I spend a lot of time on YouTube. There is so much great content to be viewed, and people are doing some really innovative and creative things on there. In my house, YouTube is way more popular than normal TV, yet the latest scandals are giving me cause for a lot of concern.
For those who aren’t aware, there were two major YouTube scandals in the last few months. First we had the money hat issue where publishers were paying YouTubers to make videos that said nice things about their products. Now, we have the issue where big YouTube names are extorting profit share from indies in exchange for videos that help them garner some success. Anyone can see that it’s disgusting, but what does it actually do for the gaming industry.
I had a couple quick chats with our local indie developers about this to see if they’d been approached for cash or profit sharing. While no one reported requests for profit sharing, it does seem to just be the norm for some YouTubers to ask for a fee. Considering that YouTube then still gives them money thanks to monetization of those videos, it certainly shows the greed and entitlement. Yes, I believe that YouTubers make original content with those games, and they do provide a valuable source of information and entertainment. However, not only does their money grubbing show a serious lack of scruples, it can also become a slippery slope for gaming.
Looking at other media, large publishers have all the power. This may also be true of gaming, but with independent media covering a variety of games and platforms, this isn’t felt as heavily. In the music industry, only songs pushed out by major publishers end up on radio playlists. If a song isn’t heard, it isn’t loved. Without the love, there’s no reason to purchase. What happens if YouTube goes the way of radio? If the big publishers can afford to pay YouTubers to make videos about their games, those games will obviously end up getting a lot more attention, making consumers believe that they are the best and only games to purchase. Indies may be popular now, but curatorship is a major problem with so many indies out there – without indie let’s plays, it will be increasingly difficult to find the signal in the noise.
I’m not trying to insinuate that all YouTubers are money hats – it’s much like gaming journalism in general. I’ve met tons of passionate, creative and intelligent people in this industry – those who will go without much in the way of money just so that they can do what they love. Of course, I’ve also met those who seem to be in it for the swag, whose only interest is what free stuff they can grab thanks to their position. However, the bad often taints perception of the good. YouTubers have long been seen as having more integrity than other gaming personalities. I’m glad that illusion is finally getting broken, but I really do worry about what these scandals mean for gaming in general. Greed seems to be penetrating all facets of the gaming world. I guess the industry really has grown up.
Now excuse me while I pull my hair out decided while channels I need to un-subscribe from – I love some of this content, but I’m not sure I can support people who engage in these types of activities.