Before anyone starts shouting, let me say that of course I'm kidding when I use the term "bribing" in the title, it is a deliberate exaggeration. This post is to tell you that I received another free game account, in this case for Puzzle Pirates. That should be less controversial than the last one, but I'm trying to remain consistent with my policy here, and disclose all free game accounts (not necessarily beta accounts) I receive. I know that some people would prefer me not to accept anything, and others would prefer if I accepted such gifts without saying anything, but this policy of disclosure is what fits best with my personal ethics and values.
I am happy to receive free accounts for MMORPGs, and wouldn't protest if "give a free account to Tobold" became a trend. It isn't about the money, I can well afford typical monthly subscription fees. But I do like the "official" recognition. Yeah, so I'm vain, what's new in that?
But what exactly could you "buy" from me by offering me a free account to your game? Not all that much. I'm getting several mails every month from small game companies who want me to check out their games, and in many cases I don't get further than to their website and screenshots. If a game isn't interesting, even a free account won't make me play it. I've also had cases where I installed the game and played for example the beta or a free-to-play version, and the game was so bad that I thought I'm doing the publisher a bigger favor by *not* writing what I think about it.
In the case of interesting games, especially those I have some prior knowledge of, like Puzzle Pirates, of course I'm more likely to play it when I have free access. And if I play it, and I like it, I will write about it, or mention it in other posts where some feature of that game appears relevant. But the only thing you can ever get out of me is my honest opinion. Does anyone here think I am praising Warhammer Online too much on this blog, because I received a free account? Don't think so, I'm getting more often accused to be a WoW fanboi and WAR hater (neither of which is strictly true, it is just the latest WoW expansion that fits my personal preferences very well for the moment).
For me that is just part of blogs and games becoming more mainstream. Book reviewers don't have to buy the books they review, game journalists get free advance copies of games, and now bloggers are recognized as being some sort of reviewers too. So I'm not surprised if DM Osbon gets a free collector's edition of Wrath of the Lich King. (For the record: I paid for the expansion, and I'm paying for my WoW account too. I used to pay for my wife's account too, but after 4 years I was able to persuade her that she should pay for herself. :) Blizzard wisely figured out that I'm going to write about them on my blog anyway.) Getting the occasional freebie doesn't mean bloggers are being "bought" by game companies. In the end you're more likely to find an honest opinion about a game on a blog than on a professional game site or game journal, which has to survive from advertising revenues paid for by the same companies whose games they review. And if you don't believe that, at least my disclosure gives you the opportunity to disregard anything I say about the game in question in the future.