Nintendo has taken issue with Let’s Play videos on YouTube. Let’s Play videos is a name given to videos that feature extended gameplay with commentary. According to a Facebook post from YouTuber Zack Scott, Nintendo has placed ID content matches against several Let’s Play videos on YouTube in order to acquire the money earned from ad revenue. This essentially prevents the creator of the video from making any money from it. It all goes to Nintendo instead.
Here is the statement Nintendo sent to GameFront about the matter.
“As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.”
In summary, Nintendo doesn’t mind if people post YouTube videos of content it owns as long as those videos are of a certain undisclosed length. The language in Nintendo’s statement suggests Let’s Play video creators are lucky Nintendo didn’t outright block their videos from being shown at all. But if it did that, it wouldn’t make those sweet pennies on the dollar from ad revenue. So the question here is who is right in this situation?
On one hand, Nintendo has the right to make sure content it owns is portrayed in the way it wants. It also has the right to make money from its property. But there is a grey area here that I think goes beyond copyright law. Let’s Play videos are, in a way, a form of free advertising. Content creators build up loyal audiences and turn them on to games they may not have otherwise considered. These videos also result in additional game sales for video game companies. It’s reasonable to think game companies overlook copyright claims because it’s getting something much more valuable in return – new customers. They tell their friends, those friends tell other people and the trend continues. However, this is obviously about money to Nintendo more than anything else. And for that, it makes the company come off as petty.
What if it were me in this situation? Would I mind if someone took one of my YouTube videos, repackaged it and made money from it? Yes I would, but I also think the comparison isn’t exactly 1:1. Like I said earlier, these videos result in more fans for Nintendo who can easily convert to paying customers. Nintendo would be giving up short term cash for long term gains (i.e. money) and loyalty. The two go hand in hand. For many YouTube content creators, ad revenue is the only financial gain they get from their videos.
Ad revenue for YouTube videos is pretty insignificant to a big company like Nintendo. Unless a video gets millions of views every month, the money earned from it is negligible. Sure Nintendo gets a little bit of money immediately, but the people who got content ID claims placed against them will likely never create another Let’s Play video featuring a Nintendo game ever again. The well is going to dry up eventually, and all those potential customers will be lost.
Nintendo has a right to make content ID claims, but this was a bad move for public relations. People are going to view this situation as Nintendo taking money from blue collar YouTubers purely out of greed. That’s not the image Nintendo needs right now. It needs all the exposure and goodwill it can get (especially for the Wii U). It’s not too late to unring the bell Nintendo. A ally in YouTube is one of the best allies you can have.