A large amount of honest content and product reviewers with as little bias as possible are necessary in every industry. If a product or service has no reviews then consumers will not know how the product is or if it has problems. A faulty product must be reviewed to warn consumers so that they can make informed decisions about their purchases. Without reviews, companies can easily lie or mislead their consumers, which they do now anyway. This is encouraged since the first day, week, month and year after a product has been released is often used as a milestone or metric for the product’s success which the companies use to show they are doing well, especially to their stockholders. Blindly purchasing things also makes the company money since by the time people know the product or service is bad, they have already paid and often cannot or will not get their money back.
Indie games are a special case of this though, because while broken games whether they are from big studios or small indie developers need to be reviewed as a warning to customers, reviewers often have a lot more power than small indie devs. A bad review of a small indie game can ensure that it will never become successful, even if it fixes it’s issues and improves since the review was released. Even worse, if a reviewer doesn’t understand the game, has a bias against it, claims it is bad to be funny, or otherwise claims that the game is bad for an unfair reason, then the game could also fail without deserving it.
When developers pay or give reviewers things, their reviews might be intentionally or unintentionally biased. Intentional bias is essentially when developers or publishers trade money or gifts to a reviewer in exchange for a positive review. Unintentional bias is when the reviewer does not realise that the gifts, or even simply the offer of a gift, has influenced their opinion of the game. Even if they refuse the gift, they might think that the developer is nice, so the review is slightly more favourable than it would have otherwise been. This might either out of sympathy because they feel the developers don’t deserve their game to fail, empathy because they know how much work went into the game, or simply because they feel that the developers are nice people, so they are doing them a favor that they deserve by giving it a more positive review. These biases are most likely subconscious, if they are not then the reviewer has an issue with objectivity. While this isn’t necessarily enough bias to matter, this cannot really be accurately measured, so this should be avoided to make sure reviews are honest and have as little bias as possible.
As a result, honest reviews as needed for indie games, but anyone with significant influence needs to also be very careful and honest to make sure that they do not kill the game.
Reviewers have a responsibility to be honest and avoid bias to give games the reviews they deserve and inform people so they know what they are buying.