Whenever you look up anything regarding gaming journalism it is usually in a very negative light. Over the years it has ranged from clickbait headlines to good reviews for terrible games. One of the largest controversies I’ve seen in the past few years was the whole GamerGate fiasco which depending on who you ask you would either receive an answer of sexism or ethics of journalism. One specific outlet that always seems to get mentioned when it comes to these types of conversations is Imagine Games Network, AKA IGN. This is very understandable as despite your opinions of them, they are still the one of the longest running gaming outlets and one of the most popular website on the internet as a whole. However, IGN was recently able to do something that just a few years ago you could say would have been an impossible task. They managed to find a way to create sympathy for those within the freelancing games journalism community.
If you’ve clicked on this piece you’ve likely also seen what I’m talking about, but let me explain for those who are new. Recently, IGN’s Senior Editor Kat Bailey took to her personal Twitter to say that the outlet were looking for freelancers and were have a base rate of $20 per story. Despite quickly clarifying the payout for different kinds of articles, this still caused chaos for those outside of the journalism community with many pointing out that the pay is extremely low considering the size and revenue of IGN as an entity. News quickly spread around social media and garnered massive opinions on YouTube as well. The likes of Phillip DeFranco, MrMattyPlays, and ReviewTechUSA all made videos and exposed this to an even broader audience.
It’s fair to say that it’s got people talking more then speculators to an Elon Musk Tweet. While many are focusing on the lackluster pay, this has and should be part of a much longer discussion that both games journalist and their readers should be revealing. So I’ve decided to pull back the curtain and let you see what journalist and site owners of your go-to outlets for video games see on a daily basis.
Thanks to being a member of a freelance game journalism group I’ve learned that $20 is still considered high in this field. This number is actually the same as a basic article one would write for Screen Rant. The outlet TechSpot only pays $14 per article with a sliding scale of up to $40 if it gets good traffic numbers and is a fairly long piece. One journalist named Eli Pales even published a video recently discussing Nintendo Enthusiast and their parent company Enthusiast Gaming who ended up paying $2 per article and still fired everyone. It’s such a problem that whenever somebody who is new to games journalism and asks for advice, they tend to receive the same three answers. These are to diversity into other avenues such as tech or movies, have a day job or attend school on the side, or just don’t get into it at all. I’ve witnessed it for so long I often think about how many creative and passionate people moved to other fields that would otherwise have possibly revolutionized the gaming industry in some way due to lack of pay.
Another that isn’t being brought up, but should concern you is the websites themselves. People have complained for years that journalist are nothing but mouthpieces for companies and act like extensions of press releases. While I don’t see this as an issue to an extent, I completely understand where everyone is coming from. Back in 2020 I published a piece about Adblockers and the effects that it has on someone who is running a website. Especially a gaming one which arguably has the highest rate of adblock users on the internet. This, along with plummeting advertising rates on the internet, have made consuming news as a whole a lot worse. If you’ve ever wondered why you see so many clickbait titles or opinion pieces that are meant solely to get people riled up, this is exactly why. Think about how many times you have commented or retweeted an article to complain about how stupid the headline is or the people they are discussing are. You may not realize it, but every time you do that you are doing nothing but providing them with more free coverage.
Let me give you an example of just how difficult it is for us here at Gaming Conviction to run solely on ad revenue. One of our most read articles on our site is the announcement of the No Man’s Sky Foundation update way back in November 2016. During the day we published the piece, it was picked up by Facebook and got pinned to the featured article when No Man’s Sky started trending on the social media platform. According to Google Adsense, we received 32,163 views and generated $53.00 from that day alone. Fast forward to February 2017 were we got a ton of traffic from the leaked screenshot of Assassin’s Creed: Empire. During that day we reached a total of 22,521 page views. You might be expecting we receive around $25 in ad revenue based on the amount received from the No Man’s Sky article. Maybe on the low end around $15? Actually we didn’t even make $10. We ended that day collecting $5.75 from ad revenue. This was in large part thanks to a majority of users from the No Man’s Sky piece visiting from the Facebook app which doesn’t block ads while the Assassin’s Creed piece had an overwhelming majority of visitors visit via desktop.
Maybe one day I can come back and write a part two to this piece, but that will not happen unless something changes from all of us. As crazy as it sounds, IGN still manged to fill ALL of the opening slots for freelance writers despite the $20 base pay. All of you who shared the original job listing across social media help the cause and has brought to light something that up until this week was considered the norm in games journalism. I may sound like a YouTuber when I say this, but if you find an article you like on any website or social media platform, like, share, and follow them on those platforms. It’s a simple thing you can do for free that will help out everyone of us. From the person who has been investigating a story for several months, to the person doing this in their bedroom late at night after a work shift (that’s me.)
On behalf of everyone here at Gaming Conviction and all the freelance games journalist around the world, we sincerely thank each and every one of you.