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Nintendo's Enforcement of Copyright on YouTube Let's Plays is Bad Business

Nintendo's Enforcement of Copyright on YouTube Let's Plays is a bad business move from a company that has made many bad business moves in the last few years (don't even get me started on how the WiiU).

There are a number of YouTube let's players that basically narrate themselves playing video games. Some of them make a lot of money. Oftentimes even more than the average game developer makes.

 

Should these people be making a lot of money doing this? I think so. They are entertainers and oftentimes reviewers. It takes a certain amount of skill to play a game, narrate it and make it an entertaining experience just to watch passively. The fact that Nintendo and some other companies (Sega) feel the need to remove any monetary incentive to perform this service is a bad move.

 

If these companies de-incentivize peoples’ inherent desire to share their joy of these games with each other, they are going to eventually alienate the gaming community so much that many of them will stop playing their games. You need to think of these let's players as employees. Well paid and extremely independent employees some of them may be - but employees none the less. They are out there promoting your game. Playing it. If they are getting enough views to make any significant amount of money then they are quite skilled because there are a plethora of crappy let's plays out there with less than 100 views(the horrifying prepubescent screams of a certain Mario play-through haunt me to this day). Remember that people are not as likely to make videos of games that they don't like. These people want to promote your game for you. They want people to buy it. That means more viewers.

 

And what does it say about the state of video games that the publishers of these games are worried that it is a lot more fun to watch a reasonably entertaining person play a video game than it is to play the video game themselves. Sometimes, I feel like the publisher's might be correct in this fear. I think it is because most people are just tired. I'm tired. Tired of pointing at crap and clicking a button. I'm tired of figuring out how far my grenade is going to go when I throw it off a ledge. It's all the same. It is the same thing over and over and over again. Why do we do it?

 

The truth of the matter is that the games themselves are not very fun. The truth of the matter is that many of our fond memories of video games come from the excuse these games give us to socialize and cooperate and band together. People want to band together. It is human nature. We are stronger in groups than we are alone. Nobody wants to play soccer (or football) by themselves. But certain businesses and their greed and their lust for money are driving people apart. Making people more pliable. More vulnerable. More dependent. Supply side economists (republicans) enjoy talking about people's dependency on government - but what about the peoples' dependency on businesses?

 

But it's not going to happen. Americans are too resilient to be subjugated for long. A reckoning will come for businesses that operate with this philosophy of greed.

 

It is pure hubris for these game companies to think that it is only they who are responsible for the entertainment value provided by these let's plays. It is a cooperative effort. Your games succeed because we share them with each other. We talk about them. We feel good about them. You don't own that. And if you think you do, then I feel sorry for you because your publishing profits are headed the way of the Dodo bird - and the indie community have already managed to release games a lot better than the non-distinguishable crap that you spit out every fiscal quarter.

 

Some people wrongly compare let's player's to people who post copyrighted videos, or read books online, or file share music - and put their own narration over them. Obviously this behavior is not fair to the authors of those works. But video games are not books, they are not movies, they are not music. THEY ARE GAMES.

 

If you want to make an analogy, use board games. If someone posted a video on YouTube of themselves and some friends playing monopoly, or Magic: The Gathering or Risk or Settlers of Catan or Dungeons and Dragons - and they made their video entertaining enough that they got enough views on YouTube to make a significant amount of money - would you really take that money (the incentive) away from them. Yea, you’re going to get that money - BUT DO YOU THINK ANYONE IS GOING TO MAKE ENTERTAINING VIDEOS ABOUT YOUR GAME ANYMORE. No, they're not. Eventually, YouTubers will stop making these let's plays of your board game. People will stop talking/thinking about your board game. And you know what happens then?

 

THEY STOP BUYING YOUR GAME.

 

Because they didn't get to watch that video, they didn't find out how fun that game was.

 

If they are a skilled let's player they are making these games seem a lot more fun than they actually are. You owe them a lot more than a copyright override.

 

In Conclusion, Let's Players are providing an (oftentimes free) third party marketing service for your games - the indie community has learned that - I think the major publishers(if they follow Nintendo) might eventually have to learn that the hard way. If you copyright claim third party YouTube let's plays of video games, you are going to initially get that money from the YouTube views that those videos generate. But eventually, people will stop making those videos. And you’re going to have to hire some corporate schmuck with a stick up his butt to try and make your games seem entertaining. Good luck with that. It's funny that the YouTube accounts of the most famous let's players frequently get several times more views and subscribers than the actual gameplay trailers and promotional videos for the game ON THE DEVELOPER'S OWN YOUTUBE ACCOUNT.

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