Payola more common for traditional press than YouTube - Survey

4.7% of devs say they've paid for written coverage, while 1.5% have given flat fee for video content

For all the discussion about the ethics of YouTube content creators of late, the practice of developers paying for coverage of their games still appears to be more common in traditional media, according to a Gamasutra survey of 325 developers.

The survey found that only 1.5 percent of respondents reported paying a flat fee for YouTube coverage, while 2.1 percent said they had entered into a revenue-sharing deal with a video content creator. However, 4.7 percent of developers surveyed reported paying for written press coverage in the past.

Interestingly, Gamasutra notes that from its survey results, the payment requests are coming from different ends of the spectrum in the two fields.

"Big YouTubers are asking for money while smaller ones aren't so much, while many smaller traditional press outlets are asking for cash for review, while bigger names need to be more above-board so as not to anger their communities," according to the site.

Only a relative handful of developers reported engaging in the practice already, but many more may engage in the practice at some point. The survey found 19.1 percent of developers had considered paying a flat fee for YouTube coverage, while 11.6 percent had considered entering a revenue-sharing deal. As for interest in paid written coverage from the press, 13.9 percent said they were considering it in the future.

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Latest comments (12)

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital3 years ago
YouTubers and online magazines are sending us price lists on regular basis... Review costs this much, a good review costs this much... oh and if you want to we can also throw-in some Twitter for a special reduced price only this week!

Not to even mention that we know precisely how much it costs to get 10.000 5-star ratings and positive reviews on the AppStore, for example.

The game developers are the only ones in the industry who do "art", or "fun". Everybody else is in there to make money (off game developers). And don't blame me for being cynical again. That's simply how it works.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend3 years ago
It might be how it works, but its because everyone accepts how it is instead of pushing for how it should be.

I refuse to pay for a review as it totally breaks the point of an unbiased review (well as close as you can get anyway). I know some people will think me naive to say this, but I think integrity is something that should not have a monetary value.

If someone is asking for money to review your game then you know that it will be on a 'most money, most coverage' type basis, which whilst might be fine and dandy for big companies, small indies have to pick where to spend cash and paying for a review is something I am not prepared to do.

Adverts in review videos, free copies of games, even giving some freebies to a reviewer I think is OK up to a point, but flat out asking for money to 'expedite' your review is BS IMO.
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Pete Thompson Editor 3 years ago
Not everyone's in it for money. We've never asked for anything more than a review copy, and like us a lot of Independent sites do what they do for the love of gaming.... Personally I'd rather read a review on an independent site than on one of the big commercials whose only interest is money..

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 28th July 2014 5:46pm

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Show all comments (12)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Oh, good gravy. Been doing this review stuff since 1998 and Ive never asked for a damn dime or have been offered any payment for writing up anything. I guess in this modern age, it's seemingly seen as okay to buy coverage, but it sucks and even more so because it's making me think that's why I can't get those invites to some events that used to come pouring into my inbox. Eh, perhaps I need a new passion if it's come to this crap...
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd3 years ago
Same, Grerg. I've never even met anyone who's been offered money for review scores. Who are these sites? Where are they based? I won't say we've never been offered advertorials though, which is partly covered under this. Here's an example of one we ran (this might be the last one we ran, it's been a while) As you can see we mark sponsored articles at the top, before any content is available.

It's never been a deal for reviews in any way. On the other hand, big review sites, contrary to Gamasutra's claims, DO regularly promise review scores within a certain range for first publishing rights. This has become less common recently as more sites have adhered to the same embargo, but it wasn't long ago that IGN and Gamespot would be given "world first review" opportunities for large games, never with scores below a 9. This wouldn't be covered under Gamasutra's survey because no money changed hands, but money was being given through exclusive traffic to the sites to give high scores to those games.

@ Jakub Sorry, let me try to find as nice a way as possible to say this, but that's some stuck-up bull crap. First of all, writing is an art form, even criticism is a form expression. It's not as simple as "this is good and this is bad." Being capable of disseminating a work and then expressing that analysis to the public is not a universal skill, and game writers do far more than write reviews. Editorials are absolutely a form of self-expression which should be respected, so let's start by not insulting everyone who does it for a living.

Second, not one damn person goes into writing about games because the pay is good. The pay is awful, especially on the middle and low end. Writing about games is one of the least stable and worst-paying areas in the field of journalism. We're not in it to make money, we're in it because we enjoy the games. Because we like to support the medium, discuss the medium and, when the job is at its best, highlight titles that otherwise may miss the radar completely for thousands of people.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 28th July 2014 9:24pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
The app-store review/twitter/youtube subscriber sock is absolutely a thing.

There are also plenty of viral marketers who work for corporations and political groups. I actually tracked one during the HD wars who was particularly damaging and disrupting. He had at least half a dozen internet subscriptions running into his house, and probably trio of mobile as well. This was to Get those extra IPs to get around blocks, and so he could literally drive an entire conversation with himself.

Have you ever watched Tf and see how they blur out all the brand names that have t been laid for? Hell, Richard Donner had to beg General Mills for months to let Superman eat Cheerios 30 years ago how times have changed.

If you haven't met these people, it's because you haven't looked for the. Best thing to do is publish the names of people doing it if you get those lists, though that might be suicide, as I have at least heard reports, but never confirmed that some of those extending those offers are very named brands. The people selling twitter followers/youtube subscribers and such are often small time operators, commonly in Asia or Russia. Though there are certainly first world people doing it too.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus3 years ago
Oh, please, please, PLEASE name-and-shame the reviewers who are charging for good reviews. I want to run these sons of bitches into the ground. I've been doing this since '03, and the mere thought of doing that is sickening. I want these people destroyed, so either name them or forever hold your peace.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 years ago
Five minutes after somebody creates a new chain of trust between creator and consumer, somebody will start wondering how that chain of trust can be monetized fair and square to the benefit of the consumer, while another person will start wondering how this chain of trust can be gamed, subverted and corrupted to the benefit of somebody trying to sell a sub-par product.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Annnnnd... I was discussing this with some folks and got called "old-fashioned" because I'm not monetizing myself through YouTube or Twitch videos, promoting my site more aggressively or entering into "strategic" partnerships with companies that guarantee more hits and maybe potential loot options if I play along. So, I guess it's everyone doing that that's the problem, huh? Blech.

It feels like Invasion of the Body Snatchers these days - sell out and become a happy zombie with a regular paycheck who gets bought out eventually or keep yourself clean and struggle along in relative silence and obscurity until you can't take it any longer (or get into making games). Oh, I'm sure there's a happy medium in there somewhere and I'd prefer to point in that direction and see where that road goes.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 years ago
I'd say you are old-fashioned if you do chase the marketing Dollars, Twitch and Youtube monetization hokum. Because those sites are not doing it for you, they are mainly doing it for themselves with you being a risk free idiot fronting all the work and risk of failure. You are old-fashioned if you believe that the value of your site comes from visitors reading something first, or discovering something first.

What is most interesting about this generation of consoles is an audience of PSN+ and Games for Gold players who were not there before. Sure, people bought used games at Gamestop, but here are two publishers who funnel an entire audience into the same games at the same time. I wager this will have quite the impact to the current culture of everybody chasing the pre-order and first-day purchase crowd. Much like the Internet had a huge impact on the crowd which used to wait after reviews to make a purchasing decisions. They used to be dominant, now they look like a fringe group.

Do TV station care that the movies they broadcast are two years old and have already been sold three times to everybody? No, they make it work and in return they have their audience. The same can be seen happening at major sites. They might still follow the major release calender, but there are also sideorders and they are getting more and more. With content which is even more interesting than the latest Destiny pixel comparison video.
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James Robertson Founder, Oso Games3 years ago
I regularly receive "marketing" emails advertising paid review services. I haven't taken any up on their offers yet, but I might consider it in the future.


Because I'm fed up with sending out press releases to the big name sites to get no response. While I appreciate that you guys probably get hundreds of review requests and press release mails every day, how are us little guys supposed to get noticed without greasing your palms a little?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Robertson on 30th July 2014 4:42pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Try contacting more of us little guys who don't ask for that palm grease, James. If you have titles we like, we'll cover them and let people know about them.
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