Reviewers are very important if you want to have a successful Kickstarter! Sure, there’s been successful Kickstarters that didn’t have reviews, but you want to give yourself the best shot possible at funding. Reviews help give potential backers faith that your game is a good one! They can also introduce your game to new people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. You might also make some new friends and get some good feedback on your game!
When should you start thinking about reviewers? I’d suggest at least four months before you plan to have your kickstarter. Why four months? If you were just researching reviewers and contacting them, it wouldn’t take that long. However, you’re probably going to be doing a lot of things, such as playtesting, tweeting, facebooking, creating your kickstarter page, finding a manufacturer, demoing, going to conventions, etc. and you don’t want to stress yourself out with everything that you might want to complete, You probably also have a full time job and other responsibilities! Give yourself the time you need so that you’re completely ready to run a Kickstarter when the time comes.
How many reviews should you aim to get? It really depends on how big your audience is, who you get to do your reviews, and how many prototypes you have available. If you have a large following of people that are just waiting for you to launch your Kickstarter, you don’t need as many reviews to get the word out there. If you get a super popular reviewer with 50,000 subscribers, you also don’t need as many reviews. Regardless of those two facts, you should get at least 3-4 reviews to show that you do have a legitimate game. Now, if you do want help getting more people aware of your game, you can shoot for 10-12 reviews. However, that means that you either have to have 10-12 prototypes and the funds to ship them out or you need to coordinate with reviewers to send your prototypes from one reviewer to the next. The second option will take longer and reviewers should be told up front, if you want them to send your game on.
Here’s the overall review process:
- Research Reviewers
- Contact Reviewers
- Get Prototypes Ready and Send them
- Coordinate a Review Schedule
In this blog entry, I’ll mainly talk about #1!
Now, you could just contact the first 10 reviewers you find and that could work. However, I suggest finding out the following things about reviewers:
- Are the reviews paid for or free?
It’s not always obvious when a reviewer does paid reviews, but paid reviews aren’t necessarily bad. They do require money and you might not have any to spare, as prototypes and shipping do cost a significant amount, in addition to any art, graphics design, etc.
- Do they review kickstarter games? Are they taking reviews at this time?
Some reviewers don’t review kickstarter games, but they typically say so in their bios. Others are just not taking reviews at this time, but you could make a note of them for the future!
- Have they reviewed games like yours in the past positively?
You have to look at the different aspects of your game and make sure that it’s a right fit for the reviewer. For example, if they only review two player games and yours plays best at 3-5 or if they mainly review heavy games and yours is a party game. There’s also theme and game length to consider. Just because you really enjoy someone’s reviews doesn’t mean that they’ll enjoy your game.
- Do you like their reviews?
This is one area that other people may disagree with, but I really think that you should enjoy reading/watching the reviews of the reviewers you hope to contact. It’ll make contacting them so much easier if you can list your favorite reviews that they’ve done and if you’ve commented on any of their work, they might remember you.
- What kind of following do they have?
Get a feel for how many followers, subscribers, and likes each reviewer has. Just because a reviewer doesn’t have a large following doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interact with them or ask them to review your game, but you should try to get at least a 2-3 reviews done by reviewers that have larger followings.
I like to keep all my information in Excel, but you can use anything that you’d like. I have the following columns in my spreadsheet:
- Reviewer Name
- Timeline (how long do they need to review your game?)
- Guidelines (Reviewers typically have a page that talks about their guidelines on reviewing.)
- Discovered By (This is how you found the reviewer, which can be used when you contact them.)
- Facts (Anything that you think is relevant, such as reviews you liked, if they review games like yours, etc.)
- Last Contact (I included how I contacted them, whether it was via email, twitter, etc.)
- Shipping Address
While you’re researching reviewers, I suggest following, liking, etc. with all your social medias of choice. If they’ve posted anything recently, comment! Start the relationship off as soon as you can, even if you end up not going with them as a reviewer. You might end up making a friend! Reviewers tend to be really nice people, plus they know a ton about board games and will probably convince you to buy so many new games.
Part 2 will talk about what to do once you figure out who you want to review your game!