Finally, after having spend many hard days of struggle, toil, trouble, and bubbles, after having spent many hours writing words on a screen in a nascent attempt at forming you all into little, autonomous clones of me that, though you are all distinct, all follow my ideas to the letter and never deviate from them whatsoever, and after having spent so much time in this Electric Jungle that, coming through the front brush and out the back brambles, I didn’t even know if I was a Gamer at the end of it all, I have finally obtained that most precious of resources, that most precious of accolades that we all strive to live our lives towards, and we all dedicate each and every artistic endeavour to: external validation from a corporation.
“Froge, what the bloody hell are you blabbering about?” I’m getting to the fucking point, you daffy twat! But now I won’t, because I’m petty like that. First of all, fuck you. Second of all, I don’t know you. Third of all, a racist mind is a racist kind, and you, you take that to sleep with you tonight, because I know, I’m not going to change hearts and minds in a day. You don’t give a man a peanut expecting him to have a farm the next day. But, it’s alright. It’s alright. One day, we will all be equal on this Earth, and until then I’m gonna give you a kiss, Muffin.
Right, where was I? Well how about reading the title, eh! Yes, I’m finally an Itch.io Partner, I have all the privileges and obligations within (which is none and none, respectively), and I can finally see my work as well – respected and admired as those of my peers who have struggled for years in order to get where I am today, so not respected and barely – admired. The vast majority of what I say will be irrelevant to the vast majority of you, so why I even bother is a mystery, but it’s fortunate I’m also a man of science, so I’ll see what happens even as I produce my thoughts and ideas about this silly, though special, program that is home to the type of people who consider Let’s Plays to be “online writing”. I shudder for them.
Not banned yet!
Right, so basically the Itch.io Partner & Affiliate program, as this advertising copy states because I have to crutch on what Itch tells me and not produce my own opinions like I’m supposed to, “provides a way to verify your identity on itch.io, access [to] a large collection of paid games, partner profile page”, and “Affiliate codes — Tag your links to attribute purchases to your account”. So to, miraculously, produce my own opinions: everybody already knows who I am, nobody visits partner pages because there’s nothing that can’t be replaced with a regular profile page, and the affiliate codes are currently only useful to see if anyone is visiting the links they provide in your review — though with the promise of a revenue split model that will probably never come considering the oldest Partner account is three and a half years old.
But it’s the promise of free games that drives so many people to apply for these exclusive accounts! Let me phrase this without sounding like the type of cartoon billionaire who are now nuanced representations of reality instead of the over – the – top supervillians they once were. Yes, you do feel the same sort of childish glee that comes from getting free stuff you’re not sure you ever wanted or needed, but even though the developers have to deliberately opt – in to make their paid games free for critics such as yours truly, it comes with the sword of Damocles that, at some point in time, you’re going to have to address the titles you’ve downloaded, lest you find your good fortune suddenly rescinded.
No, it’s not an official restriction you have to review the paid games you are given, and to my understand once you’re made a Partner, you’re in the program until you fuck up tremendously and get banned for whatever reason. It’s a sort of honour system, and given the lax restrictions as to who gets in the system, sometimes approving accounts that have a blog set up but with nothing written on it (such as the Witchberry account which only added a Tumblr post today), and YouTubers and streamers who, while explicitly allowed to have accounts, aren’t known for their exceptional levels of quality in discourse, and so one wonders if this is more of a privilege based on marketing rather than a privilege based on encouraging Itch users to spend their money on quality products.
I’m happy to have this privilege and I’m grateful to be able to pimp out my respective accounts knowing that I now have some acknowledged professionalism that validates my writings on the games and books that exists on Itch.io, but it does feel like the program doesn’t have much of an identity on the website, and I’m not sure if most viewers even know the program exists. The first hurdle is actually getting to the press panel. You can’t just click a button on your user drop – down menu and instantly go to it. You have to deliberately to go the “Settings” tab, then the “Press Panel” tab, and then click on the “Go to Press Panel” link, none of which are obvious lead – ins to each other. If the website administration wants to encourage Partners to take advantage of the program, I would suggest they make it easier to access the program panel itself.
The rest of the Partner program is poorly advertised and really undermines all it sets out to accomplish. There’s no indication of which users are Partners on comments and profiles, meaning you have to deliberately state you are, which damages the stated intentions of being able to verify that users are who they state they are. Sure, you can go to the Partner list, and you can point at your special Partner profile if they call you into doubt, but both place the burden of verification on developers and users rather than the Itch.io staff who is hosting the program. It wouldn’t be much of a hassle to make Partner accounts have a special avatar border, or a little medal next to their name, just so developers who read their comments know at an instant, rather than finding out through a series of hard – to – find and incidental pages that they have to deliberately look for, that the person who is giving their opinion of the developer’s work is somebody who has earned their opinion of that work.
I like the affiliate code idea, even in its early state, even if I can’t customise the code (and even though there’s a typo on the “Affiliate code” page which says “You code:” instead of “Your code:”), because it helps me understand what people like to see and what they are interested in after reading my reviews. But at the same time, it is in its infancy, and it’s really ironic to see given how the whole program is at least three and a half years old, which shows that it’s been neglected for so long. The Partner list would go months at a time without any new accounts approved, and I had to send an e – mail to Itch.io support before they approved my account along with eleven others. And I don’t see any tangible benefit to adding “press links” to my Partner profile when nobody visits the profiles anyway, and there’s no easy way to visit the Partner profiles. If the administration would add in a tiny link to the Partner profile on our regular profiles and alongside our usernames, it would have more of a tangible benefit. But it would still not change how those links are nothing more than a bunch of no – context links listed in a row, meaning nobody has any reason to visit them. So I ask: what’s the point?
All Day, No Games
And even finding games to review is a pain. I can’t link the page to you because you’re not a Partner, but the panel to access downloads of paid games is really rudimentary. All the games are listed in an extremely long column in order of their publication, with the only way to filter them being by platform, release status, and genre, with not even the ability to filter by “books” or “tools” — and there’s no way to sort the column once you do filter the thing, meaning it’ll always show up in order of publication, and you can’t blacklist the crap games you know you’ll never review in your life. There’s a search function, but the way it works is even more crap than Ask Jeeves.
If I wanted to search up “Angels with Scaly Wings”, but I type in “Angel”, the search won’t return it! I have to search up “Angels” — exact word! And what’s even more bizarre is if I search “Scaly”, it won’t show up at all. If I search up “Undertale”, I get some random game called “Undervault”, but not “Fallen Down: Heartache & Compassion in Undertale”. Yes, I know my tastes are furry, but really now! The default Itch.io search doesn’t have any of these problems; why couldn’t you just use that and indicate which games have opted – in to the system through the search menu?
And that’s really the main kicker with this program. You can technically find any game in the Partner program you want to download, so long as you choose the right filters, so long as the game is tagged correctly, so long as you’re willing to wade through a gigantic column looking through each and every title for the one you want, and so long as your eyeballs actually find the title as you’re scanning through the column, but it’s such a pain that I’m wondering if the developers of this page took the time to use it for themselves at any point after its release? It would be far easier for Partners, when they are visiting a project page, to be able to see if that project is opted – in to the program and then download from there.
Right now, if you go to the Scaly Wings visual novel page (or Undervault, if you have some sort of Scaly complex), there is zero indication whatsoever that the game is even a part of the program. Clicking on “Buy Now” just asks you to pay for the game, even though you can get it for free from the gigantic Partner column. Some people are going to pay for a game that they could get for free — and legally, to boot! It’s one of those incredibly frustrating lack – of – features that makes taking advantage of the program a hassle compared to just getting free games and reviewing those. And considering how Itch.io has a financial interest in making sure more people are buying the paid games they host on their service, I think all of these flaws should be fixed as soon as they can dedicate the resources to doing so, because I really do like the ideas this program has to offer. It’s the execution, you see, which needs improvement, and I’m sad that it’s more of a husk than anything.
Also, for entrepreneurial individuals who think they can gain access to a Partner account and then use their privileges to launch an online piracy operation using the free games they downloaded, I will point out that’s one of those “tremendous fuck – ups” that will have your account shitcanned. It’s trivially easy for any systems operator to know which account downloaded what at any given time, and use that data in order to find out which account is now uploading Itch.io games on third – party websites. So, good idea, but the smarter way would be to create multiple accounts with different IP addresses and browser fingerprints, pay for a few games on each account, and then upload the contents to various public trackers, also under different accounts and fingerprints. Not that you should do that, at least until a few months after I publish this article, because then I’ll get shitcanned for telling you how to do it.
What does this mean for you?
Practically? Nothing at all! The only paid game I’ve reviewed up to this point is A Good Gardener, and technically yesterday’s gamepad thing, and actually finding paid games I can download is a bit of a pain. So you can expect a few more paid titles here and there, but there’s always going to be something on the Itch front page I find myself interested in for free, and my backlog is still very much biased towards titles that cost nothing at all. So rest easy, lower classes! We ain’t discriminatin’ yet!
Also, I’m replacing all the links to Itch pages with affiliate links so I can spy on all of you. It’s impossible for me to look at who looks at what; the information is as basic as “some idiot went to Angels with Scaly Wings, tried to buy it, got mad, left”. Itch.io itself already has the capability to know far, far more about you and everything you have ever looked at on its website, including your IP address, your browser fingerprint, your session time, your operating system, your connection speed, all your purchases, your personal information (such as your billing address, e – mail addresses, and phone number), which third – party accounts you’ve connected to, everything you have ever posted, which sites you have come from in order to get to Itch.io, and even the other sites you browse (through third – party trackers).
Which is not to say that Itch.io itself is violating your privacy in these ways (except when they are), but that they have the capability to, and the addition of affiliate links to project pages does nothing but lets me peer into some of the data. If I were to ever produce a program that could make use of such information, I would follow Mr. Stallman’s and make such information blatantly opt – in instead of opt – out, even though I wouldn’t want to possess any of it because it would be a massive bitch to deal with on multiple legal and logistical levels. But I can’t reasonably make you “opt – in” to clicking on particular Web links. It’s fortunate then you can “opt – out” by removing the question mark and everything after it, as you can try with the Itch.io homepage. Or, you know, improve your browsing habits.
Alright, that’s everything. Now if you excuse me I must rate and comment on several months worth of video game backlogs and go through each and every review I have ever written and manually change the URLs within. Hooray for the free press! Hooray for desperate guerrilla marketing tactics!