your game.
- Check the stats on your reviewer. Do they have enough traffic/subscribers? Do the games they review get a lot of comments? Do they promote a positive attitude about the games they review or are they scornful, or fake-y? You’re allowed to be choosy too.
- Make a decent and complete prototype to send them. It need not be 100% professional, but it should be at least printed. Don’t send a hand written one or a PnP to print themselves. Print in color where you can. Use place-holder art. (Consider what their video will look like with your game in it.) 99.99% of reviewers will not assemble your PnP, do it for them. (I suggest using Print n’ Play Productions or The Game Crafter to make “professional-looking” ones.)
- Seek to obtain several reviews, minimum 2. Shoot for 3+ if it’s an easy (or inexpensive) to produce card-type game. Multiple reviews = better press and more outreach. Plus, nobody wants all their eggs in one basket.
- Make your email request clear, polite, and very personal. Make your subject clear so they know what to expect when they open it.
- If you don’t hear back in a week, politely ping them again. “I wrote you last week, and was wondering…” Any reviewer worth their salt gets between 2 and 30 requests a day. It’s easier to skip over the email from everyone they want to reject than to reply saying “no” all day; but a polite follow up might get them to take a 2nd look.
Consider a polite email like this…
Subject: Review Request
“Hi, [reviewer’s human name], my name is ____. I enjoyed your recent video on [game], and I noticed that you often like ____ type games. As the owner of a new publishing company called _____, and the designer of a ____ style game called [my game’s name] that features [2-10 word elevator pitch], I wanted to reach out and see if you were available in the coming weeks or months to take a look at it and consider reviewing it.
My Kickstarter is planned to launch around [month], and I’d like to be able to have your launch [just before / during] it, perhaps on the ____th [day/week] if it works for your schedule. Feel free to write me back at this email address to let me know if you are interested, or not, and what your fees are for your time.
I’ve attached a photo of the prototype for you to get a peek at the layout of the game. I hope to hear back from you soon.
Note: You’re personal, relate to them, show your interest in their work, give them your concept and ‘hook’ without being long-winded, give them the relevant data they need to make a decision with (without them having to ask, cause they won’t), and express that you’re not afraid of paying a nominal fee (thus earning respect).
Two tips for when you get the reviews back in:
- When you read/watch them, extract key quotes you can use for your site & banner ads. Try to keep the quotes short. Two sentences max. – 3 sentences from 3 reviewers will do more for the eye and for trust-building than 3 sentences from 1 reviewer.
- Finally, and this is critically important: Promote that reviewer! They offered you a service, probably for free, that cost them time and money; repay them in kind to help build their audience. Tweet it, post it to facebook, drop the link on Reddit (or ask your buddy to), link to it on your company page, and obviously, link to it on your Kickstarter page when you quote them.
Need a list of reviewers? We’ve got good news for you…