One of the more pleasant aspects of online culture is the subset of video game enthusiasts who enjoy not just playing video games, but also watching friends and strangers alike play video games. With legitimate world records for video game achievements (a-la Twin Galaxies and other sites), gaming competitions the world over, and professional players making their living from sponsorships and tournaments, video gaming has become less of a leisurely activity, and more of a sport for many the world over.
Twitch.TV hosts gameplay videos, speed-runs, and commentary, as well as live video play-throughs. The website is arguably the most popular gaming-focused broadcast site on the Internet with over 100,000 live viewers at any given moment watching world-reknowned gamers playing their favorite games. Though Twitch is likely the best place for gamers to showcase their skills, there is another popular video sharing website where many gamers feel at home… YouTube.
YouTube is well liked for its ease of access and use, and the relative simplicity of being able to reach a very large audience very quickly. Because it’s the largest video sharing website on the planet, it’s become the most popular choice among amateurs who wish to show off their abilities, demonstrate tricks, and socialize with other gamers.
Recently, however, a bit of a skirmish has been kicked up with popular (and not so popular alike) YouTube channels whose videos also run ads. In short, gamers who are trying to monetize their gaming abilities are being targeted by a Nintendo-led campaign utilizing YouTube’s content-ID matching system to claim the ad-revenue from these videos.
Some are saying Nintendo should have every right to do such a thing, as gamers are uploading videos containing intellectual property owned by Nintendo. The other side of the coin is that Nintendo’s thinking is extremely destructive and demonstrates a clear lack of understanding about gaming culture (as if the Wii U didn’t already demonstrate that enough).
Here’s how I see it, as there are many angles to this debate that need discussion…
Let’s say a gamer purchases a Wii U along with New Super Mario Bros. U — Nintendo gets their $349.99 from the console and their $59.99 from the game. In this example, Nintendo has been paid for the hardware and the software and, in the minds of many, this should be where the debate ends as the physical property belongs to the gamer making the videos. Those who side with Nintendo will bring up the idea of the gamer licensing the software from the company, which means one can’t really do as one pleases with said game.
I feel like the software license argument is weak (and has always been weak), because it effectively gives the developer unlimited control over how the software and hardware can be used. What if the same applied to your car? You wouldn’t be allowed to serve ads on the videos of you tearing it up around your local mall’s parking lot. What about software demonstration videos? Good luck trying to monetize those Photoshop tutorials you’ve been producing — Adobe might want their cut.
People will tell you that this sort of thing shouldn’t be surprising, but they fail to realize that Nintendo isn’t taking similar action on gaming review websites, or sites like GameTrailers, and there is a very simple reason why — they can’t. There isn’t a simple, sweeping way for the company to issue these kinds of claims on other sites in the way that YouTube allows. Nintendo is simply being opportunistic with regards to their fan base and I see it as a company trying to get any little red cent they can as their flagship console hits the pavement with abysmal sales numbers.
The better idea would be to encourage these sorts of videos — to capitalize on the social aspect of gaming and showcase the best players. That might get people excited about the Wii U again and might just get people buying the system.
The real solution to this issue is, of course, to ditch YouTube. Google has demonstrated time and time again that the users don’t matter, and that their real customers are the advertisers. As long as Google gets their cut of the ad revenue, they don’t care where the rest of the money goes, right or wrong. Other video sharing services like Vimeo exist, and it’s probably time for a new king of content anyway.