Opinion: Nintendo Snagging YouTube Let’s Play Community Ad Revenue

Opinion: Nintendo Snagging YouTube Let's Play Community Ad Revenue

According to MyNintendoNews, Nintendo is apparently making money on Let’s Play videos on YouTube by enforcing their copyrights over the content being used. Let’s Play videos—or Let’s Play streams—are basically when a player records or broadcasts a play through of a game and usually provides commentary. It can be a straight play through, a review, or a kind of tutorial. In any case, Nintendo are looking at YouTube channels that utilize their content and issuing Content IDs. It seems as though Nintendo are putting their ads in videos and its cutting in on the Let’s Play YouTuber’s revenue from ads and in some cases taking it altogether.

A Content IDs are a soft version of copyright claims which allows for the video to stay up, but gives the publisher money on content that they own which is being used in the video. This can be video clips, songs, or in this game video game content. Zack Scott—a fellow Nintendo fan and YouTuber doing a Let’s Play of Nintendo’s Luigi Mansion 2—mentioned that his videos with Nintendo content were tagged with this Content ID which kept him from making money from ads.  As a result, Zack Scott addressed the issue to Nintendo via his Facebook, just a bit from it states:

“My viewers watch my gameplay videos for three main reasons:
1. To hear my commentary/review.
2. To learn about the game and how to play certain parts.
3. To see how I handle and react to certain parts of the game.

Since I started my gaming channel, I’ve played a lot of games. I love Nintendo, so I’ve included their games in my line-up. But until their claims are straightened out, I won’t be playing their games. I won’t because it jeopardizes my channel’s copyright standing and the livelihood of all LPers.”

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Game Front got a statement from Nintendo on the issue which mentioned that they didn’t want to have content removed from YouTube, but are taking revenue from videos of a particular length. In full Nintendo said:

“As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.”

While the source material—the game—is definitely property of Nintendo, the company already made their money off of the player doing the Let’s Play video. While it’s not the most exhaustive of duties to play through a game—unless it’s a terrible game and even then it’s not backbreaking/knee killing work—the player came up with the video on their own with their own time.

On the Let’s Player side of the coin, Fender or Stratocaster doesn’t come after musicians for using their amps and guitars when they produce music with their products. On Nintendo’s side, they made a game where it will play the same way regardless of who plays it. The main thing that is different is the experience of playing it—which was Zack Scott’s point. That aside, you’re going to get the same ending and you’re going through the same locals so it’s not exactly like coming up with a new song or finding a whole new location that the developers didn’t originally put in the game. The player might have a different strategy of beating the game, but the game is what it is.

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That said, I don’t particularly agree with Nintendo’s approach to this. Nintendo are getting free advertising for their games through people who have (mostly/hopefully) purchased the game already. They don’t have to pay these players to showcase the game—even though there should be concern of a game being spoiled. Unlike a movie or album review, at most only snippets or a band released song will be provided. These Let Plays tend to be the full game and the story is pretty much half of what makes a game worth playing. Once you’ve seen the story and the ending there’s really no reason to play the game outside of the gameplay, but even that is nulled after you’ve seen the storyline of the game.

I’ve gotten into some franchises through Let’s Play videos. I would’ve gotten Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim eventually, but seeing someone else play through these games on Twitch TV made me want to play them more. Of course these are somewhat of a different case since these games truly allow for you to play at your own pace and in your own way. They’re not linear like most titles.

On the subject of the Let’s Play community on YouTube, this could actually harm them and result in some quitting, moving elsewhere, or simply not showing Nintendo content. The outcomes are varied here. This harms Nintendo’s reputation among gamers as well. While you have your fans that love their brown and gray shooters and see Nintendo as more of a company for kids, it’s actually one of the more respected companies—that develops and publishes their own material. Nintendo usually had the reputation of being friendly and not really caring what others did in relation to older work.

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For older ROMs (NES/Gameboy/SNES) for instance, Nintendo weren’t making a significant amount of money on them (outside of Virtual Console) and definitely weren’t pressing and releasing new copies of games for out of date/out of circulation consoles. They only released certain games for players to snag on newer consoles, so it was no bother to them if players wanted to play ROMS of games they weren’t going to put on Virtual Console (of course Mario and Co. were off limits).

This could change with the recent developments. It also begs the question of “Why now?” Some believe that Nintendo are finished and are hurting badly and need whatever funds they can get with the less than stellar sales of the Wii U. That theory goes out of the window when it’s considered that Nintendo has enough in the bank to put out several poor selling consoles before going broke decades down the line. This mainly comes down to protecting material that took years to develop and dollars to publish.

Sure it was no problem when the Let’s Play community was doing it for fun and not funds and later when just a little money was trickling in, but when it became more like a job that a decent amount of money could made off of, a company will take notice. This is especially if one gathers how much could potentially be made in a year from this. It’s certainly not enough to go after a few Nintendo fans and all around gamers making videos for other fans and gamers, but there you go. It should be noted that this won’t affect all LPers, just those who make money from this.

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Personally, I feel Nintendo should drop making money off of LPer content. If anything, they should give them one of the old school Nintendo seal of approval badges and have some on as affiliates. Nintendo’s marketing for the Wii U has been…lackluster and this is good, free marketing for them. As affiliates, LPers would be able to keep money they make from ads, Nintendo could put up a simple list of affiliates on their YouTube or somewhere on the Nintendo site for where these LPers hail, and work something out.

If not there’s always Twitch TV which could better lead to some deal between LPers and Nintendo…although the site itself would need its cut as well. For gamers out there, what do you think of this situation? Should Nintendo ease off and attempt to work with Let’s Players?

Starting with Kabir News in 2013, James has focused on tech, gaming, and entertainment. When not writing, he enjoys catching up on sci-fi and horror shows and comics. He can be followed on Twitter @MetalSwift.

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