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Reviews matter
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Poo Bear
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Pod Team

Joined: 14 Oct 2002
Posts: 4121
Location: Sheffield, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reviews matter Reply with quote

We've had some discussion in the past about game reviews, is it worth using reviews from low quality or little known sites, does a review generate traffic, should you pay for a review (either in cash or ads), etc.

I've realised over time that reviews don't generate a lot of direct traffic unless the website a) is a very big site b) makes a really big deal of the game, not just a review with no fan fair c) has an audience willing to pay for indie games.

Getting a big site like fileplanet to do a review of an indie game is hard, getting them to make a fanfair and mention it on the front page is SUPER hard and then even if they did their audience is pretty hardcore and unlikely to actually want to buy an indie game unless it was the 'bees knees' with a lot of hype like Braid or world of goo, etc.

A site like penny arcade has a much indie-inclined audience (don't ask me why this kind of segregation happens, it just does). However, you still have the problem of getting them excited, especially as they get about 20 games a day sent over for their perusal.

A site like tigsource is interesting, because at first glance it seems ideal. Lots of visitors, all interested in indie games. However, you have the audience segregation problem again, most people on tigsource are immersed in experimental free to play games, so not a great buying audience.

So for the little indie reviews from small sites are pointless then? No. A lot of sales come from people searching all manner of different things on google. If you have lots of reviews linking into your site then google rates you more highly and lets you slip into more search results, higher up the list. Google is conservative though, it attempts to recognise low quality sites (the ones covered in ads and links with little content) and if they link into you then it counts against you.

Something else I've always suspected is the impact on the buying decision. Nobody likes the feeling of being ripped off or stupid. If you buy something you've never heard of from some site you've never seen before then you are going to be nervous indeed. It isn't just the fear of being ripped off either, it's buying something nobody else cares about. Some people like to think they are buying something popular, others that it isn't popular at all, but is cool or trendy. How do you show a stranger you are popular/cool/trendy/udnerground/hip/legit ? Lots of high scoring reviews from the right websites.

Finally it seems there is evidence to back this up. A study has just been done where people were given Popcap's Plants vs Zombies. Some were given faked high scoring reviews with the game, some low scoring reviews, some no reviews at all.

When asked to rate the game to a friend, high review people gave it 85%, no review people gave it 79%, low review people gave it 71%. This was as I expected, pre-conceptions have a notable impact, but not huge. People can have their judgement swayed a little.

When asked if they would recommend the game. High reviews came in at 91%, no reviews at 79%, low reviews at 65%. So reviews are having a higher impact, I think this shows people are less willing to trust their own judgement when they start having to deal with their friends. Nobody wants to recommend something to a friend and risk looking like a idiot, what if that friend read all these other reviews saying it's no good?

The real killer. They were asked if they wanted the game or $10 cash. Over 80% of those given low reviews took the money. Those exposed to high reviews were twice as likely to take the game. So this is a startling result, when people have to make a money decision they are unconsciously very concerned indeed with making a 'mistake' or buying something their peers wouldn't. They need to be extremely 'comfortable' that is the right thing to do.

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Joined: 09 Jan 2005
Posts: 155
Location: The Planet Stinky Socks

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huh, it goes to show that people are very much swayed by outside influences. If one does not already have a concrete opinion about something then outside influences essentially will decide for you.

I remember finding Moonpod by an add for Starscape on the Schlock Mercenary comic web site. I almost click away from the page before I noticed the ad and thought, cool what's this. Then I downloaded the demo, played a bit and thought, I MUST HAVE!! hehe Smile
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Joined: 20 Apr 2010
Posts: 167

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Mark, CaptainD reviewed my game, we'll see what happens. I'm having Google analytics and webmasters account, will keep track what happens and tell you about it.

I'm not advertising anywhere, I'm not even doing anything at all, so we'll have a very accurate indicator if blog reviews can help. Sales and downloads dropped for me to zero in previous month.
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