So a company finally goes all-out and starts taking in money from videos of people playing their content and suddenly there’s a shitstorm about it. For those not in the loop, Youtubers who do a lot of gaming content are considered Let’s Players (LPers for short). The term Let’s Play (derived from Let Us Play) is a term that began through a corner of the internet that has since become popular through major Youtube partnerships such as Achievement Hunter (which is a Rooster Teeth company) and the format of it is that a game is taken away and played over, usually with live commentary if it’s video content, and then edited together to make video content that millions of people watch every day across the world. And of course, these games were created by development teams who work hard to produce that content which these people are playing.
What some don’t know is that some channels make their money from producing video content, either through Youtube advertising or via approved licensing through official channels that involves a lot of legal contracting and negotiations beforehand. The majority of channels on Youtube are not company-funded, and so most of the time the advertising through Youtube is their main source of income for their Let’s Play production. This advertising revenue is based on the number of views the video gets (though I do not know the exact numbers – I have never monetized my videos and have no intentions of doing so in the future) and it’s this ad revenue that Nintendo are claiming the rights to, based on the fact that the game content is from their development network.
Frankly, I think it’s about time someone did.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am fully in support of people who provide good content through Let’s Plays and I wish them all the success in the world when it comes to their business. But there are certainly a lot of people out there who are either LPers or who consider themselves LPers but are really just screaming lunatics that are basically leeching money off game developers and are using the game content to advertise themselves – trying to enforce some claim that their personality, not the game itself, is what’s making their money. In fact, some have even gone so far as to claim their content deserves revenue from game developers, according to a Reddit post.
To me, there is no argument. Unless the game is actually your own development/production team showing off the game to the public and playing through it themselves or a company licensed to create content based off their IP, they are entitled to the ad revenue when 90% of the content of the video is their game. Even the Youtube ToS states that, while videos are subject to a fair use policy, they can still be subject to a copyright claim based on the content of the video. Which means that every content creator on Youtube agreed to these guidelines the moment they started promoting and uploading video content to Youtube itself. And since LP’s mostly only add an audio commentary over the gameplay (some also add live camera content and some are even subtitled commentary, giving viewers the complete audible track of the game content over their own voiceovers), the LPer’s contribution – while significant through editing and time expended – is not even comparable to the development team behind the game content.
I’m sure there are going to be claims out there that will branch out with the “I made this content, I should be entitled to something for it”. And perhaps they have some rights to at least a portion of the advertisement revenue – it may be something to be amended in Youtube’s policies in the future, particularly if other game development companies take the same stance and follow in the footsteps of Nintendo – but frankly if there is a shakedown on how advertisement revenue is distributed between development teams and LPers who wish to monetize video content they create using game content, I welcome it, because the development companies deserve recognition for their efforts regardless of the source, and nobody can take away from them the fact that they developed the game in the first place and are fully entitled to their rights to their content, even if played and shown by another entity.
I did an LP of Space Marine once. And I hope that Relic ends up getting the ad revenue from the four videos of the nineteen that got monetized for their content. I don’t want – or need – the money, and that’s a stance I hope many of the LPers out there take; “I support this game, and I created a Let’s Play of this game because I want others to experience my experiences of this game and to enjoy it for themselves.” I would say the same for movie creators and musical groups (in fact, in one video I used Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long” track in full and it’s correctly acknowledged by Youtube, and I’m in full support of that) and I don’t see why it should be any different in any other industry.
This is one case of “customer entitlement” that we definitely need to shed. And it’s about time, too.