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Video Reviewers' Ripple Effect

"Let's Play" are the game commercials of the future. They are free so they help out indie developers. They are done by indies so people can trust them. Bullpucky! Read on.

John Ardussi, Blogger

July 12, 2014

5 Min Read

The idea that video reviewers on YouTube or TwitchTV are the future way of selling in the video game industry may be correct, but the evidence is not here yet. My argument is that these gameplay videos are more like content than commercials. While there are many reviewers are out there, most are not helping enough to make it worthwhile.

The Little Guy

There is an automatic alliance with the little guy, the underdog, the kid who just likes to play games. We root for them and hope that they can succeed. So when we first got contacted by indie people who just wanted to make a video of our game, we were already to start passing out codes. But something happened the first day that changed everything - we had at least as many requests for free copies of the game as we had buyers of the game. So I had to check them out.

Typically the prior videos most of these people had made had 30 or less views. If we could have gotten one sale for one free code, I would have done it in a heartbeat. But these numbers seemed to low. So I, having no numbers to work from, made the policy that unless a reviewer had 100,000 subscribers and typically 10,000 views of their videos, they had to buy the game to review it. But by buying the game, they automatically had permission to make a video.

The Basics of a Good Reviewer

Let's start out with the fact that many reviewers don't or just forget to put a link to your game with their video. These reviewers are useless. Why? Because when there is a link to the game with the video, we find that about 1 in 500 actually click on it. Imagine if the link is not there how that number drops. It may even be zero. It is certainly so close to zero we cannot distinguish it from background noise. Good reviewers always include the link.

Good reviewers drive people to your page whether or not they liked the game. While they may personally not be able to get past the missing “Invert Mouse” feature, their viewers may love the game and want to find out more. To assume that they are the final word on whether you should buy the game being reviewed is beyond arrogance. So they should always close with a message on how to get more information about the game.

Good reviewers should not try and break your game. We actually had one guy say that he hated games like ours and proceed to find ways of staying alive while not playing our game the way it was designed. Good reviewers should play the game as designed. We have in-game hint pages that many reviewers never read. We have puzzles that many just quit without attempting saying they don't get them (usually without reading the clues in the pages as well). You want a reviewer who has played a lot of games but not one that expects your game to be just like the one they like in the genre best.

Why Tell?

I have no idea if what we see is typical but I am going to just put it out there. Those who know me know that you can pretty much ask me any question and unless I am under an NDA or don't know the answer, I will answer the question (which is why my wife made me sign an NDA). And indie developers should all help each other. More information makes it more likely we can do the right thing.

Actual Numbers

Now that we have some numbers, the views of their past videos should be 15,000 if I want to make sure and get a sale. Anything less is unlikely to result in a sale. But I don't look at all their videos. I only look at games similar to ours. "Amnesia" is a great one. Although their game sells better than ours, we tend to get better views than them. That is likely due to the fact their game is over 6 months old and ours is still beta. Find a game comparable to yours in views as more and more reviewers post their reviews.

When page visits are high enough that we have seen a bounce, visits to purchases have been 1.5-3.4%. We are still in beta so this may change after we release. I will post an update after we go live. But for now – 150,000 views will generate 300 page visits and 4-10 sales. <- Did you see that? 150,000 views = 4-10 sales. I never would have guessed that. Even if you stretch that out to the 4-5 million views of a PewDiePie, that is 120-300ish. That is the brass ring of sales from the top guy. Not very impressive.

Bottom Line

“Let’s Play” and their like will always be an important tools to get the word out for indie developers. But there is a huge difference between getting the word out and sales. Setting your expectations up ahead of time is important. Don’t imagine that the brass ring is the goal.

If you are a “Let’s Play” reviewer, get better at helping the developer. You don’t have to change your review of the game, just make sure you give out all the information needed. I know we keep track of who did it right and don’t go back to the people who do it wrong. If you want to increase your audience, being a dev favorite will go a long way towards that.

Please if you have any more information of this type, share it. If your sales rock compared to ours, tell me so we can shoot higher.

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