Hey there, Gamers and Game Makers!
This week, I want to talk a little bit about getting requests for review keys for games. While we can see reviews for games we're looking forward to on some very well known sites such as Rock Paper Shotgun, IGN and more. As indie developers who may not have a deep pocket for marketing, we tend to rely on more sources talking about the games we make. These can come from other smaller sites and especially Youtubers.
Now, I get several requests every week from various small game review sites and Youtubers and sometimes I tend to be apprehensive about giving out a review key for the game. It's not because the Youtuber or site is not very popular. As far as I'm concerned, all the smaller sources add up to some good coverage of your game. Especially if that Youtuber or review site has a following specifically interested in the type of game you are making. My concern comes from just how many of these have become scams to get games for free or to get keys to sell themselves.
I even at one point had an individual ask for a review key claiming he was from a particular gaming media outlet. Upon proving that he was not part of that outlet, I politely refused to supply a key and ended it there. The same individual then purchased the game (same email he used to contact me was used in the transaction) This was all very well and good until he right away demanded a refund for a DRM free game. Thankfully for me I had enough evidence from emails to prove that his claim for a refund was not legitimate.
So what can we do to avoid the scammers? Well,there's a few basic things you can do to quickly filter out the real from the fake.
If a Youtuber contacts you asking for a review key, make sure the email they contacted you from matches the email linked to their Youtube channel. You could even confirm the request through messaging them through Youtube itself. If it's someone claiming to be from a media outlet, the email's tend to have a particular format you can check or you could reach out to an editor at the site to confirm.
Check to see if the Youtube channel or media outlet is real and that they have posted content before and that that content is in keeping with what they are asking from you. If a Youtube channel has no subs and no content then that will raise some red flags.
These days if I get a creditable request for a key, after a bit of quick vetting I'll supply a review key or I'll often refer Youtubers to my Gamejolt page. Gamejolt offer a way for Youtubers to apply for an account that lets them download games for free to review them. This is a fantastic integration into the site for the simple fact that people actually looking to review my games can do so legitimately and saves me time on having to follow up requests.
I hope this helps some folks avoid being scammed out of game keys and let's you focus on actually making your game.
Until next time!