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Is YouTube killing the traditional games press? Exclusive
Is YouTube killing the traditional games press?
June 18, 2014 | By Mike Rose

June 18, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, YouTube

There's been a notable shift in the video game industry that many traditional game critics would rather turn a blind eye to than investigate.

It's the rise of the "YouTuber," pulling in hundreds and thousands of rabid fans and causing incredible traffic and sales spikes for game developers, while the written word continues to trundle along, looking more and more quaint with each passing day.

Getting covered by a big-name YouTuber is now essentially the dream of many game developers. The publicity someone like TotalBiscuit, NerdCubed or Northernlion can bring you compared to mainstay consumer websites like IGN, GameSpot and Game Informer is becoming increasingly significant.

A year ago, I would have advised any developer to get in touch with as many press outlets as possible, as soon as possible. I still advise this now, but with the following caveat: You're doing so to get the attention of YouTubers.

But view stats and subscribers numbers mean nothing without evidence that these videos are actually making a difference to the featured developers. Gamasutra got in contact with numerous devs to find out just how much of an impact YouTuber coverage had for them.

"When DanNerdCubed played Race The Sun and linked our Greenlight page, it had a bigger impact than all of the website coverage we'd had up to that point, combined."
"For sure, the biggest Youtubers have had a much bigger impact on our traffic and sales compared to the biggest sites we've been covered on," Aaron San Filippo, creator of Race the Sun told me.

"When DanNerdCubed played Race The Sun and linked our Greenlight page, it had a bigger impact than all of the website coverage we'd had up to that point, combined," he adds. "I'm also pretty sure that TotalBiscuit's coverage on our Steam launch day helped increase our week one sales a lot, which probably helped keep us on the Steam frontpage longer. If we're smart, we'll try to arrange this type of event more intentionally next time!"

Cliff Harris of Postitech Games, meanwhile, says that while it can be difficult to see any real correlation in the long-term, YouTuber coverage appears to trump traditional press coverage.

"I'm not really aware of any games site for whom coverage of your game will result in an immediately noticeable sales spike," he notes, "but I have seen that with a YouTube Let's Play."

"The vast majority of the smaller Let's Play channels don't really generate enough immediate sales," adds the Democracy 3 dev, "but they still increase awareness of the game and that definitely helps."

Borut Pfeifer of Skulls of the Shogun studio 17-BIT agrees that, while it's difficult to present concrete figures on the differences between traditional press and YouTuber coverage, "it's hard to deny the impact."

"Most indie game success stories on PC in the last year or two have had predominant YouTube coverage," he notes. "With Skulls we definitely sought people out and sent out hundreds of review codes to YouTubers, which is a lot more time consuming than regular press because they don't have consistent contact info."

"Most indie game success stories on PC in the last year or two have had predominant YouTube coverage."
One big Russian YouTuber called eligorko covered the game, as did several other smaller Russian YouTubers, and Pfeifer believes this coverage is the main reason why Russia is Skulls of the Shogun's second biggest country for units sold.

"Although that came about randomly (we hadn't sent review copies there), because it's even more difficult to find and reach out to international YouTubers," he adds.

UK dev Dan Pierce has found that YouTuber influence has varied depending on the specific game. When his team released Castles in the Sky last year, the biggest sales spikes came from Rock Paper Shotgun and Giant Bomb, while YouTuber coverage brought "very few additional sales."

"The game was recently covered by someone with over 120,000 subscribers, and we only sold about thirteen additional units from that," he notes, adding that this may be down to the fact that Castles in the Sky is just a 10-minute long game, and not so suited to the Let's Play audience.

However, his quick reactions game 10 Second Ninja has told a different story.

"As far as I've seen, we haven't had a significant spike from written press, but we have seen spikes from YouTube," he says. "Specifically, getting covered by Total Biscuit gave us a sales spike that roughly mirrored the game being on sale for a week. Getting covered by Dan NerdCubed brought in a bump of about half that, despite his video having roughly 100k more views."

So it sounds like YouTubers, at worst, will bring in the same level of traffic as traditional press, while if you're covered by a giant YouTuber, you can expect a rather lovely sales spike that no traditional press outlet can compare with.

Does this mean, then, that you should focus more on getting covered by YouTubers, and treat traditional press as a secondary marketing mission?

"As far as I've seen, we haven't had a significant spike from written press, but we have seen spikes from YouTube."
Fortunately, it would appear that myself and many others are still in a job -- at least for now -- as developers are finding that traditional press has advantages that YouTubers cannot bring to the table.

"Getting coverage on, say, Polygon or RPS is a lot easier than getting someone like Totalbiscuit or NorthernLion to take a couple hours to play your game," notes San Filippo. "And obviously, these guys often read about games on these sites, so I think it'd be a mistake to neglect either avenue!"

YouTubers regularly choose to play games that are already in the spotlight, he reasons, and as such traditional press is important in getting the attention of YouTubers in the first place.

"I guess the biggest difference is that you can't quantify the quality as easily any more, since Youtubers often don't give a score," notes Joel Nystrom of Ittle Dew studio Ludosity. "So you can't put 'TotalBiscuit: 9.5' but instead you need to put an actual quote on your promo material. This is probably better anyway - I've always though quantifying such subjective things are quite silly."

Cliff Harris adds, "YouTubers can be a bit hit-and-miss, and a lot of them are looking for a particular type of game, which is something, funny, visually impressive or with something that is interesting to a viewer rather than a gamer."

His own brand of strategy game, for example, appear to translate better to the written word than YouTube videos.

"For example, how many Let's Play videos of Civilization have you watched?" he adds. "It's a fairly boring game to watch, let's be honest, but a great game to play. So for people like me, there isn't as big a shift to YouTube as for other developers."

And 10 Second Ninja's Dan Pearce plans to get both YouTubers and traditional press for his next game -- he notes that establishing your brand requires both avenues of exposure, and adds, "I can't think of a situation where both shouldn't be heavily considered."

"I wouldn't be surprised if YouTube became the most common way people choose to get information on the games that they want to play, if it hasn't already."
"That said, I wouldn't be surprised if YouTube became the most common way people choose to get information on the games that they want to play, if it hasn't already," he reasons. "Video content is so much easier for a lot of people to digest. It requires a lot less focus, allowing people to play games and learn about games at the same time, if they want. That's a big deal, and it's important for indies to keep an eye on that transition."

Outside of simply exposure, Pfeifer of 17-BIT believes that YouTubers are having an impact on modern games in ways that traditional criticism maybe hasn't before. For example, the popularity of roguelikes, randomization, and hardcore titles amongst YouTubers has led to a large number of these sorts of games popping up.

"All those elements make a game very watchable," he notes. "Each video is different, dramatic, and a YouTuber can pick up a game like that and know if they like it they can get a good series out of it."

It's clear, then, that many developers are now very focused on the YouTuber shift, while cautiously keeping up the usual back-and-forth with traditional press. I wanted to get the perspectives of a couple of big-name video game YouTubers, to gauge their thoughts on the current seismic shift that's occurring.

Ryan Letourneau is a prominent YouTuber with over 315,000 subscribers. Best known as Northernlion, he's been recording videos and livestreams of games for several years now.

"If you compare it to what it was like a couple of years ago, a lot of developers didn't really know that there was this huge YouTube gaming sphere," he tells me.

"Two years ago was not even that long ago in the grand scheme of things, even with the fast-moving industry. So it took a little bit more convincing of being like 'This is what I do, and I'm not just a kid trying to snag a copy of a free game off you.'"

Back then, Letourneau would be constantly on the prowl for new games to play, emailing back and forth with developers and reaching into the depths of the web for his content. Nowadays he usually pulls most of the games he covers from emails and PR, and he rarely has to go out and actively find games to play.

"If you compare it to what it was like a couple of years ago, a lot of developers didn't really know that there was this huge YouTube gaming sphere."
"I think developers are way more aware of the power of the industry, and the fact that you're probably more likely to get coverage if you cast a really wide net and contact 150 YouTubers, versus if you only contact 20 standard websites that all pretty much cover the same stuff," he adds.

He notes that some people still turn their noses up at YouTubers covering games -- big-name sites like IGN or GameSpot carry more clout and prestige, he reasons, and are treated as a brand compared to a lot of YouTubers, many of whom sport non-professional sounding names.

"There are some times when I think I should just start up a blog and do text transcripts of my first impressions style videos, because people take it more seriously," he adds. "And for a while, especially a couple of years ago, publishers were be asking how many uniques I had, or what my Alexa rank was. Or they were like, 'Are you on Metacritic?' And it's funny to see sites that get, like, 1,000 hits a day getting super early access to games from big publishers thanks to these PR policies, because they're on Metacritic."

What can devs do, then, to get Letourneau's attention, and how can you raise your chances of getting covered by a YouTuber? One important point is to get in touch with YouTubers well before your game is released, as promptness is everything.


"Emails two weeks after a game's released are tricky," he says. "You feel bad, but there are so many games that come out on Steam now, you really gotta be around your window of launch, otherwise it becomes very difficult to convince people to play your game because there's always forty games coming out next week that are going to be more likely to garner attention just by virtue of the fact that they're new."

"And it's very video specific," Letourneau adds, "but copywritten music is a problem sometimes. There is this situation with Tropico 5 where they licensed a bunch of music, and everybody who is posting video content for Tropico 5 was getting content ID matches, which means that money goes to the composer of the song, rather than Calypso or the YouTube creator. So copywritten music is a big issue."

First impressions are also everything, he reasons -- usually he plays an hour of a game before he decides whether or not it's worth recording for a video, so if your game doesn't entertain thoroughly for the first 60 minutes, there's a chance you'll get dropped in favor of something better.

"There are some times when I think I should just start up a blog and do text transcripts of my first impressions style videos, because people take it more seriously."
Jesse Cox is another big deal in the world of video game YouTubers. His 640,000 army of subscribers rack up tens of thousands of views for his episodic content, and he tends to focus on one or two games at a time, producing dozens of episodes before moving on to a new set of games.

"I may differ from most YouTube commenters talking about an issue like this," he offers. "I think much of the 'importance' of YouTubers in the gaming world is perpetuated by YouTubers wanting to be important in the gaming world."

YouTuber coverage can potentially make or break an indie game, he reasons, but when it comes to big publishers and AAA developers, most of the big-name don't actually care about YouTubers.

Take E3, for example -- Cox found that, while he received invites from publishers to visit booths and play games, he clearly was not given the same access as the traditional press.

"You can get invites, and yes, you will be shown around booths, but you will never have the access that traditional media has," he says. "Because the people in charge of these companies still respond to them far more than they will ever respond to you."

Jesse Cox

Having said that, he adds, "In the last year or so they have been reaching out. Which gives us hope. But to say that YouTubers are as important as written press I think is a misnomer. To indie games, yes, very much so. But the big AAA companies are still not sure what to make of us."

How does an indie studio go about getting covered by Cox, then? The YouTuber notes, quite bluntly, that the hype surrounding a game before release can have a great impact on whether it gets YouTubed or not.

"While I loved Child of Light for example, none of my audience wanted to watch it," he explains. "Other times I want to play things like South Park and everyone watches. I think it's more about the popularity of the subject matter and the hype behind the game."

"To say that YouTubers are as important as written press I think is a misnomer. To indie games, yes, very much so. But the big AAA companies are still not sure what to make of us."
"Which would make it very easy to just pump out the games people are talking about at the moment - many YouTubers just do that. And I wish them all the best. But, I will continue to play games that interest me, and the internet is welcome to come along for the ride."

Bisnap is a notable YouTuber with a big focus on finding games he loves, and then recording long-running episodic series for each. His 75,000 strong subscriber base enjoy watching games like Paranautical Activity, Nuclear Throne, The Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain and more.

"I think that the shift is just showing how people most want to consume content right now," the YouTuber reasons. "It makes sense to me with video games, since most people want to know what the game might feel like to play, but each person looks for something different."

"Being able to see the game in motion helps put a viewer in the player's shoes to see if a game is enjoyable for that viewer," he adds, "even if his or her one main concern isn't addressed."

Videos can help give a consumer a quick verdict on a game, or go into detail breaking down exactly what the game is about, and talk to people in ways that the written word can sometimes fail to do.

Bisnap"Another thing that helps for some people is that they can hear the YouTuber speaking, from a tone and personality perspective, but also from a voice perspective," Bisnap says. "It's nice to hear pretty clearly if something said is meant to be positive or negative, and a lot of people enjoy particular YouTubers' styles of delivering lines or wording thoughts, which, for most people, is compounded by hearing the voice behind it."

Bisnap has a clear passion for roguelike elements, so he's far more likely to cover that kind of game. It's a point well worth noting - YouTubers regularly focus on particular genres or game styles, so if you're getting in contact with dozens at a time, you might want to consider making sure your game fits their forte.

Having said that, he tells me that he's partial to covering the odd hardcore 2D platformer. Making sure you research the YouTubers you send your game to is important, but you might want to try and take a chance here and there where it makes sense.

"Being able to see the game in motion helps put a viewer in the player's shoes to see if a game is enjoyable for that viewer," he adds, "even if his or her one main concern isn't addressed."
"Usually if I don't cover a game it's because I don't like what I play as a whole," he adds, "or because the game is just not a genre I'm experienced or interested in, since I'm not well suited to cover a game like that."

Here's what I've learnt then: Getting YouTubers to cover your game is incredibly important, and can bring serious traffic and sales. At the same time, traditional press outlets are equally important to hit up for coverage since, not only do they offer "official" press, but they also often advise YouTubers on what to cover next.

So what's the best step to getting through to YouTubers? You might want to start off by hitting up all the usual press outlets and getting some coverage there, before you go and visit the Big List of YouTubers on Video Game Caster, and fire your game in the direction of as many YouTubers as possible.

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Gil Salvado
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GameTrailers has been the reason why I abbandoned printed game reviews. Why should I read something, if have the option to watch it instead? "Show. Don't tell." works for reviews as well.

If I really want a good commented or uncommented gameplay video, I hit some channels on youtube and know I find what I'm looking for.

Rob Wright
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I abandoned written game reviews too, but for entirely different reasons (an imbalanced scoring scale, generally poor writing, uninspired critical takes, etc.) I do think a lot of video/YouTube content is incredibly valuable and find myself consuming more of it these days, but NOT in place of critical analysis. For me, YouTube has replaced game trailers (which I never really watch) and traditional walkthroughs (which is what I often describe conventional reviews as being).

On a related note, it's ironic that this article dropped on the same day as Polygon's editorial update, in which they state they're cutting back on long form features and video productions.:(

Jonathan Murphy
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I share your views. What blew my mind was watching great indie games get 1/10 scores because their trailers were awful, yet the games reviewed and sold well. But the Dead Island trailer gets a user score 9/10, launches as a broken, buggy, deceptive mess. That community was toxic for game designers to gleam what the consumer wants. Anyone remember the bonus round where they said 3d TVs are the future?

Maria Jayne
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The thing about an article is that it describes an opinion. Then you as a consumer have to balance multiple opinions and make a review on those reviewers's actually silly. Especially when those opinions have all kinds of bias you are not privy to.

Now you can go to the source and see the game being played and judge for yourself, if it reminds you of something you have previously enjoyed, or indeed looks like something you might enjoy. You may even spot something you don't like, such as a cover mechanic, ui design etc.

Of course we see how dangerous this "source" is sometimes, games like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Watch Dogs are synonymous with presenting games that were better looking before release than after. Which shows marketing is already targeting those who don't read p/reviews.

Kujel Selsuru
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Ah marketing the bane of mankinds existence :p

Aaron Dave
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You can say that again.

Saurian Dash
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It's actually a really good thing that people are moving away from the "traditional" gaming press and towards people on YouTube. The biggest problem with the gaming press today is that they do not make any money from printed media, all of their revenue comes from advertising hosted on their websites. Due to this, these entities blatantly give favourable coverage to the organisations paying the bills via ad revenue.

On top of this, there is an attitude which has become prevalent within the gaming press which dictates that games be treated as "experiences" and a review has basically become a narrative account of one person's "experience" of a game, rather than critique of the game itself. This is very damaging to the gaming medium because, as we know, narrative is often conflated with game design by both the gaming press and the gaming audience. This stifles the art of game design because this attitude has bred an audience who do not expect mechanical depth in games, an audience which does not expect games to hold up to (or even encourage) repeated play.

Games which have a very high skill ceiling and mechanical depth which demand play over a long period are being completely misrepresented and misunderstood by the gaming press. This in turn puts the potential audience of the game off buying it, which in turn discourages developers from really pushing the boat out with advanced and deep play mechanics. Expert players on YouTube are the greatest assets developers of mechanically deep games have, these players have the knowledge, passion and sheer skill to pick apart the best game systems and present them to the gaming audience. These players do not give an account of their "experience" based on limited knowledge of a system, they first learn the game system and then present what they can do with it.

This dynamic mimics my experience of playing games in the arcades when I was growing up. Many games I would play wouldn't appeal to me very much, simply because I didn't understand them. But upon watching a high-level player do the game justice, it always completely turned my impression of the game around. This is what needs to be done in regards to the gaming press of today.

The players on YouTube are like the high-level players who would do the arcade games justice, these guys excelled at mastering abstract systems and enjoyed games for being games. These guys had no problem with abstract control methods or play mechanics, the would enjoy each game based on the mechanics of that game. These guys were the most valuable customers because they would predominantly play JAMMA based games, cheaper hardware which could easily be swapped out and updated maintaining the use of the same cabinet.

The gaming press are the equivalent of the people who used to stand around awkwardly in the arcades, not quite knowing what the appeal is. They would instead need to have games "justified" to them, it had to be a representation of a real life activity, and they judged these games based upon how well they mimic this activity. These people would only play games with massively expensive dedicated hardware with loads of mechanical moving parts which required regular maintenance. It was the "non-game" elements of these machines which made them so damn expensive to maintain.

This analogy is what I believe fits what's going on with gaming today. The gaming audience need to take the conversation surrounding new games away from the gaming press, so that we can appreciate games for being games again. The gaming press do not represent what gaming is about, I believe YouTube is a powerful tool which we can use to take the conversation surrounding new games back to where it belongs.

Jennis Kartens
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"It's actually a really good thing that people are moving away from the "traditional" gaming press and towards people on YouTube. The biggest problem with the gaming press today is that they do not make any money from printed media, all of their revenue comes from advertising hosted on their websites. Due to this, these entities blatantly give favourable coverage to the organisations paying the bills via ad revenue. "

How do you think YouTubers make their money? Love and air? It's 100% advertisement, buy-ins from companies paying for certain videos. It is way worse as any print/online magazine.

Ruthaniel van-den-Naar
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I think (and i could be wrong), that youtubers paid indirectly from Google, per view, not directly from particular company.
So difference is huge.

Pedro Fonseca
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Each case's a case.

Yes, they do get paid by Google due to views, but there are also ads and perhaps commissioned episodes/series and there is zero way to tell which is which or which generates more money unless the youtuber comes clean.

And that, quite honestly, is indeed a worry. Not only due to the "sheep" consumer just blindly following his fav youtuber who got paid to cover a bad/bland game without actually thinking about it (because even bad things can be made to seem fun and vice-versa).

But also that due to their freelancer-like nature, I don't think there is much in the way of what they can and cannot say or what they ought to show.

Still, traditional game press wasn't all that much better, which is a big reason why this happened in the first place. All a crazy amorphous cycle I suppose...

Saurian Dash
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Jennis Kartens: I run a moderately sized YouTube channel with monetisation enabled. I know exactly how YouTubers make money and where it comes from.

TC Weidner
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but still, Why would I want to have someone "explain" the game and what they experienced by playing, when instead I can watch someone play it and make up my own mind as to what Im seeing. Unless they are doing some fancy editing on the fly, the video aint gonna lie, which cant always said for other media.

Jennis Kartens
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Saurian Dash: How much views do you have? What network do you belong to? In which country is your channel based? What is your channels name?

Plenty of factors that are relevant for the monetarization. Far more intransparent stuff happening in the background no viewer ever knows about.

@ Ruthaniel van-den-Naar

That was a rethorical question. YouTubers are paid either directly via ads from Google AdSense or via a share they get from the network they belong to (usually less, depending on the channels size) which then again gets the money from Google.

Another concern is the numbers game. The channel itself gets the overview, for example how long people are watching and when they leave. But on the outside you basically have two flawed numbers: views and subs. Subs are entirely irrelevant, since there is no way to tell how many of those actually are active or do watch your videos. Also they can be easy manipulated. Views as such say nothing about how long people watch, if they stay with the video from a-z (which gives more money) and other factors such as embedding your video externally are still some mystery.

I get that this is a quick way for everyone to get a good glimpse of what a game is all about, but this has nothing to do with journalism (I know that that one is lacking in ordinary media as well, though some at least try) but is a basic buyers guide at best, and often just silly entertainment.

In either way there are many concerns, more as in traditional media. Most major publishers currently reserve the right to claim your videos at any time. A lot of stuff is not permitted, such as cutscenes or third party music. Copyright comes fast into the game of YouTube videos too.

TC Weidner
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journalism? we are taking about game reviews, not journalism. If people want to be journalist there are is stunning lack of journalist in the world, and an amazing amount of important topics that go uncovered everyday, pretty sure we dont need journalist to tell me about the gameplay features of the latest mobile/console game. All I need is to see the game with my own two eyes, often I dont even have or need sound on in these you tube videos.

Jim Bo
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Isn't the industry big enough and audience diverse enough to allow both games that are mechanically deep and easier experience oriented games to co-exist?

It seems that you believe that only one type of game should be made and existence of other types of games are actively harming other genres. I don't think this is the case.

Dane MacMahon
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Seriously, what is "gaming journalism" anyway? Regurgitating press releases and writing opinion pieces isn't really what most would call journalism.

Larry Carney
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As a writer and a novelist it is rather grating to read a review for a game and come across what appears to be an English Lit. 101 essay instead of being informed as to whether or not the game will actually work on launch day for my $60.

Added to that how from their own Lets Plays or their own words many gaming journalists are admittedly terrible at playing video games, and some part of me simply pines for the days when Nintendo Power would come in the mail and I could just drool over glossy photos of upcoming releases and experience writers who (shills or not) had the ability to convey to the audience a love for the fun to be found in gaming, because if I wanted to know what to actually play I would just ask around the school yard.

That latter part just appears to be a role that YouTube and Lets Plays have now taken on as the form and gamers have matured.

As for the game reporters?

I miss them reporting on the games, not their damn feelings.

Jennis Kartens
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@TC Weidner

I wasn't talking about reviews. But I entirely agree (with Dane too). Journalism as such is seldom found in game related sites or magazines.

BUT, and that is the point here, YouTube videos and YouTube as a platform as such is neither the answer nor the remedy here. As I pointed out, a lot is drifting in even worse directions.

Fine for me, if you just want a quick look onto what to buy next. I said so. Buyers guide, fine. But overall, this development has to be seen with critical eyes as well and not just with consumer eyes.

It is, or can be, a good addition. And in your case, it is obviously all you need. As for many other players as well. Not for me and especially not with the background that I know of consisting of a lot of unkown factors as I mentioned if you'd read my entire text.

Michael Ball
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"As for the game reporters?

I miss them reporting on the games, not their damn feelings."

THIS x 1000 gorillion

Benjy Davo
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I agree with Maria when she says that game journalists got into this mode of being overly descriptive about their own personal experiences of the game in a way that wasn't related to game design/tech etc. It was a style that rose up as it was seen as being more creative and I would imagine the journalist had more fun expressing themselves this way.

However it is not what most gamers look for when they want to know about a game. Most gamers simply want to know is it fun? does it work on my platform of choice? how much does it cost to buy? The super personal experience of one person or even 50 in relation to a game that sells millions isn't really all that helpful.

In fact there are entire mediums for which critics don't really hold that much sway. Everyone and their mother knows Michael Bay movies are tripe and review poorly yet he's a triple figure millionaire with many blockbusters in his filmography. Most literary critics consider Dan Brown a terrible writer worthy of scorn yet he too has had mainstream success.

That's before you even get to the over abundance of "social issues" articles that simply rile gamers and game makers alike. When really they are really just things that happen in life across the piece and are not specific to games development.

Michael Joseph
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I think you're mixing two separate types of journalism.

1) Players when trying to determine if a particular game is something they wish to buy are finding youtube increasingly more helpful for this purpose than written reviews.

2) Investors, developers, hardcore fans, and students of game development/design/business are still visiting games journalism sites to help increase their own literacy of the medium, expand their knowledge of the industry, it's people and it's history, and gain a deeper understanding of games' impacts on society.

I think this article was really just concerned about #1. The people interested in #2 are always going to be willing to invest the time in reading the printed word.

Benjy Davo
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There's definitely a difference in audience between pewdiepie and Gamasutra/ no doubt about it.

However I suspect you are overrating the more mainstream game websites who are just as prone to juvenile, misinformed content as the lets play guys. As a person who has been on the mod scene, been a full blown game artist and now picking up freelance contracts here and there I look at many game websites and it is obvious that they are still fundamentally ignorant to how games are made, budgets, technical limitations the full gamut.

I wouldn't trust their version of game history either. I mean how many times have people been given credit for games they weren't a key team member of? I remember for years they used to give Warren Spector full credit for Thief when he never actually worked on the game and was simply given a thank you credit. He even went out of his way to explain he had left Looking Glass by the time Thief came out but for years after it happened still.

Alan Barton
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@"Everyone and their mother knows Michael Bay movies are tripe"

For the record, I like some of Michael Bay's movies. :)

Each to their own, but I do find its often fashionable to criticize successful films, because they are not "artistic" enough. (Clearly if they are popular, then a lot of people do like them). But it is interesting how often "Artistic" gets treated as if its the antithesis of "Popular".

Anyway that brings me to my main and very related point, the nature of criticism online and how they differs with print press. I think the one big worry that unites almost all games developers is the fear of a bad review online from a very powerful youtuber. It really is a case of "with great power, comes great responsibility".

Its a big worry when popular youtubers go for the cheap laugh or worse, go into a mock rant at something in a game that has taken a huge amount of time to create. They literally hold our hopes, dreams and frankly our future in their hands and I don't think some youtubers realise the power of their words to destroy as well as create. A good review can help a game sell but a bad review can leave a very bad impression on the minds of a lot of gamers, many of which may never spend or have the time to find out more about that game.

I still think video reviews are the way to go, and I think they will help diminish an already weakened print press, because I can see the game running, but I do think the majority of the older print press were for the most part, a bit more restrained in their depth of criticism, but online anything seems to go and that is a worry.

Personally I try to seek out youtube reviewers who try really hard to be balanced and analytical for the vast majority of their reviews, which I really appreciate, because then when they are critical of some aspect of a game, it carries more impact that it really is something that perhaps does need to be fixed.

(I have yet to really go through a youtube reviewer with one of my games (as the last indie game I done on my own was released in 2002 ... but Iím working on going back into these shark infested waters soon :) ... but anyway, I do feel sorry for some games developers when I see some of their games being reviewed and played on youtube and it is frankly a big worry.

Colin Boswell
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I would have to disagree that #2 lies primarily in the traditional games media. As far as literacy of the medium, It's virtually unheard of for a traditional games site to publish something as in-depth as a Mathewmatosis critique, or a Super Bunnyhop Critical Closeup. That kind of thing just hasn't existed in gaming media, outside of possibly game academics which I am not overly familiar with. While traditional games media outlets were still praising Bioshock Infinite, Chris Franklin and John Bain had already posted long, scathing critiques of the mechanics and narrative. Insightful criticism has never been something you could find on the mainstream sites.

As far as gaining insight into the people and history of the industry, is there any traditional games media source doing coverage as exhaustive and in-depth as 'Matt Chat' or 'Sup Holmes?' on youtube? For every article like 'Knights of New Vegas' from Jason Schreier, there are tens of hour+ interviews with influential and marginal game developers alike on these channels. Not to mention the fact that game developers can now speak directly to the fans through social media and aggregation websites like reddit. There's no need to read the Kotaku recap of that thing Notch said when the original post is on the first page of r/games and neogaf. Gamasutra is a great source of industry information, but I don't consider them as being in the same category as IGN and friends.

For gaining a deeper understanding of gaming's impact on society, I would leave it to real journalists outside of the games industry to research and report on that.

I would argue that for "hardcore" gamers, the traditional sites have become mostly obsolete. Not that there aren't good writers producing good material, but I don't have the time to actually browse to those sites and filter through all the blogspam and copypaste news, when the really good articles will be shared on social media anyway.

Ian Bogost
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Brian Young
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The traditional games press is dead. Long live the traditional Youtube games press.

George Menhal III
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The YouTubers I watch regularly and subscribe to are mainly just commenters on industry news, and they do it in a very down-to-earth way. Most of these guys have a very natural sense of humor that quite often reminds me of hanging out and talking games with my real-life friends: guys like TheRealHard8Times and ReviewTechUSA.

But I wouldn't say these guys are killing traditional games press. First of all, they don't have anywhere near the level of access they would need to have to really dig deep and give me the interesting stories I crave. A great example is the "Infinite Idaho" piece that went way past surface level and was a bio on Ken Levine of Irrational Games. This was published in 2012/2013 through Polygon.

Essentially, I like both avenues of games press, but I go to these different sources seeking much different content. YouTube guys are entertaining, but I would hardly call it serious journalism.

Dane MacMahon
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I make all my game purchase decisions based on youtube (or similar) clips. Giant Bomb and TotalBiscuit are the ones I watch most often, but often they're slow to get to something so I will just search for gameplay footage. Unedited gameplay footage is by far the best way to see what a game is like before purchasing.

There's also the simple fact written reviews and similar coverage don't really focus on PC gaming, so we have to look elsewhere. That's a new WW2 stealth game Eurogamer reviewed today and they spent half the review focusing on ugly graphics and technical issues, but they reviewed the game on Xbox 360 and didn't even mention the PC version. How am I supposed to know if those issues carry over? Often times they don't.

So yeah, youtube is replacing a lot of written games coverage for me, for sure. That said, I'll still always check the gaming headlines in the morning, scanning over new announcements and such. Youtube will never be good for that.

Jim Burns
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Killing it? no

Paul Grzymkowski
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In some ways isn't the YouTube poster like an indie artist, or indie game developer? Raw and unfiltered as they are not bound to any standard or publisher. They are essentially an "indie reviewer". With such a low barrier of entry and no journalistic integrity guidelines to follow, accordingly the results can be awful, or occasionally pretty good.

While the proliferation of indie artists and indie game developers has certainly impacted the world of traditional record and game publishing, these businesses haven't (all) gone away. Instead they adapted and focused on their strengths. That evolution can be challenging, but as a consumer in some ways I feel these creative industries are better off as a result with more content variety, and the quality standards that grow organically from more competition for our attention.

Matt Hackett
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I can confirm the impact of YouTubers, as our recent Steam launch A Wizard's Lizard has been featured by NorthernLion:

Dave Hoskins
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Advertising in magazines is hideously expensive in the UK, plus the lead time is unfortunate, and the potential user / reader cannot click on the advert and learn more.
I haven't bought a magazine in years, YouTube is the best way to advertise stuff, plus you can make money with adverts yourself if you want to.
This change has been happening for years, with all kinds of subjects and hobbies.

Bart Stewart
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I guess I'm an outlier again.

As a game consumer, I don't watch Let's Plays. I haven't even heard of some of the YouTubers mentioned in this article.

When I'm curious about a game, I look for thoughtful analysis, which I can consider at my own pace, of game features that are relevant to my interests. Videos -- "Let's Play"-type videos in particular -- are terrible at that.

Watching a video requires me to sit through long stretches of self-indulgent babbling and non-stop profanities which provide zero useful information. And because the YouTuber is fiddling distractedly with the game as they talk, their commentary is usually only surface-deep. Younger commenters, with more enthusiasm than experience, also don't have the knowledge to usefully contrast the game they're playing with pre-console era games beyond the occasional name-check.

I like words. Words concentrate ideas so that deep information can be taken in relatively quickly. If that leaves me dependent on the dinosaur media, that's a deal I'm willing to make. I'll find the writers whom I can trust to effectively articulate what matters about a *game*, rather than people who just happen to yell about games as a convenient hook for self-promotion.

Video game journalists: you're welcome. :)

Dane MacMahon
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Lots of preconceptions here. "Let's Play" videos vary in quality and analysis the same as written evaluations do. Also when most people think "Let's Play" they think of a game played from beginning to end for the purposes of entertainment. Most of the videos being discussed in this article and ones like it are about a simple 30 minute or so showing of what the game is, with analysis about how it plays and such. A lot of gaming websites are doing this now too, because it's so popular.

Bart Stewart
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No preconceptions.

1. I don't find videos or audiobooks useful because those media, by their very form, prevent me from getting the information I want as quickly as from text.

2. I don't watch Let's Play-type videos now because the ones I have watched have exhibited the qualities I described. And as more people go this route over actually writing down coherent thoughts, the signal-to-noise ratio is not likely to improve.

Stephen Korrick
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I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way, Bart!

I find that most of the YouTube personalities I've been exposed to communicate in a way that strikes me as superficial and uninteresting, and I honestly don't have the patience to spend 30 minutes watching their gameplay footage when I can read a few articles by more articulate reviewers I know I can trust in the same time frame.

Then again, I also can't bring myself to watch video tutorials for any sort of technical learning - I'd much rather combine experimentation with text-only tutorials. It's just so much faster for me.

Maybe we're just odd ducks. :)

Dane MacMahon
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1) I love writing, in fact my first degree was in English Lit and I was a volunteer English teacher for years. However I can't imagine any argument making sense that says paragraphs explain a game better than unedited gameplay video does.

2) "I watched some shows on television and didn't like them, so television sucks and there are no good shows worth finding."

Bart Stewart
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Dane, I don't mind disagreement, but I feel like you're not giving fair consideration to the reasons I've explained for my opinion.

1a. You're still not directly addressing my point that watching someone's video means you can only get information at whatever speed they give it to you. You are a hostage to their delivery. But you can *read* at your own speed.

1b. Watching a game being played by someone else has some value. For me, that value is frequently lower than reading a description of a game that goes beyond just commenting about visible mechanics. Good journalism (of any kind) is not a surface-level recitation of bare facts, although it starts there -- it analyzes those facts; it considers other relevant facts; it gives those facts a context so that you can decide what the whole thing means to you.

The closest thing I've seen to that in video form is Yahtzee's "Zero Punctuation." He doesn't waste my time by showing me every tedious moment of play or by telling me what he just had for lunch: instead, he briefly explains the typical gameplay and then dissects it with laser accuracy, providing me with not just the bare "what" but the much more important "why."

I don't need an hour of someone talking at me to get that "why it matters" information. That's what I value: not an interminable play-by-play of mechanics, but the overall experience of a game in the context of other games. A good piece of written game journalism, whose author actually introspected long enough to understand what a game meant to them and why, and who made the effort to communicate that knowledge succinctly and coherently, is far more useful to me.

2. Why the sarcasm? Have I offended you personally in some way?

I'm open to recommendations for examples of video game journalism that satisfy my interests in brevity and meaning. If there are sources whose work is highly condensed, that are about the game and not the speaker, and that deliver genuinely thoughtful observations about the game as a whole rather than a long series of "I'm clicking this button now" moments, I'd be willing to try them.

I have no problem saying I was wrong if the kind of game journalism I value is really the norm for YouTubers and I've just not seen it. So far, I see no evidence that that's the case. If that's caused me to miss a few gems amid the dross, that's my loss... but it's not a refutation of my opinion that *most* "Let's Plays" do not briefly deliver the information that really matters about a game.

James Gibbs
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I think a lot of people don't put on the video and solely focus on the video. It's something that is on while you are doing something else and more heavily focus on the parts that interest you the most.

Kenneth Wesley
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Most of it is due to the amount of games available. No one site or magazine can specialize the staggering amount of games available these days, at least not the way the magazines used to. This missing specialization or expertise in certain genres, play schemes leads to a lot of writers not covering specific games other people need opinions or insight on. And forces current journalists no choice to cover what brings in the attention. That's not to say I've used videos in helping me make purchasing decisions. I will always support smart, informative reviews from print and online over some person showing gameplay snippets.

Also, Nintendo should get some blame for this. Had the put ads in magazines and websites, the coverage would've been there instead of just making Nintendo Power the only place they advertised. Even major movie studios, tv studios, record companies still advertise in outlets that are harsh to them. So, despite how genius their Digital Event and Nintendo Treehouse was, them cutting out the journalism aspect just insures that there's very little of a future of game writers.

Mike Higbee
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The problem most people have with the traditional printed media be it magazine or web format is there is so few actual journalists and so much more reposting of marketing emails.
Even the op-ed pieces tend to be poorly researched or show obvious bias.
Reviews often don't offer what type of games the reviewer usually plays/likes nor how long they actually spent with the game, nor do they usually offer any unedited gameplay footage (usually just a couple screenshots or the trailer for the game which usually has no gameplay).
The advantage of gamers covering stuff from a gamers perspective knowing what the traditional gaming media ignores already puts them at an advantage.

Albert Thornton
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While many are limiting this discussion to reviews, I think we're also seeing general game 'journalism' die as well.


Because of game 'journalists'.

After E3 I didn't read a lot about the games themselves, new mechanics, interesting ideas (and yes there were many). Instead I saw the same article about 'white men' dominating games repeated on every game 'journalism' site. I saw the same tiresome, pointless complaints about 'women versus tropes' repeated over and over. The same 'back some poor rep in the corner and make him swear allegiance to providing same-sex marriage in his game' bullying.

Game 'journalists' no longer care or write about games. They have been indoctrinated with social agendas, and they use games as an excuse to write about that.

That, folks, is one of the things killing game 'journalism'.

James Margaris
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The strength of the written medium is that you can have thoughtful, well-composed pieces - something the games media has very little interest in. Most writers don't take advantage of the form at all.

Larry Carney
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.......And this is a bad thing......


Jonathan Murphy
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Yes it is. Good, and done.

CE Sullivan
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Personally, the number one thing that will get me to play a game is word of mouth, usually from people I know on Facebook. This is because I know that most of my Facebook friends like the same kind of games I do.

So this is just a hypothesis, but it seems to me that one reason that people turn to YouTubers for game recommendations is because people tend to think of YouTubers not as journalists, but as other gamers who like the same kind of games they like. Even though successful YouTubers can potentially make a lot of money via ad revenue, making YouTube videos is still perceived as a fan activity.

Bob Johnson
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INteresting stuff especially the analysis of the strengths/weakness of print vs YouTube in promoting different games.

....I feel like alot of people like the camaraderie of watching some entertaining person play the game more than actually playing the game by themselves.

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I feel as though most people who don't find enjoyment in "Let's Plays" and YouTube videos are looking for traditional information in a non-traditional format.

Most Let's Players are not playing the game from an objective point of view, and nor do they try to. They play the game from THEIR point of view as a player, and I think that is honestly more valuable. If your game gets ragged on, maybe there is a reason behind it?

Likewise, I think there is value in seeing how a variety of YouTubers react to a game, as it can be a good way of seeing how people with similar tastes as mine would enjoy the game.

Jonathan Jennings
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It wasn't youtube that did me in , it was Giant Bombs quick looks . Those guys generally do a good job of showing off the games, sometimes you can tell they have the wrong guy playing a type of game he has no patience for but for the most part getting a solid 30+ minute demonstration of a games gameplay and mechanics can sell or cool me on a game much better than most reviewers today . Part of it is I think games journalism is a slowly dying art but the videos have been much better at selling me on games lately . this is a bit sad to read considering I am a huge fan of gaming magazines, or used to be , but even the fan I am I can say that let's plays are my new favorite source of games media .

Michael O'Hair
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Julian Cram
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And when the first youtuber gets done for being a commercial shrill and all you people cheering the death of journalism start whinging and calling for regulation and such bullshit, I'm going to laugh.

Because you know it will happen.

It's already happened in the fashion youtube video world, already been exposed by traditional media, and the viewers have, well, because they don't do anything "normal" like read blogs or news websites, are fooled into believing these "tweens" are talking to their audience from their heart whilst they're actually bought by fashion companies, the so the viewers stay fooled.

Great world we're making for ourselves...