Article #4 – How to get reviews

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:

  1. Decide how many prototypes you can [afford to] make.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. So be very honest when describing your game to your potential reviewers.  
  6. Even if they’re paid, they’re still a person.  Treat them accordingly.
  7. They’re giving you their time, paid or not.  It’s important to respect that.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!)
  10. Chances are they’re booked out for weeks or months.  Most reviewers request at least 1 month, maybe 2 to get to your game.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.)
  13. 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.
  14. Make your email request clear, polite, and very personal.  Make your subject clear so they know what to expect when they open it.
  15. 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.

 

Signature.” 

END

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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…

Click here to be brought to Article #16 – The Motherload List of Reviewers

Click here to be brought to Article #5: How to get Artists.

 

4 Comments

  1. Lloyd kochinka
    January 1, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

    I have a prototype of my game, however the art is 95% incomplete. I have been using temp art from the Internet, various pictures of superheroes, in order to make play testing it a bit more fun and help drive the theme a bit more. The temp art have big red watermarks that say TEMP ART across them. Should I remove all art before sending it to them or is it ok to leave the art, since it’s a prototype?

    Reply

    • John Wrot!
      January 1, 2016 @ 9:21 pm

      Thanks for asking it, Lloyd, as it’s a great question. To give an equal caliber answer I think I need to ask few questions myself.

      -How well does the temp art reflect the intended final art (style, characters, setting)?
      -How much art CAN you get before sending it out to reviewers? (even 3 or 4 core pieces perhaps?)
      -Is the current art free-use? (liability issue)

      The reason I ask is because video reviews (or written ones with pictures posted) will show the art, and it will give a first impression in that regard, and you want to make sure that first impression is positive. Even with a “this is just a prototype” disclaimer, we still see what we see and it leaves its impression.

      Reply

  2. Wayne Rowe
    August 11, 2018 @ 9:02 pm

    Very helpful advice John! I like the simple answer “ask”. That’s not an obvious foregone conclusion. We were wondering if we needed to send out prototypes with a letter of request rather than getting a reviewer’s permission or indication of their interest in advance. I much prefer to know in advance.

    We are just finalizing our prototypes. Testing the market and not wanting to look like a form letter, we reached out by email with personal messages to a couple reviewers, but didn’t get any reply at all. Not a yes, no or maybe. So we suspected that our approach was not following acceptable industry protocol, or they expect to be paid and we should know that, or they don’t review prototypes or Kickstarter projects, or perhaps the email wasn’t even read.

    So I’m looking for answers before I proceed further. 😉

    We are not sure how many reviews we need, but we were thinking the minimum was a lot more than the 2 or 3 you mentioned. Are you saying its typical to to contact 50 reviewers to get two reviews? Are they that hard to secure?

    I expected to send out at least 25 prototypes, is that a big number?

    Does “first review” have any value? Is that something we should promise one reviewer?
    Do reviewers prefer to know that other reviewers are doing the game as well, indicating wide popularity of the game, or do they prefer to be one of very few reviewing the game indicating they are somewhat exclusive or elite and a “breaking news insider”?

    Is it pushy or presumptuous to request a review publication date?

    Reply

  3. John Wrot!
    August 11, 2018 @ 10:41 pm

    Wayne, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    To your questions:
    -“25” is a HUGE amount. You totally don’t need to. We had 29 on A.D.A.P.T. by the time the 20th posted people were saying “I’ve seen that game everywhere”, but it’s likely nobody watched the last 15 at all. 2-3 is enough, 9 is a lot. 28 is crazy. : )
    -“First Review” doesn’t matter at all unless you’re Ignacy Trzewiczek. Don’t bother, the idea of fighting for credit over a unknown publisher might be a reason some say ‘no’.
    -One of “many” or of “few”, i’d say many. When you land Rahdo as reviewer, and you write your next email with “Rahdo’s already got a copy and loving, it and I think you will too…” you get someone’s attention more than with “Nobody’s played it yet, you’d be the first!”. Right?
    -You have every right to request a review publication date, and they 100% expect you to request one. They know why you’re asking (Kickstarter), and they know they’re helping you out by posting when it would bring traffic. Some won’t honor it depending on their schedule (ie: Dice Tower’s Board Game Breakfast is more inclined to talk about whatever they want that morning; Undead Viking is all about posting to your schedule; and ABC podcast records on Thursdays and post on Mondays so pick the week you want to be mentioned.) So yes, you can request.

    Inspired by your questions, I wrote a concept email to inspire you and added it to the article above.

    John

    Reply

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