No One Is Buying Positive Board Game Reviews - boardgamerblues.com

No One Is Buying Positive Board Game Reviews

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Every now and then people like a game that others feel they just shouldn’t….and the comments begin. The game is too simple, reviewers like it too much, they clearly haven’t even played the game….the reviews must be bought and paid for. There’s no way that’s happening. I’m not arguing for the moral integrity of myself or others….I’m just saying it makes no sense if you think about it for more than 10 seconds.

TimeStamps:
0:00:00 – Introduction
0:00:24 – Why I’m Talking About This
0:03:05 – The Risk Isn’t Worth It
0:04:35 ​- How Do You Explain The Negative Reviews?
0:06:10 – The Truth Would Out
0:10:30 – Negative Reviews Aren’t More “Honest”
0:12:10 – No One Is Buying Positive Reviews

For media inquiries, please email alex@boardgameco.com

62 Comments

  1. Oh no… So Illuminati do not rule the world ? :// :p

  2. I think the problem isn't that people's opinions are being bought, the problem is that there is a distinct lack of good critics in the board game space and most "reviews" are just gushing about the new hotness. There's nothing wrong with gushing about the new hotness in itself, the problem is that there isn't a lot to counterbalance it.

    This might lead people to believe reviewers are being bought, I certainly don't believe that. It is the case however that publishers will send review copies to reviewers they expect positive reviews from. That's not nefarious and I don't judge those publishers for it, it's just good business. All of those factors, I think, do lead to a general distrust of reviews.

    (And don't get me started on previews being labeled as reviews.)

  3. Ever whatcha Rabdo running through,complete fake excitement, looks like he hates himself at the end. Hey everybody, Jeb and I absolutely love everything about this!

  4. right, who bribed you to make this video. Clearly a cover up.

  5. I agree with everything Alex and Rodney have said here but would like to offer a different perspective on why people might gravitate towards negative reviews. Most gamers have to limit the size of their collection and the number of games they purchase, for one reason or another, while it is the job of a game reviewer to do the opposite. Often I would watch a negative review for a reason not to buy a game, to help me save time, money and space, not out of cynicism. Constraints, or lack thereof, change and tighten our criteria.

  6. Opinions are 100% for sale. If I pay to do a PREVIEW it will immediately invalidate your review. In fact since you took money from the company that was related to that product you should not do a review as your opinion is now colorized. Will I get the next deal? Was my experience better because I got paid?

    So say I have a game that is meh, not bad, not great. What I would do is I would BUY a preview in a few top gaming channels ensuring that some of them will then skip reviews. People will watch the preview. It will be a positive view of the game because people you like engage in the hobby you like.

    Money can definitely be leveraged to change the general opinion on the game. The fact that there are no shady deals required to make this happen does not change this fact.

  7. Conspiracies are comfort food for those who are upset that reality refuses to conform to their worldview, regardless if it’s about board games or politics.

    And as you aptly point out, buying reviews is a negative proposition to a creator. Your reputation would disintegrate as it would inevitably come out or become obvious.

  8. Another question could be what is "Payment"? This might be leaning toward bias like Alex was leading to. Is receiving a review copy payment? or continuing to get product weeks before the general public. Or getting the likes and the views because you give a favorable review to the the newest hot thing. Weather these things are "Payment" or are perceived as or feel like a transaction are not for me to decide and will be different for everyone. Just had a thought… (Walker)

  9. Regarding the comment by Watch it Played, I think negativity every once in a while reinforces the sentiment that you are actually being critical. Because if you give everything a 7/10 or higher, basically you only have a 3 point scheme and your opinion doesn't give much information.

  10. I don't know if I have ever thought that the opinion was directly 'bought' in regards to any review I have read…ever. I know they have happened Albeit, not necessarily monetarily but due to leaks, as you mention, the secret gets out.
    The issue with games and movie journos is that 'access' to said material either in preview form or in freebies is tied to how 'positive' their previous interaction and reviews have been with specific companies. Even if it is 'air of tainted opinion' some people go off the handle at it, some are skeptical…and some are pragmatic and seek a range of opinions and seek to distill the objective from subjective to determine if the product is right for them rather than hanging off a reviewer's every whim. The latter is what I think is best, but others don't.
    Hell, a good example of this is that Quackalope bought a game because SUSD said it was great and never played it (Example is broad and not directly an example of the SUSD being wrong, just that the game obviously wasn't really the right buy at the time).

  11. Getting paid to do reviews (either by free games or monetarily) is not being paid for a positive opinion! Your video addressed that,but still so many comments on that!

    I would love to see a video by you on bias! I think two biases that really contribute to the perception of 'paid opinion' are the form of media creator content and the content chosen. I personally live reviewer content that speaks to pros and cons (Zee Garcia does that in such a nicely organized fashion with his TARGET system). Rahdo has certainly opened the curtain on his content saying that he screens his content, only taking a prototype if he thinks he'll like it and doesn't even air content for all prototypes he receives.

    Perhaps the other thing us muggers don't remember is that content creators don't do board game content to make it rich… they do it for the love of board games! I love that you've made a bit out of one thing many of us do… browse KS! You externalise our inner monologs that we go through as we browse new KS listings. Why on earth would content creators do something they don't live… the compensation just isn't there!

    Analogies to movie reviews are made as well. I think I've seen video content comparing that, maybe Rodney? Anyway, there's a finite number of movie theaters, each movie being shown in each city for a period of time. Point is, there are limitations on the number of movies released in a year. Further, the proportion of the population consuming that media is far greater, as are the budgets and potential profits. That volume of content and population of consumers is turned on its head for board games… there just isn't close to the level of revenue flow.

    Other thoughts, but many I think are covered in other comments.

  12. ALEX! DON’T TELL THEM THE INDUSTRY SECRET lol 😉

  13. As someone who's just started creating content and speaking as someone who's pretty new to the hobby, I haven't really played anything that I haven't found some enjoyment from – including 'awful' games like Jumanji, Mousetrap, etc can be fun in the right environment so I haven't really given a terrible review yet.

    Maybe that's why my subscriber numbers so low! lol

  14. (I just had a big comment here and clicked refresh by accident… arrg… gonna try to resume it)
    I remember to hear Tom talking about this and also the episode where Rodney Smith touched the "honest reviews" subject. I also liked some of the new inputs you brought to the table today. I find amazing how people want to bend stuff to fit their perspective over reality. I think it shows more about them than the reviewers.
    I also have the idea this comes a bit from the latest growth the hobby has been having. Personal view here: I get the idea some folks "wanted" the hobby to go in the direction they saw better and, then, realized that is not happening. So their idea is that all, or most of, games nowadays are going to be bad or worst. With that bias preconception, once they find a negative review about these games, it will mean validation on this view of things. If this validations doesn't exist, means everyone else is corrupted (by taste or money)

  15. Well said, Alex. The risks of being exposed if you did take money for glowing reviews is probably nowadays even bigger then a couple of years ago. With all the social media around it only takes one disgruntled person from a games company to let something slip on Twitter or FB, and the damage is done.

  16. I didn't click on this one thinking it would talk about negative things, actually. I misunderstood the title and thought it would be something along the line of A: "Hey, this game is good." B: "I'm not buying it!" LOL (Well, I would've clicked on this video anyway, as I watch almost every video you do …)

  17. I agree with a lot of things you mentioned. Opinions can be different, and it is not a problem. Also, negative reviews are not always honest, that is a big truth. That said I still like reviews that are not "5/5 this game is great", but where they mention the problems the game has (even if it is a great game). I find that I can select what game I will like based of the negative points of it rather than the positives. Because as you mentioned most games work, but me liking it will depend on how much I can bear with the negative parts.

    One thing that I have a big problem however is campaign games. I don't think they should be reviewed after just some scenarios. I would go as far as most of them should be reviewed after finishing at least one run of a campaign. Destinies was wonderful for the first 2 scenarios for us. I saw a ton of videos and reviews where reviewers said its the best thing after 1 scenario. Probably there were a lot of reviews after 2-3 scenarios as well. But as we played further we found that the game has a ton of problems and almost no one talked about it in their early reviews. It was the same with Sleeping gods. It starts out great, but then you realize that you just repeat the same 2 things over and over for eternity, that the main story is barely attached and told quite badly, and that the game can fall apart with certain combination of items, etc. And it got glowing reviews as well. So I think this is one reason why people who played a game to the end can't comprehend the glowing reviews that are based only on some plays.

    I also don't love, that some of the newer board game content creators act more like instagram influencers than reviewers, and I can't be sure if they are advertising things to me or they are doing is a honest video.

  18. Have a look at the article on this boardgames website – a lot of these guys commenting think they are the oracles of what happens in boardgame review circles and that you (me in this case) must be naive if you think that 'paid previews' are not honest because they are being paid to make the content, they are pretty arrogant over there. Even the consideration that a 'Preview' is an (early) viewing of a product while a 'Review' is the actual critical analysis of the product was just scoffed at or ignored.
    I accept that some consumers out there will not understand that a preview is different to a review but, as long as content is labelled up front correctly, that is unfortunately a case of buyer beware.

  19. What about unspoken bias? For example, some publishers provide prototypes to certain youtube reviewers instead of others, based on the past reviews done on the channel about their positive or negative opinion of the game.

  20. I view reviews as data points, not authoritative decision makers. For instance, I know you loved Destinies, but watching your review, I knew that it wasn't going to be a game for me. That's OK. That doesn't mean your review got anything wrong about the game or that someone paid you to say that you loved it.

  21. I don’t think most people believe there is literally a 1:1 transaction between board game maker and content creator. Sure, some may articulate it that way because a lot of people oversimplify their criticism. But look at Jeff Gerstmann, Gamespot, and Kayne and Lynch for an example of how money attempts to influence reviews. Most of the time, it’s indirect and a growing concern in a growing board game market.

  22. Hey Alex,

    Really interesting topic and it’s compelled me to comment which nicely reinforces your point that negative (or maybe ‘controversial’ is more accurate in this case) content gets more traffic and engagement.

    I agree that the assumption positive reviews have been bought isn’t well thought out for all the reasons you set out in your video. However, I suspect this is to some extent being fuelled by a greater level of cynicism in our culture at the moment. Cynicism that’s not unjustified given the bullish messaging coming from figures of authority around some of the issues of the day, that have then turned out to be inaccurate. I think the most important commodity that any content creator can gain is the trust of their audience (with the second probably being the size/quality of that audience), which again highlights your point on why any non-disclosed paid for content would be such a short-sighted move. I will say the approach you take to your review's, particularly including a section for ‘things you can see others not liking’ and talking about the bias’s you may have helps build that trust for me.

    Personally, I think the bigger danger is losing sight of the intended audience and instead having opinions and content swayed entirely by other creator’s feedback rather than the ‘mainstream?’ audience feedback. This is something that seems to have had a significant influence in the video game review sphere and contributed to the transitioning of that medium to Youtube creators instead. Would like to hear your opinions on this potential problem when you do your video on bias in the future!

    P.S. reading this back before posting may sound like I’m discouraging collaboration with other content creators. Please don’t take that away from this comment, your videos with Jesse (and Jeremy when you can get him) have been some of the most enjoyable to watch. Would love to see you do one with King of Average at some point in the future if that’s a possibility.

  23. I do think bias is common in professional board gamers. If your friend is putting out a game, you are going to see it through rose colored classes. When you are a professional content creator you have the companies on speed dial. You aren’t going to say their $300 games are too expensive.

  24. I appreciate that you are willing to consistently have the real talks about real issues. So much of the internet is hate bombing with no facts because it's easier to hide behind the digital walls than have a real discussion about it.

  25. One thing only – there are somewhere 3k to 4k board games released every year. Are you sure most of then are good? :/

  26. I disagree and your opening 15s statement appears to me objectively wrong.
    Patreons watching Unfair & Unbalanced are someone buying game reviews. Your potentially unfiltered ones. The ones that if you would publicly acknowledge, would burn you with publishers. Nothing wrong with the patreon model, the video thou feels hypocritical to me.

    Not a patreon myself, so I can only take from what you said yourself on a recent video.

  27. 8:08 You're being disingenuous here. There's different grades of criticism than saying "game is bad." There is a concept of "pulling punches," "watering down criticism," etc. You know it.

  28. Definitely see your point, but KoA has really solid arguments as well. What I can say as a consumer: If 95% of the games you are reviewing are rated at least a 4 out of 5, this does not help at all. And as a viewer, if there's a channel that's producing predominantly positive reviews, I am eventually going to ask myself where that comes from.

  29. I find kickstarter "free" reviews to be one of, if not thee most amoral aspect of this hobby. Same tactics used as drug dealing. "This is amazing, dont worry about the risk, youre missing out, everyone's doing it, who cares how much it costs- you'll get more value back" etc. Seemingly the only negative ever presented from these "free reviews" are "there's just not enough!… but they'll probably fix that in the stretch goals *wink wink*". You may not be being paid cash to give these reviews, but youre being afforded the opportunity to generate views that other channels cannot and thus to generate more money through an increased subscriber base – more likely to develop patreon and other collateral income streams. Consideration is passed in the free product alone, let alone the opportunity from it. You're being paid. And you feed into a system which creates an obviously problematic feedback loop; "I get kickstarter review copy, I give good review, I get more viewers and money, I get more kickstarter review content", which you do seem to be more than comfortable with. Your marvel united video "i shouldn't have spent $800, but if im excited it's my job to get you excited". "I shouldn't have drank so much last night, but when I drink its my job to get everyone else drunk". It is super problematic. These reviews are morally compromised trojan horses for publishers which take advantage of the very human obsessive compulsive need to not miss out. And you do it for very real gain – fame, free product, etc; you got your Assassins Creed pledge weeks before anyone else, did you cough up the extra shipping cost? Somewhere, Quinns is sitting at his gratis multithousand pound gaming table and chairs, stroking his heavily discounted heirloom crocinol board, saying "but we don't get paid, we give honest reviews including negative reviews". Bullshit. DiceTower are the only legitimate channel in this industry because they have diversified income; they don't need publishers to like them, so I trust the honesty of their opinions. Though I do wish they left off the subjective "this is what I like" part at the end of their paid previews.

  30. Firstly it's not that much about the cold hard cash, it's mostly about access and connections, which you know very well. If you bomb a game, that publisher, and others, will most certainly be very wary of ever giving you a preview again. You're out of the good company. If you don't have the previews for the games people want to see, your viewership drops. Your viewership drops and you do YouTube (at least partially) for a living, that's a whole lot more cash long-term than those 900$ that might have changed hands once.
    This is why, in healthy democracies, politicians are limited as to how they can be offered e.g high-paying leadership positions at companies they lobbied for in government. It's why journalists are given access to things, even if everyone knows their coverage will not be in a positive light. These things cause an inherently corrupt system even without any direct payments taking place.

    Of course being very negative or critical on everything isn't any more truthful in and of itself, but it's absolutely lacking on YouTube. Anyone daring to actually state straight-up negative things are, _rightfully_, seen as more honest than the run-of-the-mill, because of what I said above. Not mainly because "ooooooh, so much drama" but because almost every big review channel is more or less castrated at this point. If you're unwilling to go into actual negatives you do find because you're scared to lose connections or access, that is inherently less honest than telling it like you personally see it.

    Most people watch reviews to make up their minds. That's a lot harder if all you're fed is the positive aspects of every game or maaaaybe sometimes some veiled hint at something not being "perfect". I'd give my right arm for a channel that solely focused on straight up condemning every little bad or negative thing in a game, because no one else is doing it at the moment as far as I know. They'd probably never get a preview, but it'd sure be helpful.

  31. I feel like it's the sort of thing that people WANT to be true or assume is true to the degree that it becomes something "everyone knows". I always assume the most likely answer is correct and it seems like games don't succeed or fail much at all based on reviews. It doesn't make sense that anyone would bother paying for them unless there was a decent return and it doesn't seem that there is

  32. No, they're effectively paying you not to review their bad games.

  33. Companies buy reviews all the time. Started with newspapers, tv commercials, insert x celebrity into any superbowl commercial or pretty girl drinking Pepsi's. I am sure its happened in the board game industry. Proably not as common in board game industry since it's still relatively smaller hobby compared to video games and movies though bigger then most know.But I always look to see how many "fake" 10s there on bgg

  34. I can name several channels whose opinions I do not trust. Don't assume because you have morals that everyone else does.

  35. You keep saying Dice Tower… They're big enough to exempt from this whole problem.

  36. Took the words out of my mouth Alex !
    I just have 3 subscription for board games Chan’s. Yours, quack and watch bit played.

    Best regards from Germany!

  37. Good video. If I say 'you' here I'm referring to content creators in general 😊

    My only issue with YT content creators (across the board) is something that they can't really talk about, due to the amount of content they need to produce. And that's value for money. If someone receives a game for free then how can value for money be judged? Whether a game is good can be determined, whether you would play it in future… OK, you probably have an idea. But whether the viewer should put down £$€100 on a luxury item that the review may have received gratis? That's where I have the grey area. Maybe some thoughts on that would be good. Would you spend your money on this?

    Another thing is the amount of content. You have a channel to keep going, so you probably have a lot of churn. Learn rules, play game, edit video, release, repeat. We probably buy a game a month. So how do you determine that a game will get the 10+ plays that a home viewer would require for value?

    Again, the 'you' is a generalisation. And it was a good video.

  38. Hhm like I Said, still learning about this subculture: In the meantime it seem King of average, proofed u wrong, by admitting, he still gets offers to buy reviews. And where are offers, there must be someone who takes it. What leaves me wondering, you must have known such offers, and didn’t mention them in this video, why? Link: https://youtu.be/qCTN_vugJtc

  39. I think your interpretation of the notion of "buying opinions" is a bit too direct and outdated.

    Look at the history of commerce and political communication: the act of "buying opinion" is more of a low-key, almost passive, long term mutually benefitial relation between participants where pointing out the actual act of open promotion and direct payment is impossible. Criticts and reviewers get review copies, or prototypes, or the designer asks them for their opinion, while they can make content out of it, sometimes even without deep and intense consideration.

    This ishow the "soft-review" or "preview" was born. A review lacking the intention of really getting into it, really analyzing the product, becoming soft, skin-deep, lacking and full with praisings and ambiguous expressions. Look at Rahdo's work in the last 1-2 years, or look at what Quackalope does: "The company would like it if I say nice things, the buyers migth love this because everyone has different taste in games so all games have a place on someone's shelf, and also I don't want to make enemies, I want to be nice with everyone, so I will tell generally nice things about the product and stay on the surface, and try to avoid aspects of the game that might be mediocre or even bad, or if I mention something that is not great I will use the classic evasive not-for-me or for-my-taste-but-you-might-love-it card."

  40. I don't think it need so much to be "secret", it's actually very opened, it's called sponsored content. From this point, the content is manipulated to a certain point. First, you didn't choose it out of interest, it was brought to your attention. Then, even if you're not praising it like the next God, you won't commit to your normal opinion, you are paid for it so you'll give it a chance. Even if we know it is sponsored content, we still trust your opinion… which got manipulated. That's the "influencer" game, welcome to Maketing tricks 101.

    But your video is more about a position opinion black market, and I'm not sure common large scale conspiracy debunk techniques work as well. In large scale, many share one secret that isn't theirs. In this idea of opinion for sale, each individual hold on their secret if they did so, which is much easier to keep. I don't think it's real either, it would just be pointless. A sponsored content would fair just as good and be cheaper. I think it's just an exaggeration of sponsored content, we love large scale fantasy.

  41. i always wonder how they would communicate such a thing. like, do the reviewers contact the publisher and say 'pay me this much and i'll make a positive review', or does the publisher approach the reviewer and tell them 'we will pay you this much if you make a positive review'?

    because either would mean if they do that repeatedly they will definitely get exposed for it eventually. that counts for any kind of career reviewer.

  42. There is one major flaw with your argument. It is getting harder to find bad games. If most games, particularly popular ones, are good games, or even mediocre, someone will love that game. If you are getting paid for a review, you can afford to praise almost every game because most games are good, not all, but most. And you can do so without be suspect because most games are good.

  43. Hmm, I don't think people are saying it's as blatant and overt as what you're describing. I think what happens is more of an evolution of paying for positive reviews. Companies only give copies/money to content creators they think will give good reviews prior to release. Leading to content creators being more generous to get deals with game manufacturers. Also, the content creators that give more negative reviews than positive will then naturally be chosen less for paid reviews of upcoming games, because game manufacturers see them as less likely to provide a positive review. I think people are seeing game price rise faster than college tuition, and are frustrated in their search for the few best to spend their limited resources on, finding virtually nothing but glowing reveiws for most games. Then after Ares Expedition is already paid for, THEN the videos saying it's not so great come out. Seems fairly straightforward what people are frustrated about.

  44. I think as a recent example, it was hard to find a bad word said about Ares Expedition, until AFTER the payment was due. Now there are many content creators saying, 'ya know what, it's actually not that great'.

  45. Took me a while to understand the topic of the discussion… I agree with you but I’m sure that Capitan America bought your positive review on Marvel United…

  46. I wish you would do a video with KoA about this. Could be an interessting Diskussion. With Quack you do too often agree 🙂

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