Friday, January 18, 2013

"Paid Reviews" no longer "Taboo"?

I come from a generation of gaming consumers who believe that websites - who conduct reviews reflecting their impressions and overall quality of video games - ought to conduct themselves with integrity and under no monetary influence by developers or publishers. This expectation stems from the desire for reviews to be completed and written with the utmost integrity, since I am going to potentially spend my money on the reviewed products. To put it simply, I'm not going to trust a score for a game if the reviewer was paid by the developer, and I think most people would agree that this is not a good model for respectable journalism.

And now our fledgling experience in the mobile market... Since launching our only two Apps, "Gubs" and "Puckbang", we've probably received over twenty email propositions for us to:

  • Pay for fake customer reviews.
  • Pay for fake forum posts from our 'satisfied customers'.
  • Pay for an expedited review on a gaming website (they plan on reviewing the game but want money in order to have our review posted sooner). These websites ended up not reviewing our games when we declined payment.
  • Pay for a video review instead of just a written review.

Personally, I find it morally exhausting to deal with these "vulture" companies that insist on asking my business for money, in exchange for good reviews and forum-post testimonials. I understand that word-of-mouth advertising is the driving force behind mobile games, and that the best way for people to hear from other consumers is through customer reviews and posts at forums. I understand that these are ways for potential customers to hear from other customers. However, the reviews and forum-posts ought not be submitted by the developer, nor funded by them! The line between genuine customer satisfaction and the marketing dollar should never be blurred.

As customers, we expect that "customer reviews" are that of genuine customers. We expect that websites - whose sole purpose is to increase consumer awareness rather than product awareness - will conduct themselves with the same integrity that we would when recommending games to our own family and friends. We expect that developers will not pay people to give their games false praise and pass it off as genuine support from consumers.

I entreat you all - developers, publishers, and gaming websites - to refrain from supporting this practice. Of course, you ought to spend money to market and advertise your game. All we ask is that you don't do so under the pretense that you are your own customer.

And to the companies who are contacting us in order to ask us to give you money in order to lie to our customers... stop contacting us.

 ~ Matthew Griffin, Co-Founder of Yeti Trunk


  1. You have to deal with this no matter what you do, I run a youtube channel and in my case it's people asking me to buy subscribers.

  2. There's a lot of this sleaziness going on from the side of gaming publishers (withholding pre-release copies from reviewers that give bad scores, etc), too. Google "doritogate" for more on that subject.

  3. We meant this post more as a warning to other small developers (to keep them from being taken advantage of), but you're right that it has larger implications.

  4. I'd be more than happy to be your free customer reviewer. Because I can definitely say that I am quite satisfied with Wanderlust.