from the game-theory dept
We haven't made a secret of our appreciation for Wil Wheaton here at Techdirt, in particular for his forward-thinking approach to digital content and intellectual property. More specifically, I've mentioned in the past that I am hopelessly addicted to Wheaton's YouTube show, Table Top, on which he features a series of table top board games being played by himself and a rotating panel of guests. As I was poking around trying to figure out when the series would resume for its fourth season, after amassing tons of crowdfunded money for the previous season, I came across an interesting thread discussing what had been dubbed "The Wheaton Effect."
This thing is big. This could do a lot for our hobby. It's easy to think that these are existing gamers being introduced to new games, but I had at least two people who were not really gamers start conversations like "So hey, aren't you into board games? Well I just saw this thing on the internet..." after the first episode. All of this being said, I'm getting Tsuro.Now, we happen to know a thing or two around here about terms that get dubbed an "effect", especially when the revolve around exposure through internet channels. The Wheaton Effect is essentially a noticeable jump in sales for games that are featured on Table Top. As the original Reddit poster implies, the exposure generated by the game being featured on the show is a boon for sales. I would think this is an intuitive idea, in which an otherwise unaware public becomes aware of the fun to be had through these games and then goes out and buys them.
So, if this is a thing, as it appears to be, why in the world do some video game makers take a different approach with "Let's Play" videos, whether it's attempting to claim the monetization of them, control the content within them, or outright take them down via DMCA notice or by using YouTube's ContentID? It doesn't make sense if these types of videos result in exposure that leads to sales.
And, to be fair, much of the gaming industry has come around to this idea. You can see the evolution not only in the stance of the publishers, who often times go so far as to work with sites to unblock Let's Play videos that were automatically nabbed by ContentID, but also in video game hardware itself. The latest generation of consoles, specifically the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, are both designed specifically with ways for gamers to record gameplay and share those recordings. But Nintendo and some other lagging studios are more restrictive and I can't imagine why. Sales are what's important and exposure brings with it sales. The Wheaton Effect is an example of this, but this concept isn't in any way limited to the realm of table top games. Give up just a little bit of control, it seems, and you spur on sales.