Paul Stephen-Davis, the CEO of Retro Army Limited, has announced the company will no longer provide review codes to press outlets. This decision comes after a wave of scammers and key resellers exploited the developer and pretended to be a legitimate website. Indie developers struggle to deal with the PR side given their limited budget and the line between press and consumer has become quite vague in recent years. Now, each developer has to judge if a Twitch streamer, YouTuber or print press are eligible for press copy and the numbers of requests have risen exponentially.
As a result, I greatly sympathize with his position and feel too many “press” are being allowed access to pre-release games. Currently, many reviews come from individuals with another job who don’t invest their full-time into this career path. I believe, press keys should only be provided to “professional” reviewers who do this as their sole means of a living. The developer argues:
“Personally I think it’s unfair to players that buy the game when others(reviewers) are getting it for free.”
“Our main policy is to protect and take care of our players first.”
This is where I disagree with the comments made, and in quite a strong fashion. While being a member of the full-time professional press is possible, it’s very unlikely in 2015. Most reviewers are unpaid, on a pitiful wage or rely on Patreon funding. It’s absurd to ask reviewers to fund their the cost of reviews considering they are usually giving their time and expertise for free. Most job listings for a gaming website describe a review position as voluntary and argue compensation is provided through game codes and access to press events.
Consumers might be irked that the press receive games for free, but the reality is they are on a much higher wage than 99.9% of the gaming press. Writing is a 7-day a week, demanding job without 9-5 office hours. Unfortunately, the reputation of gaming journalists is atrocious and some of the perceptions are valid. Members of the press can lash out on social media or have potentially biased relationships without disclosing any information prior to publishing.
To reiterate, I understand how frustrating this must be for indies, but they must realize how difficult it is to forge a career in the gaming media. Ironically, low-medium tier press have virtually no money and work on a smaller budget than a tiny studio. In an ideal world, I would like the most talented and insightful journalists to be paid a good, living wage. However, with reducing ad-revenue, community media and Adblock, it seems this could be a dying art-form.
Do you think games critics should receive titles for free?
Super Trench Attack 2 is currently available from Steam for £4.99 and is a survival turn-based squad game set in a fictional world war setting.