YouTube is an amazing and important website in our world centered around pop-culture. YouTube has connected the world with global fads and phenomenons. “Gangnam Style” sent millions into a horse-dancing craze. “What Does The Fox Say” intrigues millions with its awkwardness and simplicity. Countless other pranks, television goofs, movie scenes, and vlogs can be viewed all around the world. In the age of interconnectedness, YouTube is vastly important.
An interesting thing to note, however is this: what type of channel has the most subscribers on YouTube? Is it PSY? Is it a political group? A famous comedian? Somebody giving make-up tips? Nope, guess again.
The channel with the most subscribers is home to an English speaking, Swedish-born, UK-based video gamer who refers to his fans as “bros” and has a tendency to scream.
Yes, this man, who goes by the name of “PewDiePie,” reaches out to a subscriber base of over thirteen million people. (Oddly enough, he was in the 12 million zone as I was writing this article, but he hopped up to thirteen before I could finish.) What’s more amazing is that his fanbase sat at about a million in July of 2012; in a little over a year, he picked up the remaining twelve million to be where he is today.
So, it makes me wonder… legality aside, why would a company like Nintendo want to prohibit gamers from making these “Let’s Play” videos? Isn’t a video seen by millions sort of free advertising? Instead, Nintendo demands a cut of the profits; there must be an ad played before, during, after, or next to the LP video if it involves Mario, Samus, or any of their friends (or enemies, for that matter). Nintendo profits from this ad, and the ad is required even if the channel is not monetized. With that being said, Nintendo is/has been backing down a bit on this, but they’re still kind of restrictive, as opposed to Mojang who lets their LPers build empires.
Requiring ads has an undesired effect on Nintendo. Basically, LPers are moving away from Nintendo games, which doesn’t give Nintendo ad revenue, nor the free advertising from the LP video itself.
So, a quick list: why would Nintendo want to ban or restrict Let’s Play videos about their games, and why should they encourage it?
Pros to Let’s Play Videos:
First of all, it’s free advertising. I’ve watched many Let’s Play videos that have enticed me to want to buy a game. Whether the LP was a serious one or a funny one, it gave me a look at a title that I may or may not have already been interested in. I watched Conan’s “Clueless Gamer” episode on Tomb Raider, and although it was hilarious, he was really bad, and he died a lot, it gave me a quick look at the gameplay and concept without giving much of the overall plot (or the resolution) away. I ended up buying that game a couple months later, in part because of that video, but mostly because I already wanted it. In any case, it lets people get a better look at a game to make them want to purchase it.
Next, it’s a form of “tech support.” In keeping with the Tomb Raider analogy, there was a bug in the portion of the game where you first get the motorized rope-puller (for the life of me, I can’t remember what it’s called) that stopped me from advancing. One Let’s Play video later, and I was back to my journey without the need to bombard Square Enix or Crystal Dynamics with e-mails or phone calls.
Finally, it creates a “Good Guy” atmosphere. I tend to view companies that encourage LPs as companies that care about their consumers, such as Mojang and Ubisoft. Mojang continues to show customer appreciation through updates, and Ubisoft delivers solid games quite consistently, even though the Assassin’s Creed series has been annualized. You give us good games and let us share the gameplay with others? Good Guy Mojang, Good Guy Ubisoft.
The Cons to Let’s Play Videos:
SPOILER ALERTS! Let’s Play videos can contain spoilers, although the video creators tend to warn their viewers of this in advance. Spoilers can be bad for the viewer who’s interested in a game, and even worse for the company that created it. I find joy in watching the plot unfold before me in a game as I interact with it. If this were spoiled by a Let’s Play before I got to play the game, I probably wouldn’t go buy the game. This is why I’m refraining from watching an LP on The Last Of Us; I’ve heard it’s very much driven by emotions and dialogue, and I don’t want it spoiled before I get the chance to play it.
Assume that a person wanted to see the spoilers. Potentially, I could watch an entire LP series of a game from beginning to end rather than having to buy it and play it myself. I can go buy the game and play it for myself, or I can watch it as a movie for free. Hmm… Obviously, watching it isn’t as interactive, but the loss of interactivity could be made up by the fact that I’m not paying anything for it. This is a loss of revenue for the companies, and this is bad.
Next, LPers have the ability to mock a game intentionally or unintentionally. This can be as simple as exploiting and mocking a bug in a game to showing firsthand the terrible AI (A video showing Aliens: Colonial Marines comes to mind immediately). This can make people steer away from buying a game. Even if the LPer is making fun of a game purely for jest, it’s still mockery, it still exploits a weakness, and nobody wants to play a crappy game, even if the exploitation of it is hilarious. It won’t be hilarious when you try to play the broken game for yourself.
This is actually good for gamers because it works as quality control. If there’s a game I want, a quick YouTube search can show me if highly viewed videos on a game praise it or hate it. Good for me, but bad for companies who don’t get money I might have spent on the game without knowing its downfalls.
Obviously, this isn’t a full list of the pros and cons, but you get the idea. Publishers and developers have to weigh both sides of the equation to see if it’s more or less profitable to allow Let’s Play videos to be made of their games. If they really wanted to take advantage of free advertising, they could just send out pre-release copies to famous LPers for a sneak peek before release. Even still, in a multi-billion dollar business, there is a lot to gain and a lot to lose by allowing, encouraging, or disallowing LPs. It’s all about risk and reward, and Nintendo apparently doesn’t want to take the risk. However, Mojang is reaping the rewards. It’s got to be tough for a company to pick a definite stance, so that’s probably why many companies haven’t.
What do you think? Are you for or against LPs from a consumer standpoint? How about from the revenue standpoint of a publisher or developer? Comment below, and leave a like or a follow if you’ve enjoyed.
Then, ironically, you should take a look at the Let’s Play channels in my “Links” tab (quick, before they’re illegal!).