Pay-to-play awards

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JayThe recent news that Capcom's critically acclaimed hit, Okami, would be ineligible for awards this year from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, because of Capcom's refusal to pay membership fees to the organization, has been met with harsh criticism from the developer calling into question the credibility or value of awards that require developers to pay a fee to be considered. After all, are the awards really about recognizing the best the games industry has to offer? Or are they about recognizing the best from AIAS members only? If it's the latter, then it would seem the awards are being misrepresented.

The same is true for the Webby Awards by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, those seemingly prestigious awards that recognize "excellence in interactive creativity, establishing best practices on a yearly basis, and thus pushing the standards of web development continually higher." If a website doesn't pay the entry fee—ranging from $95 to $395 per website, per category—it is also ineligible for an award.

Last year I was approached by one of the members representing the Webbys inviting me to participate...

"I am delighted to let you know that members of the Int'l Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences (IADAS), the judging body for The Webby Awards, have suggested that Jay is Games would be a strong contender in the Blog -- Cultural/Personal and Games categories for the 10th Annual Webby Awards."

Still a full-time student at the time, I used borrowed funds from student loans for the entry fees (I entered in both categories recommended) since even being nominated for these awards would mean significant exposure for the site. However, not only did my site fail to win in either category, it was not even mentioned in the nominations. I can live with not winning an award; what is hard to swallow is the feeling of being taken advantage of. I subsequently wrote back to the IADAS requesting that I be removed from all future mailing lists.

It is easy to justify entry fees and membership dues to offset the administrative costs of running an organization, but when an organization fails to recognize excellence from those that do not "pay up" it puts itself squarely within the cross-hairs of criticism questioning the credibility of its so-called "awards".

Everyone needs to be recognized for their hard work, and game developers are no different. This is the foundation upon which this site was built and on which it has grown so rapidly. Our "Best of" yearly awards will never ask for nor require any developer to "pay to play". It is our gift back to the industry that provides us with the creative, original, and innovative interactive experiences that we choose to review.

I applaud Capcom for standing up for what they believe in. Their award-class development efforts deserve much praise and recognition. Praise that should be measured not by how many of these "pay-to-play" awards it receives, but by the praise and recognition it receives from the grassroots journalism by the people and for the people. Remember that the next time you're looking for a compelling game to play or website to read.

And if you haven't already done so, buy a copy of Okami for PS2. You will be glad you did.


that is a pretty shoddy system, although it's the same for the mercury music prize (the UK's most prestigious music award for album of the year) those wishing to be nominated must "donate" £1000 (roughly $1800) to the prize fund, and then 8 of the entrants are chosen for the final award shortlist.
the main difference between that and these gaming awards is that the record companies can normally mop up the entrance fee, whereas students and game writers who do it as a hobby have to source the money themselves most of the time.


I will get Okami sooner or later, but I've got several other games that I've bought that I haven't played yet that promise to also be good experiences...


Okami is a fantastic game and I'm very glad I have it... but I was very disappointed to hear about Capcom closing Clover Studio. That doesn't send a very good message. It sounds to me as though Capcom is more concerned with cranking out Mega-Man clones than putting out beautiful, fun, and unique games like Okami. I hope that I am proven wrong.


Hi Jay,
I agree with your points. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience. I was invited to submit a webgame for a technology award run in my country. But I had to pay to have the game submitted and judged. In hind sight I should not have paid and should not have entered.

Forcing people to pay to submit content for an award really means that it cannot be promoted as "The best product on the web". The award is not for the best content on the web. It is an award for the best contender who has paid to have their work submitted.

Its all just another money making scheme, which I avoid. I prefer to look at sites such as to find the best game content on the net.



Hey Jay, you should have a section that sorts games by there type or at least the ability to search for a game by its tag. I am trying to find simulation games but it is hard to find them on here with no lists.


Josh - the tagging system in place right now is not yet optimized, causing long delays when compiling and composing the list of games that include a tag. You may, however, use the facility any time you wish if you know the tag name. For example...

Just don't expect instantaneous results from it. The more games that contain a tag being searched, the longer the page will take to render. I'm working on getting a better, more efficient tagging system in place.


if there was a better way to say "you suck" to the AIAS, then i don't know what it'd be. fight on jay, fight on...


I actually run an arts awards competition (albeit it's a totally different, un-web-related genre) and we require an application fee. This is pretty standard practice for awards competitions. What a lot of people don't understand is that awards competitions, from the judging to the ceremony, are very expensive. The awards competition I manage costs about $30-40k/year, but generally brings in less than $15k/year.

While our company isn't looking to make money on this awards program, I know of many other competitions that cost even more than the $35/entry we charge.

Vault1122 January 29, 2007 6:57 PM

Ah yes, I remember Okami. Got that a few months ago. Very cool game. I liked the whole brush element, which added a unique feel to the game. I'm glad Capcom is trying to keep this "pay to play" crap out of here.


Daniel - I believe you hit the nail on the head when you added the word "competition", for that is exactly what these events are if they require an entry/membership fee for consideration.

The problem is they are being passed off as "industry awards", or best of the industry, which they are not if they exclude anyone from participating for failing to "pay to play".


Jay, I love it when you blog!

So there is no chance for Okami 2 or Okami for the 360? I think a little part of me died. That and Shadow otC are the only games for the PS2 that I ever actually wanted to play. What a shame.


Thanks for posting this Jay - people need to speak out against these fakey award things. not only are they scams in their own right, but they hurt everyone who is trying to do an honest job of it.



I'm glad you brought this up Jay. Although I fully respect competitions with entry fees, developers shouldn't have to pay money for a chance to get a "best of the industry" award. That's just plain wrong.


As Daniel says, this is very common, and I don't really see a problem with entry fees. Its takes time (money) to cull through hundreds or thousands of entries. Not to mention, a fee ensures that only serious entrys are in the comp (otherwise, everyone would simply enter everthing).

I work in the creative industry, and enter several awards annnualy, and I can't think of ~any~ that don't have some sort of entry fee.


Thanks Jay - it was about time a highly profilic web-player like you point out the hypocrisy behind these so-called "industry awards".

Money talks, and these "awards" are essentially a rich kids' playground.

Something to think about: do people have to pay any kind of 'membership fee' or 'donation' to Sweden in order to be considered eligible Nobel-prize candidates? I don't think so. And if merit alone works in real life, why does talent have to be rich in order to get a recognition on the INTERNET? :/


The internet in general seems to have become somewhat of an industry workaround for the common man. There are many (free) ways for someone to speak up for what they belive, and someone somewhere is guaranteed to read it. I believe corporations are starting to learn that they can't take advantage of people for much longer. Because as soon as one person catches them, that person can write about it, and anybody anywhere can read it almost instantly. And before the corporation can react, they're caught red handed... with their pants down... and other such idioms. It used to be that the rich made all the decisions, as the poor had no resources to make themselves heard. But now there are so many (free) ways to get yourself noticed. Like our good friend Jay, here. Although he likely set out so that others could get noticed, he seems to have succeeded most profoundly in both respects. And Jay's not rich (probably).
I love Okami. It is easily my favorite game of the past year. Probably the past three or four years, although my memory gets a bit fuzzy after one. And with people like Jay and the Casual Gaming community, Capcom doesn't need to pay royalties for publicity. The point is, if you make a quality game, or a quality anything, people will hear about. The power of word-of-mouth has increased tenfold with the implementation of the internet.

<3 Issun & Ammy


While I understand Daniel's point, the whole idea to pay to submit a personal web site to an industry awards/website competition thing beats me. Everyone with a personal website has to pay for hosting, domain name, bandwidth, and doesn't necessarily have adWords (or similar) income.

Yet, I don't agree with Capcom's position with the IAIS. In that case, I feel this is a fair deal between the developer and the award organizer. I reckon that it's a bit dubious not to inform the public that those awards are only attributed to IAIS members (which explained why God of War got game of the year title last year despite the obvious superiority of RE4 - I didn't know then and was surprised to not even see Capcom's title in any category). Yet all in all the IAIS plays a positive role for all of the game industry and I think that Capcom ought to contribute to the system rather than denigrate it.

As for your site, Jay, I honestly don't think that the webby award is anything to regret. You've been around long enough to know that you get exposure not by being singled out by a jury, but by providing quality content every day and deserving those backlinks - which is why we are all coming and returning to jayisgames.



I was shocked when i read this. Shocked is certainly the word. It's just a money-grabbing idea. I think that you shouldn't pay for these "awards". You know that many a great game will not be there and thus the title will be obsolete.

May i say well done to Jay for addressing this case and well done to capcom - their game's are amazing and some of my favourites - possibly the best. And they don't pay - and they shouldn't! may this inspire us all!

Don't let the webby awards bother you jay. Just remember, we all support you. And your the best site i know. This must be the only site that has been just what i have been looking for. It causes me to come back everyday for more, in fact i have visited it 4 times already today... You and your team do a great job and i couldn't ask for more!

Carpe diem! Seize the Day! Do something! Stand up for it!

well, thats what i think.

AndrewBagel May 26, 2008 10:12 AM

My friend had an experience like this too, and they are so worthy of the Kermodian rants they receive. It's making profit from the people who put enough time and money into their passions anyway.


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