With all the deadlines, harried last-minute edits, and lazy mornings where you just can’t seem to string words together, one upside to being a video game journalist is this: you get (some) free games. Requesting review copies doesn’t mean you get a no-strings attached version of whatever game you want, but it does mean you might not have to drop your own money on a game you’re going to write about. It’s easy to request review copies, but it requires you do a little legwork and actually contact another human being, which isn’t as painful as it sounds!
Step 1: Developer, publisher, or PR firm?
Are you going after a copy of Borderlands 2? Looking for free GTA? Maybe you just want the new Nifflas release. Depending on which types of games you’re working with (indie, casual, mobile, mainstream, etc.), you’ll need to sniff out who is in charge of dealing with the press for your particular game. The best place to start is the game’s official website. There’s usually a press/contact e-mail or page somewhere. Failing that, look for the publisher of the game and look for contact info there. If it’s a smaller indie studio, the official website is your first and last stop.
Step 2: Compose a succinct, informative e-mail
Once you’ve figured out who you need to get in touch with, sit down and get that e-mail written. Include the following bits of information:
- Who you are and who you work for
- What game you’re e-mailing in reference to
- What you want to write about it (review, analysis, etc.)
- When you intend on publishing the article
That’s it. You don’t need to write a novel, just a few sentences of polite, semi-casual talk. Here’s a sample review copy request e-mail to get you started.
Step 3: Wait
The tough part: waiting. You aren’t guaranteed a review copy, and no one is obligated to send one your way. Wait for a few days, and if you don’t hear back, you can either try the e-mail again, or get the game through your own means. Your article wasn’t conditional upon receiving the game for free, was it? If so, shame on you.
Step 4: Deliver your content in a timely manner and e-mail links back
This is probably the most crucial step in the whole process, as it solidifies a good relationship with the people who just gave you something for free. As soon as you’ve had time to play through the game, get your article written. The moment it’s published, send a link back to the person you’ve been in contact with, thanking them for their help. As evil as we like to pretend PR reps can be, they’re just people with jobs, too. They want to get the word out about their product, and knowing their efforts are working is both satisfying and good for future review requests.
There you have it. Requesting review copies of games isn’t challenging, but it can be a frightening task the first few times you do it. Handle it professionally and be accountable for your work, though, and it’ll turn out just fine.