Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What is a review worth? DrivethruRPG in particular

I was reading a blogpost yesterday on The Douchey DM, and it was about the interaction between publishers and podcasters in our hobby. What Stu posted made me really angry. This is the deal.

So, DrivethruRPG did put pressure on their "featured reviewer" to write positive reviews, implying that since they got stuff for free, they had to give it good grades. That, boys and girls, is corruption. It's basically a by the book definition of bribery!

While this was a few years ago, and their policy might have changed, this still is the same company, and that used to be their mode of behaviour. I cry foul.

If any of you out there review things for DrivethruRPG, and give that product you've gotten for free good reviews because you "should", I call on you to stop at once and shamefully crawl under a rock!

For the rest of us, those reviews on DrivethruRPG now means nothing. They are bought, and suspect since none of us know if this policy is still in effect.

I could sit here smoulder in my righteous anger and declare that I will never buy from them again, but I don't by my game books in pdf to begin with. But, I sure wont buy them from Drivethru if I can avoid it! I urge you to do the same.

Download a pirated scan and send a $10 bill to the writer instead, I'd say.


  1. Fortunately, OBS does have a big red "FEATURED REVIEWER" tag next to those reviews, so the potentially suspect ones can at least be identified.

    Personally, I don't check the "send pdf to all featured reviewers" box for exactly this reason. If someone asks me for a review copy, I'll usually be happy to send them one. But the automated spam-it-to-everyone thing seemed a bit... impersonal.

    1. Yeah, it's almost as if they wanted you to know which to ignore.

      I think your approach makes lots of sense. As usual, spam results in canned response. Edible, but yucky.

  2. I don't see the big deal honestly. OBS is in no way stopping featured reviewers from giving 1 stars off the actual RPGNow and DriveThru site they are just upholding their agreement with publishers.

    I personally ignore a featured review at three stars and take into consideration 4-5 stars. The reviewers probably aren't going to bother giving 4 and 5 star reviews on products they don't like when they aren't being penalized for the 3 stars.

    1. If there is no pressure to write 4-5 star reviews, or an "agreement" that free product means positive reviews, then I'm totally with you.

      If "OBS is in no way stopping featured reviewers from giving 1 stars" is the key. Anything else I claim is bordering the illegal.

  3. I have been a Featured Reviewer for years now. We get pressure to *do* reviews and make sure we have a good reason for giving a bad review. But I have never felt pressure to write a good review.

    Frankly I get the pressure to do the reviews. People are giving their hard worked material out for free. When I write a bad review I make sure that, at least for me, the review is appropriate.

    1. That is cool and sensible.

      Nothing would make me happier if the behaviour Stu experiences was a transient error. I hope the person responsible has been taken care of.

  4. I'm a publisher who sells on DTRPG, and I as well as a number of other 3PPs were a bit annoyed at the paucity of reviews, period, from the featured reviewers. Good, bad, in between, whatever, many of us were seeing product going out but verrrry few reviews coming back. I don't know anything about Drivethru's internal policies and what they tell reviewers to do, but if it's that they need to DO reviews, then I'm all for it. If they are somehow extorting good reviews, that would be lame. But, as stated before, there are plenty of reviews from people who aren't "featured reviewers," so just read those ones instead, and by all means if you don't like DrivethruRPG most publishers would be more than happy for you to buy elsewhere. DTRPG takes 35% off the top, vs. 25% for Paizo.com and 20% for shop.d20pfsrd.com, and usually lowest of all from individual publishers' own webstores. If you want to buy stuff, DTRPG is far from the only game in town, and by all means take your business elsewhere and keep supporting 3PPs!

    1. Yeah, I totally see how it would be frustrating to see all that stuff going out and seeing nothing back. I once got (unsolicited) a game book from a major publisher and I never did write a review because it never played that game!

      I think people who signed up to do reviews should really do them, or be kicked out if they think it's an easy way to get free games. That's a given.

      I definitely think they should be free to write whatever they feel like, though. When I trust reviews it's always people I've read for a long time, so I know how their taste align with mine.

      35%? Hmm. I wonder what e23 (SJGames) takes?

      For the record, when I do buy pdf, which is very seldom, I buy from the publisher if possible.

  5. Hmmm, very interesting, I did not know this. I have been trying (without success thus far) to get my product reviewed, which is turning out to be incredibly difficult if you're an entirely new third party publisher since no one knows of your work to begin with.

    One person is reviewing it in the coming weeks, and two of the featured reviewers on OBS also chose to download it, though I have no idea whether or not they will actually post a review, and now I doubt it will even matter, or look suspect...

    My PWYW 'Dragons in Space and stuff' PDF got downloaded over six hundred times, but I only got one (positive, yay) review. Is that a normal rate?

    If featured reviewers are not going to be useful, where would you suggest one gets reviews? I was worried the featured reviewers might not like the book, but if they are not trusted, that's even worse.

    1. Well, unless Timothy Brannan above totally is a sock puppet (which I find unlikely for I have now seen and read a few of his reviews), I think they might have changed their policy.

      But, if you do shenanigans like this everything you do will be suspect and this is really a real clusterfuck by DTRPG. What where they thinking?!

      Personally I have no idea where to be reviewed these days. I used to read the reviews at rpg.net, bringing a truckload of salt. But, these days I think podcasts and blogs are where I get my shopping ideas.

    2. No, I am real and you can read the same reviews over at my blog.


      Click on the my reviews link on the right hand side to confirm.

    3. I see. Thanks for alleviating my previous fears. =)


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