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The game industry profits and audience are much bigger in comparison with the film industry and music. The number of gamers is constantly increasing. Approximately it is 3 billion people (around 40% of population). These are the perfect conditions for starting gaming
related projects, a game reviews website, such as Metacritic. I will show you a detailed instruction on how to start a similar platform, what will you need for it, and what will be the expanses on the development.
Target audience and the niche
Most popular gaming platforms statistics. Source
Usually, the game industry is considered as something of a single thing, but it has a variety of sectors for each platform. Even the console market is divided on: PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox. In the past they were also portable game consoles, but now they are not that popular.
Some of the most famous games are released on each platform at the same time, but there are some exceptions. For example, big developers make exclusive games for specific platforms. God of War and Uncharted — are PlayStation exclusives. Halo — for Xbox and Windows (Microsoft), The Legend of Zelda — Nintendo. And there are still many other exclusives, so the gamers need to make a decision, which platform to choose and which exclusives to play.
If you want to start your website, you can do game reviews for each platform. However, it is quite expensive and risky, because you will need to fight with the market leaders: Metacritic, Destructoid, GamesRadar+. GameSpot and others. Even so you can still focus on only one platform, and create your own listing, design and marketing strategy. This might bring you into the public eye and make the marketing more effective.
Business model and monetization
Business model. After you have chosen the niche for your game review website, you will need to decide on how your business model will look like, its principles, and the way it will work. First, you will need to find people who will write the reviews. It can be a text with screenshots, or a video review. The easiest option is to follow the famous Yelp, they introduced a platform where people can leave feedback and marks to the local business
and share their experience with other people.
But it is not the only solution. Here are some other popular alternatives:
- Professional reviewers do the overviews. Critics and journalists use special platforms to write the reviews, and get paid for it per project or on a salary basis. The Dermatology Review (skin care products) and Self-publishing Review (books) use this business model. For example, on Metacritic you can see the reviews of ordinary gamers and professional critics.
- The users write reviews, and the website shares the income with them. Any user can earn money and write a review according to this business model. The way a person gets paid may vary: for one review, for the number of views, for a click on the link. EPinions, Software Judge, Vindale and Irecommend use this business model.
- The website introduces game reviews. Here, your platform will gather the marks and reviews from many websites in one place. This can be done manually, or an automatic algorithm may be created. Rotten Tomatoes have chosen this option.
If you want to earn money on your website review, you should decide the way of its monetization. Many platforms are using advertising for monetization. These are some other ways for monetization:
- Referral programs. You write a game review and leave a link to the store page of that game or its merchandise. There are quite a lot of programs like this one. You can integrate multi-vendor marketplaces such as Get Free Stuff or Get Brand Deals, or directly to partnership programs, which are very popular among big marketplaces.
- External services integration. You can integrate various services, for example Yelp works with food delivery companies Grubhub and Eat24, you can also integrate with repair services, payment systems and online games.
- Paid membership. The users will get access to content after the subscription. You can add the reviews to the subscription(but it is better not to do it), for example interviews, statistics and industry analysis can be a part of the subscription.
- Donations. It was hard to imagine it 5 years ago, but now a lot of platforms, streamers, bloggers, reviewers earn money from viewers' donations.
UX/UI design for a review website
After you choose a niche and the business model, you can start the development of your platform. For this task you should find a professional UX/UI designer, a better option is to hire a marketing agency or a full cycle development company, such as Merehead. They can give you a strong conception, business analysis and the development of the website.
This is the scenario of website design development.
Working on the website’s structure. First you do a thorough analysis of the niche, target audience and opponents, when you have the information you can find out what are the needs of the readers and decide which features to add to your website. You will have a map of the users’ stream, a visual scheme where the user has a task and finds a solution, usually it is searching for a review or writing one. A users’ stream is the action needed to perform and the website pages a user sees.
An example of a users’ map by Yelp. Source
A website map is based on the users’ stream. This map is necessary if you want to organize the content, so that the users do not have difficulties with navigation. Block — are the elements of the website map. The blocks display the pages and navigation between them (where they lead the pages). Here is an example of how it looks:
Informational structure of Google. Source
Developing the platform framework. Then you create a draft page, without graphics, text, typography and color schemes. The framework helps to see how the website will look, and which functions it will have.
Framework example by Yelp Travel. Source
Developing layouts and templates. If the framework is exactly as you wanted, you can start creating a website layout based on it — it's an approximate idea of how the users will see the website. In the layout you will have a color scheme, graphics, text, images etc.
An example of website layout by YELP TRAVEL. Source
Moreover, oftentimes the layouts are used for website templates, or release versions, where each button functions, animation and videos are present, but the main website functions
are not present at that moment. The templates help to understand whether the website will be comfortable, simple and easy to comprehend.
Framework, layouts and templates. Source
Main and additional functions
You should also decide on which features to add to your game reviews website. These platforms usually do not have many, because the users need them to search and read reviews, or write their own if possible.
Sign up/log in.
If the users want to find a review about a certain game and read it, the registration is not necessary. However, if they want to comment, or to add a review to their favorites and get more reviews in that category, they will need to sign up. To sign up they can use Google, Apple, Facebook or Twitter accounts or their email.
Registration form on GameSpot
Website search engine. It should be simple, effective and smart, so each user can do a couple of clicks and find the game review they wanted. You can sort the games and reviews according to the genre, year of release, platform, score, developer etc. And if your listing is huge and filters are nice, your platform will be used more often by the journalists and analysts to search information and analyze the market, also they will give credit to your platform as the source of info.
Advanced search menu on GameSpot
This will allow your user to add an avatar, leave comments, link their social platform profiles, choose their favorite genres, follow new game reviews and many other things. Furthermore, they will be able to customize the interface slightly, schedule the notifications, and if needed to restore the password.
Metacritic — an example of a simple but smart user profile setting.
Ratings and reviews.
Many of the game reviews are in-game screenshots with text. Recently, YouTube video reviews, trailers, and gameplay are attached too. At the beginning or at the end of the article usually the users see the rating of this game based on: gameplay, graphics, plot, music, optimization, creativity and other. Some platforms give only a short description of the game and the total rating.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition rating on GameSpot (left picture) and Metacritic (right picture)
Writing and adding a review. The easiest solution is to create a template for writing text reviews and rating, something similar to Facebook comments. There is also a more complicated and expensive solution — to develop a text editor, where you can write the article, add typography, pictures and videos.
An example of headline, main photo and the beginning of the text on GameSpot
Administration panel. This one is necessary to trace the users on the website, manage the content, listing, categories, reviews, ratings, monetization, payments, marketing instruments etc. Only your partners and staff members will have access to this panel, the profiles are added right to the system, or the main administrator can create them.
The game reviews help the users to decide whether to buy the game or not, advertise them, attract investment to new projects and games. Moreover, the developers get bonus payments for good reviews on Metacritic, GamesRadar, GameSpot and other platforms. However, it is very risky due to manipulations with the ratings, and you will need to fight them. Usually, anti-spam services come to rescue, or IP proofing.
These are not necessary, but they can enhance the user experience and attract more people. If you want to make a review website, you can add the following things:
- Activity gamification. You can develop a system, which will trace the activity of each user on your website and offer them different bonuses, the most active one will be awarded. It can be something symbolic or real rewards (such as Yelp offers).
- Automated messages. The notifications will tell about game releases, new reviews, private messages, comments, best games of the week, month or year.
- External services integration. Oftentimes, it is a partnership program, or cooperation with delivery services, streaming platform, social networks and other.
Architecture, technology stack, API
This is a set of various instruments for website development. For example, programming languages, libraries, compilers, frameworks, database management systems, operating systems, API etc. API (Application Programming Interface) — these are the instruments that connect the backend and frontend parts of the website, these also integrate external services that widen the functionality of the platform starting at online purchases and ending with geo targeting of the users.
This is an example of technology stack for a games review website development:
Coding and testing of your website
When you choose all features you want your website to have, find the best design solution and select the technology stack, the programmers start doing the coding. But, not always, sometimes the websites are based on WordPress or constructors like uCos, Webasys, uKit, Ucraft and Wix. This is much more simple, fast and cheap than starting from scratch. However, you still will need to find an expert with experience. Otherwise, your website will have issues with security and uniqueness.
So, if you can use the custom development
, don’t hesitate to do it. Your website will have unique design and features, and you will have all the rights for the website, and the ability to manage and develop the website as you want. If you use the constructors, you will need them until the developer adds new templates and fixes the bugs and issues.
The price of this type of development depends on the difficulty and the location of the developer. Here is the approximate cost:
After you launch your project, you will need to attract the users. You will need money and time for it. Here are the approximate costs of advertising on different channels.