Ethics, Disclosures, Partner Games and Promotional Features
The Indie Game Website is owned by Game If You Are, a marketing agency for indie game developers. “Gosh,” we hear you thinking, somehow. “That sounds ripe for corruption, shady deals, and other such nonsense.” And, well, it’s a fair point. You wouldn’t be unreasonable to be concerned.
The thing is, working around indie games, you start to realise how few opportunities there are for genuinely brilliant titles to get noticed these days, and how few websites have the capacity to really cover them in the depth they’d like to. And, more to the point, how many people seem to miss the heady days of 2007-2013 when indie game content was abundant, singing and dancing its way around the web.
We wanted to create a new home for such singing and dancing. But we were mindful of the potential for conflicts of interest. That’s why we have certain strict policies in place to ensure editorial independence and integrity – as well as making sure all our readers can clearly see which types of content are promotional and which are not, and whenever an interest needs to be declared.
Our principles and policies
Our main principles and policies are as follows:
1) The Indie Game Website is editorially independent. This means that Game If You Are’s management and marketing staff have no input into the day-to-day content plans of the website. Our editor has full ownership of which games get covered, and what is said about them. Our editor has access to a list of past and present Game If You Are clients for the sole purpose of being able to appropriately categorise and disclose interests; no other TIGW writers have access to this list. TIGW’s writers and editor will never consider Game If You Are’s relationship with that game when determining what to publish.
2) The Indie Game Website will never publish a scored review of a game represented by Game If You Are. This policy has been in place since early 2019; you may see the odd review of Game If You Are’s clients’ games before then. Additionally, Metacritic has always excluded TIGW’s reviews of any such games from their listings.
3) The Indie Game Website will always disclose its interests when publishing any content about a GIYA client or their games. Any such content is labelled as a ‘Partner Game’ and will include a disclosure at the bottom of the article. Where a piece of content has been paid for by a client, this content is clearly labelled as a ‘Promotional Feature’.
To be clear on the difference between different content types on the website, and further details of our policy, we have included a brief FAQ below.
Q. What are Partner Games?
A. If you see an item of content marked ‘Partner Game’ – or, indeed, in the Partner Games section of the website – this means it’s a game represented by Game If You Are. These articles haven’t been paid for directly, although it is of course often in the best interests of both the game and Game If You Are itself that this content exists. The Indie Game Website is run independently from the marketing company, and our writers and editors have full ownership of what they say about each game, regardless of whose job it is to promote it. That’s why you might sometimes see a negative story about a Partner Game, even though it’s sort of indirectly partnered with the site.
Q. What are Promotional Features?
A. Promotional features have been paid for directly and, as such, we take great pains to point this out – not only by placing them in the appropriate category, but also by including a very clear disclosure in the article itself. These are, in effect, advertisements for the game in question, and the developers behind them will have vetted the copy before it goes live. Promotional features won’t usually be overtly positive, because – well – that looks kind of silly on an editorial website. They’re more likely to be game overviews, descriptions, interviews, or other features that espouse what the studio in question wants you to see. Most promotional features will be about our Partner Games, but not all will be necessarily. Confusing, we know. But we wanted to demystify it as best we could.
Q. What about the rest of the content?
A. Everything on The Indie Game Website that isn’t tagged with one of the above is standard editorial content about games that have no business association with either Game If You Are or The Indie Game Website. By ‘business association’, we mean any game that A) is being publicised by Game If You Are, B) has in the recent past been publicised by Game If You Are, or C) is in discussions with Game If You Are about a publicity campaign (to the best of our knowledge at any given time). If we feel there’s any room for ambiguity, we’ll disclose the relationship in the article. We want to be as up-front as possible about the way we operate, because it’s important to our readers and, as such, important to us.
Q. Who works with Game If You Are’s clients?
A. No one involved in the day-to-day running of The Indie Game Website has any involvement in Game If You Are’s client marketing relationships. Full editorial control of the site is delegated to the Editor, and Game If You Are’s responsibilities lie solely on the commercial side, working with new advertising partners and securing funding opportunities.
Our reviews are listed on Metacritic. Our agreement with Metacritic has always been that they do not list content related to any game that Game If You Are has promoted. Since early 2019, The Indie Game Website has enforced an editorial policy of never reviewing games developed or published Game If You Are’s clients and, as mentioned above, any non-review content about such games is clearly labeled as such.
Q. How do you gain access to the games you write about?
A. We often accept both work-in-progress and finished versions of games from developers and publishers in the form of preview and review code. This is standard practice in the media and is to ensure we are able to provide fast and accurate coverage of the games that matter to our readers. Access to such code is never conditional on providing any particular type of coverage or, indeed, any coverage at all. Most of our previews and reviews use game codes sent to us by developers and publishers but this in no way consciously impacts the coverage we deliver or the opinions of The Indie Game Website or its writers and critics.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out via contact[at]indiegamewebsite[dot]com and we’ll do our best to respond as quickly as we can.