The media’s perspective on video game developers

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“Here we spend all this time reviewing something, and sometimes it saps money from us – only to make someone else wealthy, who has no respect or regard for our time or financial resources…” When I received an email from an editor from a gaming publication, I was pleasantly surprised. Our little friendly conversation turned out to be quite eye-opening for me. “For us, as the media, it’s extremely annoying because it becomes a drain on our resources,” he wrote.  I caught myself thinking about his words.

“Real” business

Many developers don’t regard video game publications as real businesses. There are a lot of reasons for this: the nature of games as a form of “entertainment”, the existence of numerous free blogs and their battle with expensive, well-established gaming publications, and games journalism as a hobby vs. games journalism as a profession. Top it all off with the unstable and quite blurry line between paid and unpaid content, and you get the picture.

Many developers are led astray by thinking that if their game is good enough, it will get free publicity; and when that doesn’t happen, they feel cheated. Interestingly, this kind of thinking is often fueled by many respectful video game journalists. 

The power of “Thank You”

“There is no, ‘Hey thanks for helping us get to a million downloads, here is a paid advertisement.’ Nope, you know what we get? We get, ‘Our free app has been updated – help us get more money and get to two million downloads.’ After we already worked for them for free – there is no tangible ‘thank you’ that keeps us in business. It’s just ‘give me more’”. Sometimes, to realize the consequences of our actions, we need to look at them from another person’s perspective.

Lion in a cage

Competitiveness, a desire to be noticed, a need for reviews, and the fear of getting negative publicity all create a very mixed feeling toward the media. I recently got a very interesting impression during a conversation with a game writer at Casual Connect this year. He described the relationship between the media and indie developers as a “lion in a cage”: developers approach the lion (the media), drop a press release in a heartbeat, and run.

 “Because you asked so nicely, I’ll pass it on to my mobile team personally. Normally devs just send in PR and that’s it. Thanks for being polite about it!”  This is the line from an email that I received a few months ago from the Content Manager of an indie game publication. Sound familiar? 

While the interconnections in the video game industry are sometimes quite difficult to tease apart, a few things are clear as water. In order to understand a game publication you don’t need to work there. A little imagination, coupled with a personal approach, along with some humanity, might help a lot.


Read more:
How to Write a Game Review Pitch
The Value of a Coverage Report