What I am about to disclose is not necessarily the most shocking instance of this situation; however, it should be quite sobering to indie iPhone developers -in terms of what they are up against that is. These are my personal experiences and do not reflect a common practice in the game industry media... I think...
As some of you may know, rayBLAST just recently shipped its first debut title for the iPhone. And, many of you out there may even be indie developers yourself. So when I mention budgets and how indies don't really have one, we can all relate to a certain degree. It is without a doubt one of the greatest struggles for the small developer to manage creating a great piece of software, run a business, and wear the numerous hats involved.
One of those hats, whether you know it or not, is called a media manager or PR person. Basically they are the evangelist preaching the truth to everyone about your new product and how it will bring glorious divine pleasure into their lives. There are a number of tools at the disposal of the Media Manager. For example, press releases to get the word out, programs used to promote a product, contests that work great to create brand awareness, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes the Media Manager is involved in buying ad space either in print or on the web in the form of banner ads.
What is the point to this? Well, quite frankly, I want to point out that in all my experience in marketing and wearing the Media Manager's hat, I have never... and I mean never, ever... bought a review for a product or paid for someone to interview me. But that is exactly what I was offered just recently by a very large network with high traffic on the web! I was approached to buy web banner ad space for impaXor, our new iPhone game, in a most harmless manner. But a third email from the Editorial Director, which will remain unnamed, later divulged they would include an interview and a review in the price of the web banner ad. Huh?!?!
Wait a minute! Pay to be interviewed?!?! Pay to have impaXor reviewed?!?! Oh, no no no! That is a most nasty reality to think about, folks! This is like the old "pay to play" schemes the DJs used to nail up-and-coming bands to get their music out on the airwaves. Hell No! I, for one, will not participate in such a violation of ethics. This not only insults my intelligence, but undermines me as a professional.
First off, this destroys accurate and informative reviews for the public. This also undermines all developers out there trying to make it. These practices cause honest developers with great products to fail. Without objective, impartial editorials or reviews, there exists no real non-competitive exposure for indies outside of the number of web banner ads their budgets can support. Pay attention! I stated non-competitive above. Competitive means are available in the form of web pages and forum posts. Try keeping a thread visible on a popular iPhone forum and you'll see the definition of competitive.
Now whether or not this individual knew they were committing a true disservice to the game industry, game industry media, and especially the indies out there, is totally up in the air. I wouldn't doubt for a second that they thought it was good business. And, they may have even genuinely thought they were giving me a leg up. But it was wrong and I knew it right away myself.
It reminds me of a situation not so long ago, where I ran across a fellow on LinkedIn that made a comment on a blog posting about how padding, or essentially lying, on your resume was acceptable. I confronted this miserable soul only to be accused subtly of being a hypocrite by this fellow quoting Jesus Christ. He said lying on a resume had nothing to do with ethics. And, I think he wholeheartedly believed himself. In any case, that is another story, but it relates in that certain people out there may or may not understand proper business practices. This leads to corruption plain and simple.
So what are we to do about this situation? How many people out there have paid to be interviewed or paid for a review? I would hope none of you have. You don't pay for interviews! You don't pay for reviews! You develop the best application you can and then you roll up your sleeves and the real work begins. Marketing and brand awareness is a beast. Be smart about what you do out there and don't let bottom feeders try to take advantage of you.
I will NOT be following up with this person to buy the ad space, or pay for the interview and review. Makes you wonder about all the reviews out there, right? What about the interviews? Nothing is as it seems.
Disturbing Happenings in iPhone Land and more...