Nintendo has taken steps to “protect” their properties by claiming Content ID on various Lets Play YouTube videos. Now naturally this has led to many crying foul about Nintendo being a big meany blocking out all that ad revenue from those poor Lets Players, but lets sit back for a second and think about this. Does Nintendo have the right to issue content claims on video and audio they created? Of course they do. Now, is it really that bad of an idea to issue copyright claims on your work that someone else is profiting off of?
Yes, yes it is. It’s a catastrophically bad idea in ways they don’t seem to realize yet. In order to understand why this is a bad idea for everyone involved, we first have to understand how YouTubers make money on their videos and how Nintendo’s actions affect them.
YouTube has a revenue sharing program for videos that become popular or users that are apart of it’s YouTube Partner program. The gist of it is that when you upload a video that has revenue sharing enabled, an ad will be placed to the side of the video or one will play before the video starts. When someone clicks on that ad, the content creator and YouTube share the profits from that ad click. When you have only a few hundred viewers, this is usually a rather small amount. Get your video viewed over 500,000 times though and your profits become a sizable chunk.
What Nintendo has done is become apart of YouTube's Content ID system which allows them to find copyrighted Nintendo audio and video clips and tell YouTube what they want to happen to those videos that are using their content. What they’ve chosen is to allow videos to stay up that have Nintendo content, but anything gained with revenue sharing will now go to Nintendo instead of the original uploader of the video.
“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.”
Take special note of that last line where Nintendo compares themselves with other companies who would instead block certain videos. They’ve taken a moral high ground where they’re the user-friendly company who will let you post your Legend of Zelda walkthroughs without fear of reprisal. They do have a point about how restrictive other companies are (The WWE was so strict on YouTube that uploaders started reversing images and using code names like “Cheese Souffle” to try and stay under WWE’s radar), it shows how ignorant Nintendo is of why people watch videos from these YouTube personalities.
You see, people don’t follow people like JonTron and Zach Scott because they’re using in-game footage and audio. They’ve gained an audience by being personalities that are fun to watch. Nobody is watching these guys for the Nintendo games, but because people want to know their take on a product, what jokes they have to offer, and what insight that may have gone unexplored by others. Now that Nintendo is starting to take away ad money, these personalities are afraid to post anything related to Nintendo, which means Nintendo is now missing out on hundreds of thousands of views of their content they wouldn’t be getting with their own trailers. YouTubers lose out on ad revenue and Nintendo misses out on free advertising for negligible profit. This kind of lose-lose situation is especially sad when you consider how this could have been a far more profitable opportunity for Nintendo.
There are many game companies who understand what an untapped market YouTube can be for them. EA has tried to promote Battlefield and Dead Space using popular YouTube personalities while Muse Games invited people like PBG, Angry Joe, Criken, and Totalbiscuit to play in a Battle Royal to promote their Guns of Icarus Kickstarter. Hell, Sony is putting a “Share” button on the PS4. It’s easy to see why popular YouTubers would seem appealing to an advertiser. Not only will these YouTubers do the bulk of the work for you, but the communities that follow these personalities are very dedicated and loyal. If they see one of their favorite users playing a game and having fun with it, they’ll be more likely to consider that game than if they simply watched a commercial. Not every effort to monetize YouTube views is successful, however, so what could Nintendo do to not only win back the YouTube community, but work with them to increase everyone’s profits?
The vague nature of YouTube's Content ID system is what is causing the most problems, so why not create your own system to regulate videos based on your product? Nintendo could create a program of their own to let YouTubers become official Nintendo reps and give incentives for creating videos for products that could use a boost of public awareness, such as a smaller or new IP. At the very least, Nintendo could allow videos to go unaltered as long as they follow specific guidelines about how much footage they can use, what kind of videos they can be presented in (such as no Lets Plays, but top 10’s are okay), or even how far YouTubers are allowed to Lets Play a game for (something like no Lets Plays that go past a certain point in the story if the game hasn’t been out for X number of years). Just having a list like that would help clarify what is and is not okay with Nintendo and help ease YouTubers back into celebrating Nintendo instead of viewing it as an omnipresent entity looking to profit off of their hard work.
It’s always a thin line when it comes to policing your fans. Nintendo is showing a very old school business mentality of looking after their trademarks with the tenacity of a hundred wolverines, but the modern world is one where that’s become impossible. They think they’ve found a middle ground where they “reward” loyal fans by taking away their video profits, but this lack of understanding about the YouTube community will only serve to alienate their core fans even further and blind them from the opportunities of working together with people who know how to draw a crowd. They may not have blocked any of these videos, but Nintendo has blocked themselves out of YouTube. What a shame.
About Lance Icarus One of us since 6:09 PM on 08.26.2009
Hello, my name is Lance Icarus. I'm an avid video game enthusiast. I've been gaming ever since I got my Turbo-Grafx 16 when I was about five. I shortly got my hands on an NES and I never looked back. Here's a quick list of my favorite game per system. Keep in mind that these games may not be the best for their system, but are the games I have the best memories of.
Favorite Turbo-Grafx 16 game: Alien Crush
Favorite NES game: Bad News Baseball
Favorite SNES game: Saturday Night Slam Masters
Favorite N64 game: Harvest Moon 64
Favorite Gamecube game: Tales of Symphonia
Favorite PS2 game: God of War
Favorite Wii game (so far): No More Heroes
Favorite XBox 360 game (so far): Batman: Arkham Asylum
If you want to know more about me, feel free to drop me a line.