The Average Gamer

Let’s Play… for Nintendo?

YouTube Content ID
Companies have been claiming copyright on YouTube video uploads for years. Thanks to YouTube’s increasingly sophisticated Content ID program algorithms, they can spot exactly when someone has uploaded their music video, film or game and take one of three options:

  1. Track: Viewership statistics will appear in the claimant’s YouTube Analytics account. The uploaded video will not be affected.
  2. Block: The video will either not be viewable on YouTube, or its audio will be muted. They may even choose to allow it in some regions but block in others.
  3. Monetise: Ads will appear on your video and all revenue will go to the claimant instead

I can understand why it’s reasonable for copyright holders to claim the revenue for themselves. There are plenty of videos up that use other people’s work with no commentary or credit. Our own WipeOut gameplay videos were taken by other channels and posted with the credits stripped off and if said channel had had thousands of views, you bet your ass I’d be making that monetisation claim. That was my trolling.

According to reports, Nintendo has been recently put out claims that cover Let’s Play videos. YouTuber Zack Scott has over 193,000 subscribers and 81 million views on his game channel. Nintendo have recently started claiming all the revenue on his videos. In a post on Facebook, he said:

I think filing claims against LPers is backwards. Video games aren’t like movies or TV. Each play-through is a unique audiovisual experience. When I see a film that someone else is also watching, I don’t need to see it again. When I see a game that someone else is playing, I want to play that game for myself! Sure, there may be some people who watch games rather than play them, but are those people even gamers?

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.

Zack Scott, Facebook.

While I can understand that Nintendo created the games and they do own the copyright, Scott has a point. As a streamer myself, I’d consider my broadcasts to be sufficiently transformative that they will not replace the original work – people who want to play the game won’t settle for watching video instead. My playthrough of, say, Metro: Last Light is a completely different experience to playing the game for yourself. It’s non-interactive and much of the value is derived from my actions and commentary within the game.

Scott and other YouTubers have built up a loyal fanbase and yes, they’re using creations from Nintendo and other game makers to do so. They’re also providing wholly original value that Nintendo somehow feels they own just because it’s done in a commercial setting. Rather than working with YouTubers to find a fair agreement, Nintendo are claiming the gamers’ entire source of revenue, as well as doing themselves out of free advertising. What better way to get exposure from your game than by having a popular and influential person be seen playing it? Instead, Scott could be playing another game that entertains his audience and pays for his time and energy.

Over on Develop, indie dev Mike Bithell explains the difference that YouTube makes with a story about Thomas Was Alone.

“…on January 1st, Total Biscuit did a WTF video about the game (TB isn’t a LPer, but he’s a YouTube game guy so he’s relevant). Thomas sold eight times more units than on launch day. In a matter of hours. I was outselling Assassin’s Creed 3 on Steam. And that’s not rare, every indie who’s received coverage from TB, or a Let’s Play from Pewdie or NerdCubed, has a similar story.”

Mike Bithell, Let’s Play Nintendo!

You only have to look at other companies like Valve Corporation or FTL or everyone listed here to realise that many game creators understand the benefits of supporting video playthroughs.

Nintendo could very easily resolve this by reaching out to YouTubers with revenue share agreements, or providing a broadcasters’ programme where people can sign up. I hope they see the light soon.