DISCLAIMER: Company names and external links on all external communications have been omitted from this article. Proper names of individuals have been changed to protect them.
That title might sound completely unlike anything I've ever written on this site... and you're right, because I didn't write it.
Several weeks ago I got contacted by a company that was willing to pay me to post articles on my site.
Here's the first email:
I hope you're having a great day! My name is Samantha and I'd like to submit an editorial piece for your website, rpg.brainclouds.net.
We have a team of writers ready to prepare a post written according to your site's topic, whilst adding references to our client. We are also able to pay an administration fee of $100 for your efforts in publishing the article.
Our aim is to contribute an article that adds value to your website and something that you and your readers may find useful and entertaining.
Please email me back if this is something that might interest you, David.
I look forward to working with you.
*NOTE*: "Samantha Smith" is not their real name.
A subsequent email explains how this would work...
I sent you an email about providing an article for your site. Have you read it and had time to think about it?
To repeat, we can send over a well-written content created specifically for your site. The post would also contain references to our client.
You will also receive an annual payment for your effort, paid promptly through PayPal.
Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.
"Yours"?!? Man, they're trying to sell me their body already?
So here's how it works: they send me an article, I post it in its unmodified form and leave it on my site for 12 months, and after 12 months they PayPal me $100. Sounds easy, don't it?
I, like pretty much anyone who's ever owned a meaningful blog, has probably gotten a fair share of requests like this. But has anyone ever done anything besides instantly hit the DELETE key and carry on with their lives?
So, for the sake of journalism and because I haven't posted an article here in millennia, I will take that challenge!
Now, if you're reading this you know what this site's content is about... but I couldn't help but wonder if they knew that. Furthermore, their article will contain links to their clients, so I can't help but wonder (1) whether they even can write an article about D&D, and (2) how they would railroad their existing clients into said article.
So, for curiosity's sake... or perhaps for amusement's sake... I decided to play along. I had some questions of my own before I proceeded.
This is my email to them, complete with shameless shilling of my fan base and my lack of time to post anything productive:
Well this is an interesting offer, I admit. I haven't had much a chance to post a lot recently, so really could use some articles to maintain my fan base (over 2,000 followers on Twitter!).
I do have some questions, though:
1) I currently do not have an active PayPal account due to collection problems with PayPal. Is there any other payment option?
2) Is it $100 per article or per year? If the latter, how many articles does that $100 include?
3) Do I have any right of refusal for articles you submit that I may deem inappropriate to post?
4) What kind of clients do you represent?
5) Do you have a company website, or somewhere where I can see examples of articles you have written?
6) Do you even know what my site's topic is?
Thank you for your interest. Maybe we can work something out after all.
Now, just to be clear, I could care less about the answer to questions #1-5... I wanted to hear their answer to #6.
And they did not disappoint...
Thanks for getting back to me and I'm more than happy to answer your queries.
1. We make our payments only with Paypal and Skrill/Moneybookers. We find these two channels as the most safe and efficient. If you don't have a Paypal account, you may also sign up with Skrill/Moneybookers, or we can transfer the payment to a friend or colleague of yours that has Paypal and we'll just cover the Paypal fees.
2. The fee is for just a single article which we would ask for you to keep on your website for 1 year.
3. The article is subject to your review and approval prior to publication.
4. The article will include a few references to our client, a digital entertainment company offering online games. You are free to review the article first to see if it suits your site and readership.
5. Yes, you can find more information about us here: http://letsgetwise.com/about-us/
6. The article we aim to contribute is written according to your site's topic - Game Design and /or D&D (video games)
Please let me know if you wish to see the article and I'll ask our writers to prepare the copy. You may also specify topics that you prefer so that I can pass them on.
I await your response.
Now there's two things to note in the above.
- Their client is a "digital entertainment company offering online games". Remember that description later...
- I'm a "game design and/or D&D (video games)" blog. Well, asctually, that's closer than I expected them to be so I'll allow it.
So far, there's no risk to me. They write me an article, and I get to choose whether to post it or not, and it doesn't cost me time or money. If anything, it costs me personal pride and ethics... but that's worth the $100 I'll make a year from now, right?
I, of course, had more questions before I commit to this...
I'm still considering it, and I am interested... One final set of questions, along with the request to see a sample of what they would intend to post:
1) Is there any sort of contract that would be involved in this?
2) Are there any restrictions - legal or otherwise - as to what I can and can't do outside of this one article (which I assume I can't alter) on my own site?
Beyond that, I would love to see the type of article I should expect from this sort of thing. If it really works out, I'd be more than happy to do this setup more than once; my site could use the content.
The reason for question #2 is, if I do decide to post it, whether I'm allowed to bash it mercilessly in a blog post the next day. I could care less about the $100 in a year... this has comedic value now!
I hope you are well and my apologies on the delayed response. We don't have a set of terms and conditions or contract. All we would ask from you is to keep the article on your website for at least 12 months. Again, you are also free to review the article and make necessary adjustments to match the tone and style of your writing, however, we would ask you to keep the hypertext and links originally included when the article is sent.
I should be able to send the draft for your review within the next couple of days. If you have any editorial guidelines or specific topics in mind that you wish for us to write or avoid, please let me know so I can pass them on.
At this point, I couldn't wait for the monstrosity of an article they were going to send me!
Today I received the article. After looking at the post and the supporting links (we'll get to that later), I told them that I would not continue with our arrangement... but, of course, I'm going to post their jewel anyway. For free, 'cause I'm such a nice guy.
Here it is, in its entirety but with the links removed.
Title: Did you know that there's a Dungeons and Dragons slot machine?
Yeah, totally sounds like something I'd write. Oh boy... this is going to be good...
In May 2014, legendary game developer Konami launched two slot machines themed after Dungeons and Dragons namely "Conquests and Treasures" and "Enchanted Riches." (link removed) According to the games’ description, both have a 4-level progressive feature, free spins, and Xtra Reward.
To those who aren't familiar with slot machines, 4-level progressive is a fancy term used by game developers for bonus rounds, which can be triggered after playing a slot machine for a certain period of time. Bonus rounds usually yield bigger winnings than the payouts given by regular spins.
Free spins is pretty much self-explanatory. They award free games, and can be unlocked when a player hits 3 specific icons from a single spin. Xtra Reward, on the other hand, is Konami’s original slot feature that is offered to players who bet big.
Now, who would’ve thought that a lot of casino-goers are fans of the world's leader in tabletop role-playing game? According to G3 Newswire (link removed), guests actually waited in line when the game was launched at the Valley View Casino and Hotel in San Diego. Apart from cool prizes from the event organizers, each guest was given an official action figure patterned after the slot machines’ fire-breathing dragon model.
“The players we see this day and age are out looking for entertainment, and there’s a lot of entertainment value in the new Dungeons & Dragons slot machines,” said Randy Reedy, the Vice President of Valley View’s slot operations. “They really enjoy the experience. Just watching them, they get excited about additional bonuses within the free spin feature, which takes them to the progressive functionality. It’s very fun and interactive."
Today's young adults are usually the target of slot makers. This is evident on An Online Casino (link AND name removed), the world's first online casino that opened in the late 90s, having games that carry with them the commercial license of DC Comics and several other movie franchises. Perhaps there are already enough slot machines tailored for the more mature audience so slot developers are now trying to expand their market by attracting the younger demographic.
Check out the DnD Enchanted Riches game in action on this YouTube video. (link below)
So the "digital entertainment company offering online games" is an online casino... I mean, I expected something like that, which is why I was curious how they were going to railroad that kind of client into an article about D&D, but thanks to Konami they had a reason.
And, you know, I actually considered complying with their request, posting it as-is, and bashing it tomorrow... but something really rubbed me the wrong way and forced me to tell them "no" immediately and make this post.
What was it? Well, here's a video of the machine being demoed:
Let's face it, we can't expect a SLOT MACHINE to capture the feel that is D&D (what's with the playing card letters and numbers?!?). And I have to wonder if Wizards of the Coast is actually aware that this is what was going to be done with their brand and signed off on this.
But about 0:30 in we get this jewel:
"...but it's not really hardcore Dungeons and Dragons. It actually, what we found, is it appeals to both men and women..."
*headdesk!* ... *headdesk!* ... *headdesk!*
You know, I just can't accept that.
So I immediately said goodbye to the $100 I couldn't wait to spend next year, and sent them an email that I "would not proceed with our arrangement".
Well, at least I got a blog post out of this...