Putting your personal email address out of the internet braves strange results. Especially if that email is tied to an indie game review site. You get to meet a whole mess of interesting individuals from all parts of the country. I’ve spoken to developers out of different parts of the US and Canada, India, Brazil, Russia, and China. All of them seem nice enough on the surface requesting you to play through their game, give them a rating, or stream it on Youtube. Only problem is the game isn’t out yet and it’s still in the beta stage.
I am a huge proponent of treading lightly when it comes to games still in the development stage. For one thing, the game may never see the light of day. Of course you want people to be following along your development and anticipating the release, but contacting people to play through and give it a serious look even though it’s not finished? No thank you. Most of these developers have just put their game up on Steam Greenlight and are trying to get votes to get it published on the platform. Or they are trying to people to back their Kickstarter and they think they’ve got 30 days, let’s make it happen.
Any time I received an email or a direct message on Twitter asking me to play their unfinished, unreleased game, I always responded back with:
Game looks great. Look forward to playing it when it’s released.
See? I’m a nice guy. I usually put their name and game on a list to follow up with at a later date. Here’s the typical response I get.
Actually we need you to play the game now so that people will see it and want to buy it when it’s released.
Now I don’t know you. You don’t know me. And with this one interaction, our first interaction, I don’t want to play your game at all. Plus, is this really the first impression you’re looking for? A playthrough with color commentary of an unfinished game on YouTube lasts forever. It’ll be the video that shows up as number one on the search results even after your game is out. Is that how you plan on winning? What if I don’t like the game? What if it breaks on stream? Are you going to ask me to remove it? Are you going to refuse to send me future review keys? None of this makes sense in the real business world and it definitely doesn’t make sense in the gaming world.
If you have to reach out to strangers and put them on a timeframe to accomplish something in your game’s development, you’re too late and you’re doing it wrong. If you need votes for Steam Greenlight, you shouldn’t be reaching out to reviewers or streamers. That fan base should already be behind you voting and pushing your game onto their fan base. This is the mistake we make from watching the AAA gaming market. If you hear Ubisoft sending advanced review copies of their next Watch_Dogs game to reviewers, it’s not to build buzz to get more sales. They know they are going to make sales. This is to appease the reviewers because no one has told them that their job is dead in this day and age. It’s the same reason that people still put money into newspaper advertising: they don’t want to believe that the world around them has changed and that they need to change with it. You can’t afford to play this same game. You can’t afford to do much of anything, let’s be honest. So you don’t want to go asking strangers for favors in hopes that your game will live or die by their actions.
Take the responsibility to create your own group of fans, reviewers, voters, and promoters. Start early. Start often. These are the people that you can rely on when you need something important done quickly that you should never trust with a stranger. It’s on you to create an amazing indie game and the world that grows around it. Don’t let the community do it for you. This is why so many games fail. Not because they are bad games, but because no one cares to look for it and those that do, want something in return.