With all the deadlines, last-minute edits, and lazy mornings where you can’t string two words together, one upside to being a video game journalist is there's always the chance of getting free games.
Requesting review copies doesn’t mean you get a no-strings attached version of whatever game you want. It DOES mean you might not have to spend 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 potentially contact another human being.
Developers, Publishers, PR Reps - Who Do You Contact?
Before you can ask for a press copy of a game, you need to know who to get in touch with. Publicity isn't always handled by the game's developer. PR firms and publishers often step in to take care of the marketing side of things, even in the case of smaller indie releases.
First, find an official website for the game. If it's on a PC-based publishing platform, links to the official website are usually easy to find. If you're looking for a game on a console marketplace, see who the developer is, find their website, then check for an official page for the game in question.
Official game pages will undoubtedly have a contact e-mail address, press kit, or similar link that's easy to locate. Find it and you're ready to begin.
Composing Your Request
If the dev/publisher has specific instructions to follow to request keys or copies of games, follow them to the letter.
If there's no easy way to submit a request, a succinct, informative e-mail is all you need. Use the official contact form or e-mail address listed on the site, and using your work e-mail address, send a note that includes the following:
- Who you are and what publication you work for
- What game you’re requesting
- Which platform you're requesting it for
- What you want to write about it (review, analysis, etc.)
That's it. You don’t need to write a novel, just a few sentences of polite, to-the-point, semi-casual talk.
The Waiting Game
Now all you have to do is wait. You aren’t guaranteed a review copy, and no one is obligated to send one your way.
Wait a few days, and if you don’t hear back, you can either try the e-mail again (not recommended), or get the game through your own means, either by purchasing it on your own or by requesting a copy via your publication.
Play, Write, Publish, E-mail Again
When receiving your review copy, it's perfectly acceptable to respond to whoever delivered the key, thanking them for their time and confirming receipt. This may not always be appropriate, but hey, good manners are a dying art, right?
Now it's time to get to work. Be as prompt and thorough as you can. Play through the game, write your review or your article, send it through your publication's usual channels, and wait for it to go live. Once you have a link to the finished product, you can respond again to the key-deliverer to show your work. Again, this isn't always appropriate, but with smaller development teams and publications, it goes a long way to building a good reputation and good relationships.
And 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.