Challenges of the Small time reviewer
Carrying on from my article Reviewers Never Win which can be found here I thought I’d share my views on the challenges facing the small time websites and reviewers such as 360GamerCast.
The website and the podcast have been running for over 5 years now and have both grown far beyond my wildest dreams with on average 125,000 unique visitors a month for the site and 2000 podcast downloads a week, we are still classed as small time. Both the website and podcast are run in my spare time with the help of the rest of the podcast crew, the content for the front page including articles and reviews have only been written by me as of late so as you can imagine with the podcast recording, editing and writing of reviews and articles I don’t have much spare time at all to even enjoy gaming as much as I wish I could.
Many small websites and most notably podcasts die off within a year due to people not realising the sheer time commitment and money needed to run it all. So I’m guessing you are now asking yourself why I even bother. I do it because I enjoy my hobby and what I enjoy more is having a community to enjoy my favourite pass time with, before the podcast and website I tried to join in on other communities but they just didn’t seem very welcoming so thus 360GamerCast was born.
I have made many friends from all over the world thanks to this little website and podcast and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have even inspired fans to start their own podcasts and websites which never in a million years I thought would happen, my inspiration for 360G was Sarcastic Gamer which sadly doesn’t exist anymore. I remember how I felt when I was inspired and to know we have given people that same feeling is just staggering.
The community that has arisen from this little project of mine is amazing and I’m still staggered today by how friendly everyone is and how helpful people can be when it comes to helping out with the general running of the site and by sending PayPal donations to help with the upkeep.
We have always prided ourselves in being passionate and honest about everything we talk about, we never take ourselves seriously and will tell things as they are. With plenty of piss taking and swearing we are just a bunch of mates having a chat on the podcast, sure things can get heated at times but it is all in good fun and I think the varying opinions and love of different game genres bring some great debate.
After three years of running the podcast and website we had a massive overhaul of the website itself and started to focus more on written reviews and articles, I can admit to you that for the last two years PR companies from certain publishers have taken some notice (after my constant emailing) and have been sending me the odd promo game here and there before release date to review on the website and podcast. Some people haven’t taken kindly to this and have accused me in public on social media sites of selling out and for not speaking my mind appropriately about certain games. To those people I say two things.
Firstly I think after five years of putting in a lot of money, time and effort it’s actually nice to get a game for free every now and then, just remember that when I get sent a game a written review is expected so in essence I’m actually working for that early release.
Secondly just because I get sent a review copy of a game it does not mean I am automatically going to score it favourably in a review or talk about it like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. On the flip side those same people who have made those accusations have even asked me why I have been harsh on some games when I/we/they know people that work for a certain publisher. Just because you know people who work for a certain company does not mean you should judge them favourably, I always strive to be open and honest about every game I play and believe me most PR people admire your honesty.
A problem I feel that is facing the smaller websites and podcasts is that they may feel obliged to score the games they get sent favourably because they think ‘hey if I score this game as awesome I will get sent another game early, yay for me.’ They are scared that if they score a game negatively then they won’t get sent anything anymore but in reality this rarely happens, I’m not saying it doesn’t always happen because in my experience it has happened where after reviewing a game negatively (believe me it was a very bad game) the PR team decided to not send me anything anymore. In retrospect I would have looked awfully silly if I had reviewed the title positively when all the reviews on other sites were so negative. In my opinion you should never be afraid of not getting sent games early for review, consider it a bonus and always put your readers/community first as they are the most important.
There have been many articles recently about reviewers getting abit too cosy with the PR people of games companies, there was even an article on eurogamer about games journalists being asked to tweet about a certain game for a chance to win a PS3. Games reviewers have taken a big hit recently because of scandals like this and it does make the public ask questions and even big websites have been accused of scoring games favourably so they don’t anger their advertisers.
If you have a following be it big or small people are always going to question you, I feel at 360G we have always been open and honest about everything we review or discuss. At the end of the day if people are spending their hard earned money on something based on a review that I have written then I will always do my best to show integrity and voice my true opinion. I feel a review is for the benefit of the reader and the reader only, so they can make an informed decision whether to spend money on a piece of entertainment or not. In many cases though you simply cannot win as you are constantly in the public eye and everyone has their own tastes in games so whatever you say or do people will disagree with you, and with social media sites like twitter where you are easy to find, people will have no problem letting you know what they think about you be it good or bad.
I have the philosophy where I don’t want to feel like I owe anybody anything which is why we very rarely do give a ways or competitions for companies because I sometimes feel that it is just used as a marketing tool and for the websites involved to try to just up there readership. At 360GamerCast we want to have readers and listeners that are actually interested and not just here for free stuff, we pride ourselves in being a close knit community and are very welcoming to new people so feel free to join us anytime in the forums, Twitter, Facebook, Xbox live, PSN, or Steam.
I hope I have at least enlightened you into some of my views and the challenges involved in running a small community website and podcast. If you have any questions or you feel there is anything I can add to the article then please let me know.
You can find me on Twitter @Webby360G, @360GamerCast, www.Facebook.com/360gamercast or email firstname.lastname@example.org