Nintendo Profits from Fan-Made YouTube Videos
Nintendo's new Wii U system finally arrives, and it was worth the wait.
If you've ever invested a lot of time and effort making a YouTube video about a Nintendo game, you'll be pleased to know that someone is benefiting from all of your hard work — and that someone is Nintendo.
The Japanese game and console manufacturer has filed copyright claims against a number of YouTube content creators making use of footage from series like "Super Mario," "The Legend of Zelda" and "Metroid." Rather than taking these videos down, Nintendo has simply asked that YouTube run Nintendo ads before each one. This ad revenue ends up in Nintendo's pockets, leaving the videographer with nothing.
The issue came to light on May 15 when Zack Scott, a popular YouTube personality, noticed that Nintendo had been issuing "content ID matches" on his "Let's Play" (LP) videos. An LP differs from a traditional review or commentary video.
Rather than providing a brief summary of the game's features, LPs often show a game start-to-finish (in most cases, this takes about 10 to 15 hours) complete with player commentary along the way. Content creators can even livestream the game and converse with an audience via a chat room to take suggestions (such as which path to take through a level or which character to recruit).
A "content ID match" on YouTube is not as dire as a "copyright strike," which a company can use if it feels its content is being used unfairly. While a copyright strike will remove content from YouTube and count against a user's "three strikes" policy, a content ID match simply channels money made from the video away from the creator and toward the company that owns the copyrighted content.
In other words, although Scott played through the game and put the video together, Nintendo will profit from his work because of his choice of LP material.
Scott views the decision as unfair, and took to Facebook to say as much. "Video games aren't like movies or TV," he wrote in an impassioned post. "Each play-through is a unique audiovisual experience. When I see a film that someone else is also watching, I don't need to see it again. When I see a game that someone else is playing, I want to play that game for myself!" [See also: 10 Best Superhero Games Yet]
Nintendo insists that it has no desire to punish LP creators, although it still wants its cut. "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," it said in a statement to GameFront.
Other video game companies, such as Sega, have had LPs of their games removed from YouTube entirely, which arguably makes Nintendo's decision lenient by comparison. Still, there's no hard evidence as to whether LPs increase, decrease or have no effect on game sales.
Scott has vowed not to make any more LPs of Nintendo games until the company changes its monetization policy — which, if Nintendo's usual conservative behavior is any indication, won't happen anytime soon.
Until this gets sorted out, don't hold out too much hope for a deluge of Nintendo-based LPs. Content creators generally like getting paid for what they make.