YouTube Is Soviet Russia — Where Nintendo Plays YOU

Is a New Dr. Mario in the Works? Because Nintendo is PUTTING ON A CLINIC

youtubeIf you missed the Nintendo/Let’s Play uproar this week, the outrage has been hilarious. Here’s the background:

  1. YouTube was sharing ad money with people who posted videos of themselves playing Nintendo games.
  2. Nintendo intervened so that YouTube no longer pays money to those people.

In the explosion of commentary (you’re reading some now!), there has been some fact-based reporting:

“The act is common for publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts, and Square Enix”
-Danny Cowan, Joystiq

Some armchair strategy from people who don’t work in the advertising business:

Homemade videos about gaming are about the best ads a company like Nintendo could hope for.
-Joe Mullin, Ars Technica

And a heartfelt airing of grievances from Zack Scott, who is no longer making as much money from his homemade YouTube videos:

I won’t be playing their games. I won’t because it jeopardizes my channel’s copyright standing and the livelihood of all LPers.
-Zack Scott, Facebook (emphasis added)

I would submit that Zack Scott and the “Let’s Play” enthusiasts (LPers) whose livelihoods are being threatened by this development were not using a very sound business model in the first place.

wiiuAnd while the future of consoles looks bleak, I don’t think we are at the catastrophically dire point where these YouTube videos are “the best ads… Nintendo could hope for.” For every one video that is well done and shows a game in a positive light, there are going to be a hundred that have poor sound quality, terrible editing, and/or commentary that is in complete opposition to Nintendo’s family-friendly image. Just because a single well-done video could help them IN THEORY, they should completely give up control over when and how the images from their games are used?

If Nintendo doesn’t act to establish a precedent, they will be screwed if they try to defend themselves against something objectionable that shows up in the future. “Your honor, Nintendo KNEW about these YouTube videos for years and did NOTHING, which is why my client should be allowed to […]”

PWAEBut when it comes to legal analysis, I’m going to defer to Greg Lastowka, co-director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law. He makes a point that everyone else has ignored:

YouTube should really be front and center in this dispute. Consider: YouTube created the various “livelihoods” at stake by starting its Partner Program; YouTube orchestrates and directly profits from the advertising monetization of Let’s Play videos; it is YouTube’s Content ID technology that is helping Nintendo to locate gameplay videos; and finally, Nintendo could never have usurped Zack Scott’s ad revenue streams if YouTube didn’t enable that action. YouTube is smack in the middle of this dispute, and it is playing on both sides of the field.
-Greg Lastowka, GamaSutra

There’s anger because Youtube thought it was a good idea to give people some money, and they don’t think that anymore. Zack says that fans want to hear his commentary and see how he reacts to certain parts of a game, but they aren’t the ones who were paying him. Zack and the others produced a bunch of content on spec, and those bets stopped paying off. If these people want to receive payment for the time spent recording, editing, and producing their videos, then they should get jobs as video editors. 

MarioIt’s not even clear that Nintendo is now receiving payment for these videos. They may only be exerting control over what ads are seen by viewers, which makes sense in a “these are people interested in Nintendo games, so let’s show them things they can buy” kind of way. It’s refreshingly clear-eyed and strategic thinking from a company that — only a few months ago — was desperately trying to convince the public that it’s latest console wasn’t some kind of software upgrade.

About B. Indifferent

Bitterly Indifferent is a belligerent hillbilly with a substandard internet connection. He is also a fan of retro gaming who has previously written about the state of games journalism and the intersection of games and family.