Hey there, so you’re looking to become a game reviewer, huh? Good choice! I’ve been writing for the game industry for nearly ten years now, and while the job can at times get very hard and tedious, it can also be very rewarding and fun. Hopefully this article acts as a guide of sorts for those of you looking to get into gaming journalism for the first time, or serve as a mild refresher for those trying to get back into it.
Note: if you’re just looking for a step-by-step guide on how to get started as a game reviewer, scroll down to the bottom of this article. Otherwise, continue reading for a more detailed explanation.
So, what do I need?
Well, you’ll need to love video games! You’ll also need some kind of outlet to publish your reviews to. This can be a blog, a YouTube channel, or even a more professional outlet like IGN or GameSpot. Okay, so maybe IGN and GameSpot are a tad unlikely. Instead, let’s just focus on a blog. 🙂
To make this as easy as possible, here’s a list on what you’ll need to get started. Note that some of these aren’t pure requirements, just a general guideline on how to find the most success as a solo reviewer.
- Blog/Website – this is where you’ll publish your content to.
- Social Media – you’ll want to have a social media account for your website, such as a Facebook and Twitter. Having and being active on social media adds a layer of credibility.
- Reviews/Content – publishers look for past reviews and content from your website as a way to verify that you’re a legitimate reviewer, and that you’re worth doing business with. Don’t have any reviews yet? Write some for games you already own. They don’t care if your content is old, just that you have it to begin with.
- News/Editorials – writing news and editorial content helps build an active following for your website. The bigger your website is, and the more active it appears, the more publishers are willing to give you a chance.
Okay, so I’ve got all that. How do I get free review copies?
There are a number of ways to go about this, but the easiest is to join a publication network. Terminals is a good choice, and it’s fairly easy to get into. Once you’re in, feel free to start putting in key requests of whichever games they have available at the time. Just make sure you only request what you can actually play. If you request too many games at a time, and if they approve all of your requests, you’ll find yourself with a huge backlog of games that you must play and review. If you fail to provide a review for one of the games in a reasonable amount of time, you may find it hard to request more games from that publisher again in the future. So be careful, and don’t get greedy.
Another way to get review copies, is to reach out to the game publisher directly. This requires that you do some research on the publisher, and find the appropriate contact within their company. Once you figure out who to contact, shoot them an email that explains who you are, why you’re contacting them, and any other information about yourself or your publication. This is the template I use when contacting publishers. Feel free to modify it however you’d like.
A publisher wants to know how many visitors my site gets? What do I tell them?
Unfortunately, some publishers want popularity over quality, and these guys are sometimes a real pain to work with. Capcom is notorious for this, with them requiring 250,000 monthly visitors to your website before they even consider giving you review copies of their games. Even the publication I run, which more than meets their requirements, is sometimes turned down simply because somebody larger asked first.
You’ll have better luck requesting games from smaller publishers, or even going directly to independent game studios that simply want to get their name out there to as many people as possible. Also remember, you are going to get rejected. That’s just a part of the game of being a reviewer, so don’t take it personally. If you’re rejected, just try again, and keep trying until you eventually succeed. Using Terminals should help a lot with securing some early games for you to review, which you can then build an audience out of.
All in all though, never lie to the publisher. Give them accurate statistics regarding your website, if requested.
The game they gave me is really bad, should I score it higher to try to be nice to the publisher?
No, you should always provide an honest review of any and every game or product you receive, no matter how good or bad. Remember, a game publisher is a business, not a friend. You can’t hurt their feelings for giving their game a low score. Also, contrary to popular belief, giving a game a low score will not typically harm your relations with the game publisher.
What do I do if I don’t finish the game, for one reason or another?
If you fail to write a review for a game that was given to you by the publisher or through something like Terminals, it shouldn’t be the end of the world. At least not yet.
Of course you should always try to write reviews for everything that you receive, as they’re giving you these games specifically for you to review them. Always keep that in mind when requesting new games, as these aren’t simply playthings. You should consider it a job, and the publisher is your employer of sorts. You wouldn’t leave your real world boss hanging, would you?
Now, let’s say that you can’t finish a review for whatever reason. If you have a solid track record with the publisher, a single missed review won’t be the end of the world. It shouldn’t harm your relations with them too much. However, if you fail to review the vast majority of the games you are given, you may no longer be able to request future games. Remember, you’re not here to get free games, you’re here to review them. The fact that the games were given to you for free is really more of a happy bonus. So, if you were to continuously fail to do the one job that the publisher wants you to do, you will no longer receive games from that publisher.
So in short, try to review everything you get, and try to do so as soon as you get them. Never take on more than you can chew, as you risk harming your ability to get more games in the future.
Okay, so I read everything here, but I’m confused. Can you give me a step by step guide on how to get free games, and become a game reviewer?
Sure thing, bud! Here’s an easy to follow step-by-step guide that should get you started. Where you go afterwards is up to you.
- Create a website or blog. If you need help choosing a hosting provider, I highly recommend DoRoyal.
– Once you’ve got the hosting set up, you’ll want to install WordPress. DoRoyal provides an easy and automated installer from their control panel which should help speed things up.
– You’ll also want to make sure that your website looks well made. Either get a free template, or invest in something a little more custom.
- Write some articles for your website. Try to publish something new at least once every week.
– Focus on writing news, editorials, and reviews.
– Write reviews for games you already own. These are basically “example articles” and are what the publisher will use to determine if you’re a quality publication.
– Be sure to write new content as often as you can. The idea is to make your website appear active and updated with fresh content, so don’t just write 5 articles and give up. Keep at it. This is a long term gig, so you gotta take it seriously.
- Create a Facebook and Twitter account for your publication.
– This is used to add a bit more credibility to your site.
– This can also be used to drive in more web traffic, as social media is a great way to promote your content.
– Try to be as active as possible.
- Sign up for Terminals as a publication. You’ll want to have a somewhat active website before you apply for Terminals, as the more active you are on your site, the more likely they’ll accept your publication.
– Terminals is where you’ll get the vast majority of your games, with them acting as the middleman of sorts.
– Once you’re approved on Terminals, send in a request for one game to start. If you’re approved, take this game and write a quality review for it. Never request more than you can handle at any given time.
– Submit your coverage on Terminals, so the publishers can see that you’re a reliable source.
– If you’re rejected, don’t give up. Keep working on your website, and build up a larger following. Once you’ve been in the game for a while longer, try to sign up for Terminals again. Sometimes all it takes is a little hard work, motivation, and time.
Well, that’s pretty much it. You’re now ready to become a game reviewer. Just remember that this article isn’t meant to give you all the answers, but more as a way to get you started. If you have a specific question, feel free to ask.
I’ve personally been a gaming journalist for nearly ten years, and I run one of the oldest gaming news sites in the world. So if you were curious about my qualifications, there ya have it.