Vito's Game Giveaway: Six Months and Counting

*This post is about a contest I host on Giant Bomb. It was written specifically for the members there.

The original header for charlesalanratliff.com. Also used as the banner for Vito's Game Giveaway on Giantbomb.com. Done by Kat Smith (Turbo_Toaster).

The first Vito's Game Giveaway was posted on January 16th in the Off-Topic forum. Since its inception (bwaaaaaah):

  • 28 games have been given away.
  • 20 of those games were donations from 11 different people.
  • 12 out of 28 games were physical copies and had to be shipped. Let's say it cost $7 average for me to ship each game, including cost of bubble envelopes, delivery confirmation etc. 12x7 = $84 spent. This does not include the cost of shipping that the two donors who sent physical games had to pay.
  • 3200 Microsoft Points have been given away. These were digital codes, so I didn't need to pay shipping, meaning the cost was $40 total. This means, along with the cost of shipping the physical games, about $124 has been spent thus far.
  • 30 people have won something.
  • 1 contest began and ended while flying several thousands of feet in the air.
  • Vito's Game Giveaway has never missed a week!

I've had a few people ask me why I started doing this. Sometimes the question is phrased in an almost mistrustful manner, as if it isn't possible for a person to just give away games without some insidious motive. It's perfectly understandable, really, with the Internet the way it is, though I still find it amusing whenever I see my threads mentioned elsewhere as spam.

The origin of Vito's Game Giveaway isn't very interesting. If you want to get really deep into it, it all started when I was younger and had to sell games to afford new ones. I've never been a collector, and I very rarely ever want to replay a game once I beat it. The ones I do, I keep. But the habit of selling games I no longer want to play stayed with me as I got older, even though it wasn't necessary anymore. So I was sitting at my desk, looking at a stack of 360/PS3 games I had organized into a pile of "things I probably won't play again", thinking to myself, "Welp, let's see how much I can get for these on eBay."

Now, eBay has been very good to me. It was even a major source of income at one point, making thousands of monies selling my old stuff and even selling stuff for other people, taking a cut. It was also, surprisingly, not a bad way to make money as a model photographer. But I was looking at these games, figuring out about how much I would make, and it suddenly hit me: Why not give them away to the community of Giant Bomb? Giant Bomb is awesome, and I wouldn't be getting a whole bunch of money anyway. I love Giant Bomb, and I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so to speak.

So I took some time to think about how I would do it, how much money I would be spending doing this and if that was something I'm OK with, etc. I also thought about if I should make people do something to enter that would directly benefit me, but quickly decided against it. I wanted this to be a contest for the community of the greatest video game site in the world, and I wanted it to be as easy, fair and non-sleazy as possible. Easy in that all a person has to do is answer a random question I've come up with (I mean, you guys have to do something), fair in that the winner would be randomly selected, and non-sleazy in that it would never be a requirement to do anything that would directly benefit me to enter.

I typed up a Notepad document outlining how I wanted to do it, found a random selecting tool, and eventually started the first Vito's Game Giveaway. JohnAsscream was the first winner, winning Alan Wake. I thought it was funny that he was the first to win, since he is one of the few people from the site I know. The contest would have only been rigged if I had chosen again to get a person I didn't know, however.

I had only expected Vito's Game Giveaway to last about six weeks, seeing as that's all I wanted to give away at the time. I then thought of maybe having a monthly contest where I give away $20 worth of Microsoft Points or something, using sites that let you buy points cards from other parts of the world so it wouldn't only be limited to those in the U.S. I also thought of buying cheap, used games that I could use to give away. These concerns were soon alleviated, however, when I started getting PMs from people offering to donate. Other users sending donations was honestly never something that entered my mind, but I wouldn't be writing this post if they hadn't. The first mention I made of donations was on February 15th in Vito's Game Giveaway #5, exactly 30 days after it all started. I had received my first donation by the seventh contest: an unused copy of Mass Effect 2 from zoskia. By the eighth contest I had received my second donation, this time from nintendoeats, who had donated four games. Out of all the donations I've received (and not to diminish the effort or value of the others), nintendoeats's would have to be my favorite. Every time someone wins a contest, I send them a PM titled "You're Winner!" asking for their details. nintendoeats is the only person to acknowledge the reference (whether that's because people don't know it or just don't say anything) with the awesome package he sent me:

 

It's Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, by the way.

Since then, eight others have also generously donated games. Big thanks to mosdl, rentfn, Kyreo, Sjosz, mracoon, rebgav, Dalai, and ArbitraryWater for always following through and keeping this going as long as it has.

Another question I've been asked is why don't people just give away the games themselves, instead of giving them to me first. I can't speak for anyone that has donated, but it's probably because it's easier. They don't have to make a thread, come up with rules, select a winner, and then send the game out. They can just give it to me and still get the proper credit they deserve. Sending a game out doesn't really matter anymore, either, since Vito's Game Giveaway has dealt almost exclusively in digital donations for a while now. I give the donor the winner's Steam ID or whatever, and they get sent the game. It's an easy process that saves everyone shipping costs!

The Look and Changes

The banner that has been at the top of every thread was done by Turbo_Toaster, who you probably know best as the fantastic artist who does all the quest icons, or for her work on Season 3 of the Bombcast (and Season 4 pretty soon!). It was a piece I hired her to do a while before the game giveaway was even thought of, but I thought it was fitting. I had asked her to do a drawing of me surrounded by all the major gaming platforms, with all of us happy and such, and I love what she came back with. I now use it as my avatar everywhere I go and have even had people identify me because of it. I'll probably need to have the DS and PSP changed out for the 3DS and Vita some time in the future, though!

Now to talk about how the contests have changed. I've always been fascinated by the evolution of something, and I don't think I've ever done anything for this long a time that I can look back on and be like, "Yeah, I can see what I was thinking there."

So... yeah, this next part is mainly for myself. You can probably stop reading now.

With Vito's Game Giveaway #1, I didn't really have a set plan; I just knew I wanted an image at the top that would become synonymous with the contest and myself. I also didn't know what Vito's Game Giveaway was going to become, so it was pretty simple to set up. I made sure to throw in a disclaimer in there about these being my own, used games, and that I wouldn't be held responsible if anything happened to them during shipping. I also had placed "Art by Turbo_Toaster" under the banner.

In Vito's Game Giveaway #2, I made things a bit clearer by using bold, underlined headers so people could quickly see how to enter and when the deadline was. I also added a "Previous Winners" section at the bottom, and announced the winner at the top along with how many contestants there were, which is something I've continuously done.

Vito's Game Giveaway #3 was the first contest to have games for different platforms, so I divided them up with a small header.

I threw in a "Quick Notes" section in Vito's Game Giveaway #4, which would be where I first mentioned donations in Vito's Game Giveaway #5. Giveaway #4 was also the first time I wrote the contest as a blog and attached it to the forums, as opposed to just making them threads. I did this so it would be easier for followers to know when a new contest started.

Vito's Game Giveaway #6 was when I started attaching the blog posts to the General Discussion forum instead of the Off-Topic forum. General Discussion is a more appropriate place since the blogs are about games. I was also hoping it would get the contests more views.

I added a "Donations" section to Vito's Game Giveaway #7, since it was the first contest where I had a donation. I also mentioned at the bottom that people could follow my Twitter and Facebook page for updates on contests.

Vito's Game Giveaway #8 was the first time I had a non-game-related question for people to answer, having everyone tell me what their favorite Brad Pitt movie was. This was the contest where nintendoeats sent me the "You're Winner!" box, and I couldn't stop thinking about the end of Se7en.

Vito's Game Giveaway #13 was where I introduced the big redesign by placing everything in tables. I also removed the "Art by Turbo_Toaster" caption from the banner, because we got into a huge fight. That was a lie. It was actually because I thought it made things look cleaner, and I figured that most people probably knew it was by her after 12 weeks. If newcomers wanted to know who it was by, I would happily tell them! This was also the lengthiest first post I ever made for VGG. I started toying around with using an image in the "How to Play" section, as well, using an image from Tangled. This was the first time where I mentioned a future Facebook-related contest.

Vito's Game Giveaway #14 continued the redesign of #13, albeit in shorter form. This was because I decided to make separate blog posts for the "Disclaimer" and "Donations" part of the contest and just link to them, saving a ton of space. It was also the last contest to use an image for the "How to Play" section. I mentioned in the notes section that when the "Past Winners" section reached 20 people, I would carry their names over to a separate blog post and start fresh with Vito's Game Giveaway #21.

Vito's Game Giveaway #15 was the first time I introduced the concept of a "Bonus" contest. I had three copies of Portal and decided to let people who just wanted Portal enter into their own little contest where they would have a much higher chance of winning. This was also when I had started moving and was staying at various hotels and using an annoying laptop to do all the work. 

I was still moving during contests #16 and #17, so I put as little effort into them as possible. Vito's Game Giveaway #18 is when I started including the "How to Play" bit under the banner, all in the interest of saving space. I made the "Disclaimer" and "Donations" links a bit more prominent, as well.

Vito's Game Giveaway #21 was the first (and only) contest without a banner, due to me having a ton of trouble with the editor that night. I threw in a quick "How to Play" and the list of games people could win and left it at that.

Vito's Game Giveaway #22 was where I decided to just host all "Past Winners" in a separate blog post instead of including any at the bottom. I don't think it's something important enough to warrant being at the bottom of every contest, and most people probably don't care.

Vito's Game Giveaway #23 is probably the best-looking contest I've hosted thus far, and it's definitely a look I'm going to be keeping for a while. I mean, seriously, look how clean it is!

I hosted Vito's Game Giveaway #25 from a goddamn airplane. :@

Vito's Game Giveaway #20

I wanted to do something special for the 20th edition of the contest, so I decided to give away $20 in the form of Microsoft Points, PlayStation Network money, or Steam games. I also wanted to do something for myself while keeping in line with the "not making people do anything other than answer a question as a requirement" rule that I had set up from the beginning. I was a little concerned about how people would respond to it, but I made it so anyone who "Like"d my Facebook fan page (I know, I know...) would get an additional entry into the contest. The fan page is just a place where I link to blogs I write on Giant Bomb in an effort to get more views, so it all still ties into the site. I made it very clear that this way of getting an additional entry into the contest is only for VGG #20, and that it wasn't a requirement at all.

Regardless of what some may have thought about it, no complaints were voiced (at least that I saw), which I was happy about. It actually ended up being my most successful contest thus far, with 156 contestants total, and 54 of them participating in the Facebook drawing (it was actually a user's Facebook entry that won them the contest). My fan page went from around five fans to over 90 in just a few days. It was more successful than I expected it to be, and it's definitely something I will be doing again in the future.

The Future

There are some neat things happening with Vito's Game Giveaway later this year. While I'm not going into detail on most of it, I will say to be on the lookout for a special contest on July 20th. 

I also wanted to mention that it was cool making it into the March 2011 and April 2011 editions of Ethan's Data Porn posts. I hope to one day make it into the "Most Viewed Blog" category without the allure of free video games, though I suppose that would require me to write consistently, first. Here's to hoping!

And seriously, you guys? With the way things are going, I fully expect Vito's Game Giveaway to run a whole year straight.

If you ask me, I think that's pretty fucking cool.

 

 
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