Nintendo Goes After Player’s YouTube Profits

NintendoNintendo has started doing something that is not making gamers very happy. The company has started taking the ad revenue from videos that players post on YouTube of themselves playing one of Nintendo’s games. These are referred to as “Let’s Play” videos, and people make them about all kinds of different video games (not just the ones from Nintendo).

Have you ever watched a YouTube video that showed a portion of a video game? People make them all the time. For gamers, it is a good way to learn how to beat a “boss”, to check out end-game content before their characters are big enough to get there, and to discover techniques that they may not have figured out for themselves. Other people will stream themselves playing a game so people can watch “in real time”. The player might record what he or she is streaming and post it on YouTube.

When a new game comes out that looks interesting to me, I will go to YouTube in the hopes of finding videos that show what the actual game play is like. I’ve also watched live streamed games for the same reason. It’s a good way to find out more about the game than the official ad shows. If I can’t find any further information about the game from these type of sources, it is highly unlikely that I will end up buying it.

Nintendo is using YouTube’s Content-ID to identify the videos that contain content from their games. One of the options that the Content-ID system allows is for the content owner to block that video from YouTube. Another option is for the content owner to make money from the videos that include their content but were posted by someone else.

In this case, Nintendo is placing ads that generate revenue onto the videos that were posted by gamers that showed them playing one of Nintendo’s games. Effectively, what happens is that the gamer is now unable to make any revenue from those videos. Instead, that money goes directly to Nintendo.

This can be problematic for people who have a YouTube channel that is filled with gameplay videos that have been generating ad revenue for the gamer. GameFront posted a statement from Nintendo:

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.

I believe that Nintendo is “shooting themselves in the foot” with this choice. Gamers who make “Let’s Play” videos, and who have a YouTube channel that is making them a profit in ad revenue now have good reason to stop making videos of Nintendo’s games. They are going to choose games from other companies instead. The result will be less “Nintendo content shared across social media channels”, not more.

8 thoughts on “Nintendo Goes After Player’s YouTube Profits

  1. Pingback: May 16 – 17, 2013 | Stuff Jen Wrote
  2. This also has wide reaching and disturbing implications well beyond Nintendo. Markus Persson, the creator of Minecraft, recently tweeted “We had a meeting with YouTube and got told we could get a cut of all Minecraft video ad revenue. It was tempting.”

    Imagine if all or even most game companies took this stance. Let’s Playing would almost certainly be diminished to a fraction of it’s current state, and many LP’ers would be basically out of work. Fortunately, it looks like lots of game companies understand that these videos are basically free advertising, and I hope will leave them alone.

    This really goes to what is fair use. If a company wants to protect the brand or the IP, there should just be the option of either allowing or not allowing the game(s) to be used in LPs (and flagging videos made for removal). This kind of hijacking of revenue ought to be illegal, granted, the game itself is the companies, but the fact that the content is enhanced and materially altered by the production and commentary of the LPers means the gameplay itself is altered from what was intended by the game company, and therefore is a brand new product, and thus no longer the sole property of the game companies.

    A similar way to look at it would be to take a look at home improvement shows. Most of them do the occasional spotlight on a particular tool or home improvement system. The show buys or gets the item, shows it off, maybe uses it in a build, and gives a review on it, showing how it works, etc., but doesn’t alter the product in any way, in effect making it a “Let’s Build”. The company producing the item can’t go back to the television studio and state since the show used one of their products, they can now get all the ad revenue.

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