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YouTubers Yogscast taking revenue share to promote  Space Engineers
YouTubers Yogscast taking revenue share to promote Space Engineers
July 14, 2014 | By Mike Rose

July 14, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, YouTube

In the midst of Gamasutra investigating the ethics of game developers and publishing paying for YouTuber coverage, one of the biggest game YouTubers has announced a partnership with a dev that includes taking a share of its sales revenue for a month.

The Yogscast, which has over 7 million subscribers on YouTube, will take "a small share" of the sales revenue for sandbox space game Space Engineers during July, in return offering a series of videos and Yogscast-branded items for the game.

The Yogscast presenters are calling this new initiative "YogDiscovery," and the team says this is the first of a series of paid partnerships with devs, "giving developers a chance to reach a big and engaged audience of gamers."

The YouTubers were keen to stress that "Keen Software will have no editorial influence on any content broadcast on Yogscast channels."

In an open letter on Reddit, Yogcast's Mark Turpin explained that YouTubers are currently motivated to create videos about games that are already popular, in a bid to receive the most revenue. This new initiative should negate the financial risk, he claims.

"This also allows smaller companies - who lack the big marketing budgets that the larger publishers have - to reach larger audiences without any risk or loss of earnings," he adds.

As Gamasutra discovered earlier this month, disclosure of payments from developers must be present within the video itself.

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Javier Degirolmo
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At this rate YouTubers will become publishers...

Yes, I'm exaggerating, but c'mon, how far will it get? I really wonder if we should just assume by now that you'll be expected to pay youtubers, period - at least those that have an important following. This skewed really quickly compared to traditional gaming press.

Kujel Selsuru
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At least with this method we get to see the game in action instead of reading an english major's opinion on something they don't really understand.

Mike Griffin
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I'd recommend a bit of both, not an "instead".

I.e., find a Youtuber to watch that entertains you, and find a critic to read that you've come to trust. Or a few of both, and a blend of both.

Personally, there's no way I'm relying 100% on YouTubers - and it's not just about this potentially sketchy race to monetize the form.

Sometimes (brace yourself!) I like a serious review. Sometimes it's not just about the gags and getting a laugh from the audience - which seems to be the approach for 95% of game-related Youtubers. I want to be entertained, certainly, but some games call for a more serious approach.

And I clearly can't rely on a -paid- third-party gameplay video to determine whether I'd like to spend $50 on a game. I'm an ex-game journalist able to glean a shitload of information from watching a game in action, and that's a useful service provided by Youtubers, but it's good to fortify that experience with relatively impartial sources as well.

In this new era of game-related media saturation and monetization, you're going to need a good sample set of observations from as impartial a content generator as possible, in concert with using your own filter to cut through the insane amount of noise and quasi-exploitation.

Jonathan Murphy
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Are you kidding me?! Traditional press has had historic disaster taking back door bribes, giving many indie devs the finger(2001-2008), running crap like Mountain Dew all over their sites, and the worst offense of all, hyping the crap out of products before anyone has had even 5 seconds to play the final version, AKA Aliens Colonial Marines. It does stop their with their new click bait tactics, listening to analysts say in one breath the industry is doomed, and in the next saying we're awesome. It's flat out a manic, paint by the numbers environment. With Youtubers they play the game, and by FAR are more critical. Who called out the Xbone debacle? Who called out Titanfall's hype train? It wasn't the main stream press. The majority of people who buy video games don't even follow the main stream press, but a growing number of them follow Youtubers. I wonder why?

Mike Griffin
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To portray all of traditional gaming press as dishonest, money-grubbing scumbags and to praise the Youtuber movement as this shining beacon of honesty and integrity... it's not so cut and dry, obviously.

Just as the mainstream press had to find ways to pay their employees, we're seeing the same thing happen with Youtube.

Both camps are still capable of producing good, honest work, with editors and presenters that keep their distance from the advertising side of things and stay real for their audience/readers.

And both camps have their 'bad apples' that don't follow through responsibly and impartially, or engage in dubious partnerships with collusion and payola.

You have to use your own filter and reference a large sample set of opinions, whether written or filmed.

It's worth mentioning that traditional game press generally gets the pre-release access. For example, a reputable editor with 10+ years of experience and many solid, trusted relationships in the industry -- well, he or she has earned that access and generally gets it.

That veteran editor is also familiar with navigating the industry, receiving and playing very early preview code, acting responsibly/respectfully towards devs, etcetera. To villanize all of traditional game press is an insult to those men and women that earned their reputation and the trust of developers and readers.

ps: To suggest that the mainstream gaming press didn't call out the Xbone debacle back then... seriously?

Alex Nichiporchik
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I'm not even sure what to think about this. Such divided emotions.

Micah Betts
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At this point, big Youtubers (Let's Players, not neccessarily critics/reviewers) are essentially just paid advertising...just like a TV commercial

Rebeccah Cox
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It'll be pretty hard for the YouTubers to stay impartial when they profit on the success of the games. This kind of makes the upfront payments look a bit more ethical!

Andrew Haining
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On the spectrum of Free Press to PR, Yogscast are now undeniably PR. At least they are open about it. People will know to go elsewhere for a less partial opinion.

Kyle Redd
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Or, they know to go elsewhere for what is *hopefully* a less partial option. As pointed out by others, at least Yogscast is upfront about the deal. None of the other major channels (that I know of) have a concrete, visible policy on whether they accept money for coverage.

Bruno Xavier
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Benjamin McCallister
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And so it begins. The slow obfuscation of the marketplace and the rise of questionable ethics and promotion.

Mike Higbee
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Begins? You act like companies haven't been swooning the gaming "press" with gifts, all expense paid trips, and nights out before this. At least they're being transparent about it for a change.

Andrew Wallace
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I am very concerned about the precedent this sets.

Andrew Wallace
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Actually thinking about it more, no I'm not. This is just another advertising option available to devs. You reach a very wide audience who are actually paying attention (unlike any other ad ever, which people go out of their way to ignore), and you're paying rev%, not an upfront cost, which not only helps people who are developing on no budget, but also encourages the YT to do a better job.

As for the idea that they will make bad content/ just seem like sell-out advertisers, well, that's the channel's problem to worry about. If their viewers are upset, they will stop watching. If I were a YouTuber doing this I would only enter agreements with games I had already played and enjoyed, and if I do this as a dev I will only do it with channels that have a good reputation (and genuinely like my game).

John Paduch
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Jesus, so much snooty butthurt going on here in the comments, which tells me that NONE of you actually read Turpin's statement. They're not playing games that they don't enjoy, they're not providing PR or marketing, just making silly entertainment vids within the game (as they already do with Garry's Mod, Minecraft, Civ 5, Pandora, etc.), and they're not giving their opinions about "why you should buy this."

This isn't the Machinima/Xbox crap all over again. You people need to calm the F down and give it a chance.

Felipe Budinich
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I don't think this is so terrible, or impossible to navigate.

If they consistently start to review bad games for cash, their own brand will suffer, and they'll get less views, opening the market for new reviewers.

As usual, a smart indie dev, instead of paying for advertisement, will have to hustle and find new up and coming reviewers, and if your game is good and lends itself for good entertainment, big youtube players will end up reviewing it anyway.

Ian Richard
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Doesn't bother me at all. Yogscast has been all about the money for as long as I've seen them, nothing changes on that front.

As for developers, it's none of my business how they want to pay for advertising. Whether they want to pay for TV commercials, Magazine ads or youtubers... it's their choice.

As long as they follow the legal regulations and whatnot of stating "This is a paid video", I'm completely fine with it.

That said, I won't EVER pay profit shares to someone who isn't actively working on my game and I will personally avoid any youtubers that I feel are only doing videos for the money.

Ryan Christensen
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Of course this is and will happen. As long as it is clearly disclosed it is fine, the new rules for that are good.

The one reason that youtube reviewers are popular though is primarily they play games the like and are fun. That is why people take youtube videos/walkthroughs seriously when thinking about buying a game, they expect it to be authentic. There is no way you will rag on a game that pays you for a month (that being said Space Engineers is awesome and already has authentic qualities, hardly have to pay people to like that one).

So I think that paid content (which half of it probably already is and pretty easy to tell when it is) will be marked, other youtube reviewers will do less of that and have more authenticity. This area is definitely evolving into some big business though.

sean lindskog
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Article Quote:
The YouTubers were keen to stress that "Keen Software will have no editorial influence on any content broadcast on Yogscast channels."

Heh, pun intended?

If this is going to happen (and I agree with Ryan above, it's probably inevitable), I think Yogscast is doing it right. Own the fact that this is paid advertisement, and brand it accordingly so viewers know what they're getting.

Ryan Christensen Quote:
"There is no way you will rag on a game that pays you for a month"

For sure. Not only would you be annihilating the sales for that game, you'd be scaring off future devs who want to pay for advertising, too.

Mike Higbee
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TotalBiscuit brought up a really good point in his podcast here

Basically he points out that they're not tracking the sales through a click through referral link so they are just getting a cut in a jump of sales even if it's not necessarily the yogscast generating the interest, ie. I run a smaller youtube channel, I do a vid on Space Engineers during the same time this yogdiscovery thing is going on. If my content generates interest from some viewers who purchase the game, the yogscast will get a cut from the sale my content generated, rather than just the developers and my normal ad revenue via youtube.

Ben Sly
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Friendly interactions between developers and popular Youtube personalities tends to benefit everyone involved: it raises the stature of the personality, it usually means that the developer is publicly humanized as somebody in touch with their fans, and the viewers tend to enjoy it as well. But introducing money changes relationships significantly, and may damage those benefits.

It damages the image that these Youtube personalities have as everymen who do what they do because they love games. That was already under attack by ad revenues so it is not a new challenge, but maintaining a financial relationship for video content with developers suddenly introduces a lot more issues. It is far from unreasonable to expect some form of revenue for the often underestimated amount of work that it takes for a Youtube personality to generate content (and there are no options without potential moral issues so far as I know), but this is one of the more questionable methods.

For the indie game that I'm working on, I personally would be willing to work with influential streamers in a number of ways - a free game copy, interviews, responses to questions, maybe even a bit of personalized content (I heard it worked well for for The Stanley Parable) - but I would not be willing to bring up financial compensation. It may very well may be a legitimate business transaction that ends up bringing profit to both parties (as it is with most other products), but the risk for both parties is too great. Much of the image of indie developers and Youtube personalities alike is rooted in being an honest, passionate individual, but paid endorsements throw a wrench into that.

This is an issue which has been growing quietly, but if it is not addressed in a clear manner is likely to damage the reputations of many people, developers and Youtube personalities alike (even if they're not guilty of anything). I take this as an inevitable sign that both the Youtube media and the games industry are maturing, but not a positive one.

Bartosz Brzostek
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Guys, while I believe youtubers have somehow to monetise their work (they entertain people, just as devs do), I agree the transparency is a key. I've just described the transparent solution I'm working on. I invite you to take a look and let me know what you think.

Eric Merz
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I hope developers are aware that there are tons of people on YouTube who provide a similar kind of service (if you want to call it that way) without extorting them for money. Claiming that this initiative is helping developers is bullshit.

I'm not against promotional content itself, as long as it's clearly disclosed. Taking a share of a developer's revenue however crosses a line in my opinion.
The Yogscast did nothing to create the game they're taking revenue from, therefore they don't deserve any of the money that's generated by sold copies.