Why don't the game mags review indie games?

Now I might be talking out my ass here, that happens, but my understanding is this:

If you’ve got an indie game, and you publish it yourself (not through even someone as small as Shrapnel or Matrix) - good luck getting a review.

Is this the case? I know Steve at least posts here… What’s the magazines baseline for reviews? Does it have to be from a known publisher? Is there just way too much shovelware to even consider anything else?

Or is it a quality baseline? (ie, if you’re self published, usually your game sucks, so it doesn’t get reviewed… correlation, not causation.)

And if it’s something else - what is it? I’m doing the business analysis to figure out whether it’s worth my while to self publish or bend over for one of the indies.

Will the big sites (IGN, Gamespot, Gamespy, etc…) review stuff that’s not coming preceded by a call from the publishers PR flack? Seriously, what’s the process here?

Well, as long an indie developer is business savvy enough to create buzz in through a combination of press releases, screenshots, interviews, etc, I think you’re guaranteed to mentioned somewhere, either in mags or on gaming websites.

Sending out reviewable copies of the games to all of these places once the game’s done probably goes a long way too :)

A side comment until the appropriate posters arrive…in my (limited) experience most indies do a horrific job of even attempting to get some exposure - as in, many of them just don’t do it.

Surely many indie titles are ultimately niche products, either by virtue of their genre, graphics or other production values, which I would think makes them a poor fit for broad-based print markets or large online sites.

I’ve seen some of Vogel’s Spiderweb Software games (Avernum and one of the Geneforges, I think) reviewed in mags. FWIW.

Fate just showed up on Gamespy, and got a well-deserved five stars.

Why don’t game mags review indie games?

A: Maybe one does, and you just don’t give enough of a shit to find out. And that would be the reason the others don’t.

I’ve never seen a better answer to a thread in my time on the Internets.


so how is fate compared to other hack and slash games? Heard some good things about it but can’t find a copy around my area.

Its good. Its also Download only.

This thread did it, just purchased Fate to hold me over until Oblivion ships.

Do you actually read the magazines? No, they don’t write about every lameass Breakout clone out there, but most do cover indie games.

And Fate supports widescreen resolutions (1920x1200 for this proud 2405 owner). How cool is that?

No, I don’t read the magazines (see first line of first post.)

This was a 2nd hand piece of info from a source I trust (and would know), telling me that it is very difficult to get reviews if you don’t have a publisher. Correcting me was an acceptable response. :)

So Fate, a great example of a game, but not self-published, got reviews. That doesn’t necessarily say anything. However, the Spiderweb stuff does.

I have to agree with you Dhruin, it’s hard to see any indie games getting any exposure for themselves. This post is my effort to make sure I don’t fuck that part up. No one has mentioned the process yet, although at least one game journalist has posted. Do I need to arrange it with the editor? Just send a review copy? What?

Do indie game companies actually issue press releases? Does anyone give a rats ass?

Some do, but sadly, many indie companies consist of one or two programmers who hate anything to do with marketing or PR. They don’t feel comfortable writing or, too often, communicating with people at all…so they just don’t do it. And then they bitch about how unfair/paid off/etc the press is.

I’m too tired to do my “how to get press” rant again. It’s around here somewhere.

I guess a good idea would be to start reading them, see what they do cover, and go from there, eh?

I believe I saw print reviews for Introversion’s games (Darwinia, Uplink) and that they self-publish. In fact, the first I heard of it was from impressed journos. :)

Perhaps it helps if a game is worth reviewing in the first place? After all, there’s a fair few games that are published through regular channels that don’t seem to get reviews - and they were all pretty grim titles.

I feel that I should point out that I don’t read every single review that exists nor play every single game that exists.

Heck, we got a five-page article in a Russian magazine not long ago. Five pages. And we’re probably not even going to sell the game in Russia.

[size=2]Yes, I am aware that everyone from Smolensk to Yakutsk will be playing it the day we release it. [/size]

Bless 'im, but Kieron gave a speech on this very subject: http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?page_id=693

He’s right. If you let us know about games, we’ll cover them.

The Introversion people are masters at self promotion. And it helps that they make kick-ass games.

Kieron’s speech was right on the money as far as I can tell. You can’t review everything. And with so much stuff to be covered, it’s very rare that someone will stumble upon your game by accident and be impressed enough to push for some page space.

And if it’s hard for press folk to find your game, imagine how difficult it is Joey Leetspeak to hear about it when all he knows about upcoming releases is filtered through The Man.

Even bigger ticket indie games like Strength and Honour aren’t getting covered - mostly because there seems to be little effort to spread the word. They had no US publishing deal, but got their game on the shelves in a number of other markets. They finally resorted to self-publishing in North America and online purchases. It’s not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t terrible. And their first game, Takeda, got some decent press. (It was released too close to Shogun: Total War to be appraised on its own merits, I think.)


Darwinia has been getting a TON OF PRESS, I just hope it helps them sell (it’s a pretty neat game).