23 Cents

Look, I’m not condoning Indie Game Mag’s new policy of charging developers for reviews (now revoked, but the damage to IGM is pretty much done) in an attempt to make the magazine profitable. I think charging for reviews is a bad call, I think paying the writers a rev share is a bad call, but before everyone attacks the new owner for trying to make money from IGM, it’s worth putting it in context.

Here’s a post from GameMaker Blog, entitled “Indie Game Mag, Why Would Anyone Buy This?”. Although the blog describes itself as a community of developers using GameMaker and interested in GameMaker, and not an official GameMaker channel, it’s safe to assume that the writers and readers are indie game developers, or at least aspiring developers. The article first complained that IGM offered a pay-what-you-want sale where the minimum price was actually $1 and not zero dollars and zero cents. This was discovered when the blogger tried to pay nothing for it, which I suppose is a thing people do when told they can pay any price. Why isn’t this free for me? The author asks, in different words, over and over. I think writing should be free.

The author wonders why anyone would pay for anything at all, when blogs about games are free.

I have seen issues of the magazine before and decided that it wasn’t worth paying $3.30 an issue for.  … excluding the cover, contents pages, advert pages etcetera there are 14 pages of material in the January-February 2010 issue.  It is not a bad magazine but I do not feel it merits a price tag when similar material is available on blogs.

The author doesn’t object on the grounds that IGM has awful writing or low production values or bashed this guy’s favorite game or some other reason to dislike the mag, just why pay for games journalism at all? If 23 cents per page is too high, what value does games journalism have at all? (The issue in question is actually 20 pages, including my story on Time, Gentleman, Please!, but the GameMaker writer has discounted things like the cover, table of contents, and other things, which are worth apparently 0 cents.)

The article ends with the author uploading that $1 issue of IGM, perhaps serving as a reminder to us all that Creative Commons means sharing and creativity and collaboration, and also, internet dickery.

I had previously found back issues of the magazine on the Internet freely available to download (although the sites they are uploaded to do also contain obviously illegal material). I paid my $1 so you don’t have to. … I have decided to make a download link available:  Download Indie Game Mag Issue 8 for Jan-Feb 2010 (13.1 MB). Not sure if this is what they intended but it is legally sound. 

Legally sound, and you can sleep well at night knowing you’ve done your bit to keep games journalists from getting paid.

My point isn’t that GameMaker blog or this writer or the commenters (Actual comment: “I read it and I enjoyed the articles though. Pity its not free.”), are particularly awful people. The ideas expressed — that 23 cents a page is too high because journalism itself isn’t worth paying for — are widespread sentiments. To see more of that sentiment, just read the comments on that post, find torrents of magazines, or notice the huge amounts of “for exposure” and revenue share job listings for writers. But it’s particularly rough to hear from the indie community itself.

I just think the indie community has been fairly quick to attack the new owner for trying to make some money from Indie Games Magazine BUT also pretty quick to avoid paying a few dollars themselves. If indie developers and dedicated fans, basically the community most invested in continued games journalism, don’t see value in games journalism, I don’t know if there’s any future in it.

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