"Persuade viewers to purchase game."
- An excerpt of the contract some YouTubers say they were asked to sign by a marketing agency before being given pre-release copies of Shadow of Mordor.
Earlier this year Gamasutra conducted a series of inquiries into the ethics of game makers paying for YouTuber coverage
, and found that many developers don't engage
in the practice for a variety of reasons.
However, a new Kotaku report
has turned up some intriguing commentary from YouTubers who were approached by a marketing agency offering them pre-release copies of Monolith Productions' recently released licensed game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
to play for video production purposes.
The catch? They had to negotiate signing a contract that explicitly compelled them to speak positively about the product in their videos and required them to push viewers to purchase the game.
"Videos will promote positive sentiment about the game. Videos must not show bugs or glitches that may exist," reads one version of the Shadow of Mordor
early access contract provided to Kotaku by YouTubers. "Requirements involve one livestream, one YouTube video, and one Facebook post/tweet in support of the videos. Videos will have a strong verbal call to action, a clickable link in the description box for the viewer to go to the game's website to learn more about the game [and] to learn how to register and play the game."
YouTuber and Escapist editor Jim Sterling published a video
lambasting the contract, which he says was offered by YouTube-focused marketing agency Plaid Social Labs on behalf of Shadow of Mordor
publisher Warner Brothers Games.
Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson took the time to contact multiple YouTubers to get their thoughts on Plaid Social's contract; some, like Steven "Boogie2988" Williams, expressed reservations about such practices but painted them as a valuable source of income for broadcasters who trade on their personalities, rather than their reputation as a consumer advocate.
"For someone like PewDiePie, RoosterTeeth, or even myself this isn't a terrible thing," Williams told Kotaku. "None of these people are going to give it a review score. They're likely to just play the game, show you the fun parts they experienced, and then tell you to check out the game for yourself."
You can find further comments from YouTubers and more details on the issue in Kotaku's full report
, which sheds a good bit of light on a very complex issue.
For more background on the rise of YouTubers and how they're affecting the game development industry, check out our primer on the YouTuber phenomenon