Nintendo Has A Plan To Share Ad Revenue With YouTubers, But Nobody's Happy About It

from the all-new-questions dept

Roughly a year ago, Nintendo began a bold plan of declaring war on well-known YouTubers who created "let's play" videos using Nintendo IP. Well, perhaps war isn't the right word. Suddenly and swiftly, it claimed these YouTube videos through the site's system that then allowed it to push ads into the videos, the revenue for which it shared between YouTube and itself, leaving the videomakers out in the cold. It was misguided in several ways, the most obvious being that these kinds of videos and their creators are essentially free advertising for Nintendo, getting the word out to potential customers about games they may then pick up. It strains the mind to think of any large numbers of people who might substitute a "let's play" video for actually playing the game themselves, but Nintendo is Nintendo, so the company opted for control over goodwill.

Perhaps only coincidentally (or maybe not...), the last year has been rough for the gaming company. Console sales are down across the board, and Nintendo appears to be pinning its hopes on a couple of triple-A games coming out to save its skin -- which makes it all the more interesting that Nintendo is also announcing a new plan to share ad revenue with YouTubers who sign up for its affiliate program.

Nintendo's statement came from a series of messages on its Japanese Twitter account that mentioned "several affiliate programs" for YouTube users that would allow them to "receive a portion of the advertising revenue" coming from videos featuring gameplay footage. I reached out to the company for additional information, and here's what a representative from Nintendo of America had to say:

"Nintendo has been permitting the use of Nintendo copyrighted material in videos on YouTube under appropriate circumstances. Advertisements may accompany those videos, and in keeping with previous policy that revenue is shared between YouTube and Nintendo. In addition, for those who wish to use the material more proactively, we are preparing an affiliate program in which a portion of the advertising profit is given to the creator. Details about this affiliate program will be announced in the future."
On the surface, this seems like a huge step in the right direction. The once monolithic stance on collecting all the revenue possible from these videos is finally giving way to a program that will allow some of the fan-gathering YouTube personalities to have some skin in the game. You'd think there would be praise across the board for this. You'd be wrong. Between the ill-feelings still lingering from the actions of last year and the wariness of working under the umbrella of a Nintendo affiliate program, some of the bigger names seem suspicious in this phase where details are still lacking on the program.
Zack Scott, another popular YouTuber and the one who first brought the issue to light last year after he noticed that some of the Nintendo-focused videos on his popular ZackScottGames channel were being tagged with the network's Content ID system, told Kotaku at the end of last June that he had resumed posting such work once Nintendo appeared to back away from its crackdown. I followed up with him today to see if anything had changed since his tentative return to posting Nintendo-centric "Let's Play" videos last year. He said that while he's been impacted "very, very minimally" by any changes in Nintendo and YouTube's policies so far, he could "definitely see a future" where this has a bigger influence.

"I feel the relationship between video creator and content publisher is mutually beneficial," Scott wrote in an email. "Numerous companies already understand this balance. I'd hate for the model to become where a popular creator can request revenue of a publisher in exchange for coverage. I'd equally hate for a publisher to request revenue of a creator in exchange for access."
Left unsaid is the converse: will Nintendo use its affiliate program to attempt to exert control over YouTubers' video content. Keep in mind that the Nintendo IP on display isn't really the draw in these videos. After all, there are a million such videos for a million games. The popular ones are popular because of the personality of the YouTuber. They share the stage with the game and they got their audience on a ledger of trust from the viewers. If Nintendo attempts to leverage that trust by exerting control through its affiliate program, such as by only allowing access to content in exchange for positive or non-negative editorial speech within the video, it will be a massive problem, one that will ultimately backfire in Nintendo's face, while torpedoing a bunch of YouTube personalities along with it.

Either way, the devil is most definitely in the details with this kind of program. If Nintendo makes it extremely clear that editorial content is hands-off and that the affiliate program will be free from YouTuber corruption, this might, possibly work. Given the company's history, however, I have my doubts.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 2:23pm

    Here's the thing. Gaming houses have killed a lot of the good will they used to have with the fans. Actions like those mentioned that pretty much led to customer revolt in buying their consoles, which places them trying again to get the good faith fans back.

    This is just a replay of the gaming mags of the 00's. Was at one time I used to get them for honest evaluations of what was trash and what was good. Gaming houses became so sensitive over these evaluations that they started putting pressure on the gaming mags to give them good evaluations or no prereleases for evaluation of the latest greatest. This in turn damaged the gaming mag reputations to the point that it drove the customer away from the evaluations because they could no longer be trusted.

    You now have the same thing lurking in the background again. The gaming houses will not be able to not crack down on those who publicly mention anything less than sterling recommendations when speaking of the gaming house. Again, people will leave over not being able to trust these gaming channels.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 28th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Nintendo's cluelessness with all matters internet leaves me feeling that this program will go about as well as EA and Ubisoft's attempts to create their own versions of Steam. Then again, those Steam knock-offs are inexplicably still around, so one would think they must be doing something right, and if YouTube does indeed buy Twitch and everything goes down the tubes afterwards, Nintendo's affiliate program could actually end up protecting a lot of LPers.

    Overall, it seems a bad idea that could be saved by even worse circumstances.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 2:36pm

    Let me be the first to predict...

    ...that it will work. That is, it will be at least modestly successful.

    As EA has taught us, gaming companies could publish a press release that says "If you buy our latest game, we will delete all your email, set your car on fire, and enslave your children to the will of the Beliebers", and a substantial number of gamers would still buy it. Gamers have long since proven to the gaming industry that they'll tolerate ripoffs, DRM, abuse, advertising, more ripoffs, lies, insults and still more ripoffs: so why shouldn't Nintendo use this strategy?

    They can always have a come-to-Jebus moment later and make nice-nice noises if it doesn't work out.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 2:37pm

    One of the many problems with this program is that most of the other video game companies are completely fine with youtubers having ALL the revenue because they know its pretty much free advertisement for them and have embraced the lets play community. Meanwhile, Nintendo either demands going half and half with strings no doubt attached, or not being allowed to LP their IP at all.

    If Nintendo happened to do this right at the start of the LP craze, before the industry in general basically gave them the okay, this could have worked. Instead, the Big N waited way too long and now just looks like a big bully with its IP trying to force itself into other people's revenue stream because they're not doing well financially.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 28th, 2014 @ 4:56pm

      Re:

      I have a folder in my bookmarks list for express written permission to monetize videos of games. I have 11 game companies that give blanket permission for all their games and I know that list is incomplete. Plus there's all the game companies out there that give implied permission as well.

      Why do I need Nintendo?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 5:21pm

        Re: Re:

        This is precisely my point. Had nintendo done this back when only a few LPers were out there, I would see it getting praise for being ahead of the curve and clearing up a legal gray area. But now LPs account for a huge amount of YouTube views, with pewdiepie one of YouTube's most subscribed. And many game companies have given blanket permissions to many users to do this free of charge. Nintendo is late to the party, and its far too late to try to piggyback off of the success of youtubers.

         

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      PaulT (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 12:18am

      Re:

      "video game companies are completely fine with youtubers having ALL the revenue because they know its pretty much free advertisement for them"

      That's part of it, but it's also partly looking after existing customers of the product. I know that I personally only use game videos when I'm *really* stuck at a particular part of a game (as a gamer since the early 80s, I'm stubborn about solving things myself whenever possible).

      If those videos didn't exist, I may never complete a game. Not only does that lessen the enjoyment and value of the game I already own, it also takes me out of the market for DLC and sequels. Why would I spend more money when I still have 10 hours of uncompleted gameplay on my shelf from the original title?

      Just another example of how over-enforcement of copyright is, while technically justified, completely counter-productive in reality.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 2:59pm

    Has it even been decided in a court that Nintendo is entitled to the revenue from those videos?

     

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      avideogameplayer, May 28th, 2014 @ 3:23pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 28th, 2014 @ 2:59pm

      Who honestly has that type of cash to take Nintendon't to court?

       

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    Watchit (profile), May 28th, 2014 @ 3:16pm

    Shouldn't the title read: "Nintendo has a plan to steal a chunk of revenue from youTubers, who the hell thought this was a good idea?"

     

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    Anon, May 28th, 2014 @ 4:40pm

    How to defeat this?

    Put something in the video at the end or start that Nintendo would not want to be associated with. Lots of options...

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 28th, 2014 @ 4:47pm

      Re: How to defeat this?

      Then they claim the content and get the video taken down. Remember, Nintendo thinks they have 100% control over the created content just because it's overtop of one of their games. Since Youtube's Content ID System has no real way to fight it, Nintendo kinda does.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), May 28th, 2014 @ 4:56pm

      Re: How to defeat this?

      Better way to fight it would be to pull every single vid they make a claim on, and make a vid explaining why the videos are being removed, and stating that you will do it for any claimed video in the future.

      If Nintendo wants to blow their own foot off and kill off the free advertising they're getting from reviews/LP's, let them enjoy the consequences of it.

       

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    Adrian, May 28th, 2014 @ 7:20pm

    I think youtubers should be wary of Nintendo. Here are three big reasons:
    1/ regardless of any agreement you come to with Nintendo there is no way to present this agreement to youtube via the DCMA reporting system prior to getting strikes against you.
    2/ The marketing departments, legal department and different world regions are often not on the same page as each other, so coming to an agreement with the North American Nintendo marketing departments wont necessarily stop the Japanese Nintendo legal department from flagging your content.
    3/ Automated DCMA flagging doesn't care about written agreements you have with anyone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2014 @ 8:25pm

    Steambox!

     

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    Amy Blake (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 3:42am

    Response

    I do not understand what all the fuss is about. I agree with PaulT that these you tubers are advertising there products for free. If you take pewdiepie for example, if you were to get him to play your game then you have potentially 27 million viewers. Because this is how many subscribers he now has.

    It is interesting how popular lets play has become and i can not lie i always watch pewdiepie as he is amazing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 4:15am

    uh you said:

    Left unsaid is the converse: will Nintendo use its affiliate program to attempt to exert control over YouTubers' video content. Keep in mind that the Nintendo IP on display isn't really the draw in these videos. After all, there are a million such videos for a million games. The popular ones are popular because of the personality of the YouTuber

    this is completely untrue. No one would know of these 'youtube personalities' were they not using massivily popular games in their videos.

    i see this as a college cover band, they may be a good bad, like really good, but they still play cover songs. now, of course we can argue if they should be paying EMI (or whomever), but it is the same arguement. in both cases, cover band, video game youtuber, the main portion of the effort is someone elses.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      Yes of course, obviously the only reason a video about Goat simulator by PewDiePie has, as of this comment, 7,872,044 views is because of how awesome the game is, it has nothing to do with the person making the video and what they're bringing to it.

      Nope, he and others like him bring nothing to the table, all those views are solely due to how awesome the games are. /s

       

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    Louise Zing (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 7:11am

    Response

    Interesting topic. I have always thought about trying to make a successful you tube account. But i never thought Nintendo would try to clamp down on you tubers who actually promote the games for free. I personally do not see any down side from what they are doing, but it is interesting to see non gamers getting annoyed to why this kind of you tube video is so popular.

    I personally still like to play the first Mario kart on the Nintendo 64. :p

     

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    seedeevee, May 29th, 2014 @ 9:09am

    It is a video game

    "It strains the mind to think of any large numbers of people who might substitute a "let's play" video for actually playing the game themselves"

    I was amazed the first time I saw my kid kid watching videos of people playing Minecraft. (Then Skyrim, then TF2, . . .) Hours and hours of it. Watching videos of other kids playing video games. My kid is not alone.

    It's a thing.

     

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      ltlw0lf (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 10:20am

      Re: It is a video game

      I was amazed the first time I saw my kid kid watching videos of people playing Minecraft. (Then Skyrim, then TF2, . . .) Hours and hours of it. Watching videos of other kids playing video games. My kid is not alone.

      I suspect your kid isn't watching these videos for the gameplay, but for the folks that are actually playing the game.

      I must admit that I've watched both pewdiepie and Rooster Teeth as well as a number of other Let's Play vids, not for the games, but for the comedy gold. Rage Quit isn't about the game...it is about how funny serious people getting really upset about the game is. The Leeroy Jenkins Meme wasn't about watching a bunch of folks clear a dungeon on World of Warcraft (aside from whether or not it was staged.) It wasn't the game that folks were watching...it could have easily been a bunch of folks sitting in spaceships outside of the Void in Eve, waiting to jump into another team's system. It was Leeroy Jenkins, doing what Leeroy Jenkins does...

       

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      PaulT (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 12:26am

      Re: It is a video game

      I'm not saying you're wrong, but your comment did make me think about a few reasons why it might not be a "thing" to substitutes for the game.

      Minecraft is a totally different thing, since it's debatable how much of that is actually a "game" per se and how much of it is a giant creative tool. Watching other people create elaborate constructions of their own is not exactly watching people play a game, even if the medium they choose to do so it technically a "game".

      You also didn't mention if your kid actually plays the games themselves or only watches the videos. If they play the games, for example, Skyrim is a huge open world with massive areas that may be hard to explore while TF2 is a game with a lot of hardcore fans who will have developed expert strategies. Watching the experts play those games if a good way to pick up tactics. They usually supplement the game and enhance it, not replace it.

      But, if your kid really does only watch the videos, my question would be - do they want to? That is, would they (or do they) want the game if the video wasn't available? Have they asked you to buy the games for them? If so, it's not a real "substitute", especially if your kid is young enough that they have to wait till Christmas to get the latest expensive title, or the hardware to play on, for example.

       

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    King Reggin, Jul 13th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    Good

    I had wished Nintendo would just sue filth like pewdiepie, but stealing his ill earned money back is a start.

     

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