Whenever there is big talk in the industry, Nintendo is usually seen as the differentiating factor, which is why it seems to be absent in many discussions. However, if one thing is for sure, whenever there is a reason to talk about Nintendo—it seems like everybody wants to jump in.
Nintendo is known for taking a completely diffeent path from the ‘norm’. For decades, the company has chosen to set itself a part from the competition, whether it means making unorthodox controllers or throwing out the age-old idea of an E3 stage show and replacing it with a pre-recorded presentation—Nintendo has done it. A lot of Nintendo’s creative decisions, while criticized a lot, have paid off. Nintendo is the oldest console-maker in the business and having spanned over 6 generations, it is this strong desire to be different that has kept them going. Many have put Nintendo down for it, and yet, they show no sign of wanting to slow down or change course.
In their latest endeavor to be different, the Japanese-giant has decided to double-down on YouTube creators and politely flag their videos if copyrighted content is included. This in turn nullifies the uploader’s ability to monetize the flagged video. This has upset not only YouTubers, but also many gamers who too are calling foul on Nintendo’s latest move. So, why exactly is everyone so upset? Better yet, are they right to be upset?
You don’t have to be a lawyer or even a law student to know what the term ‘copyrighted material’ means. If you’ve been using the Internet regularly, then chances are you’ve come across it on more than one occasion. But just in case you didn’t know—when something is copyrighted, basically that means that by law, it cannot be re-created by anyone else except the legal creator. From simple things like names and icons to more elaborate things like games and movies, thousands of items are copyrighted. If you use or obtain a copyrighted item illegally, you can receive a hefty fine, and/or even jail-time. Yes, it’s that serious.
Now, now—Nintendo isn’t taking anyone to court (well, not yet at least). So, why are gamers so upset? Is it because they feel like their rights are being threatened? Do they think that Nintendo is just being greedy? To find this out, let’s take a look at the whole gaming scene on YouTube.
YouTube has skyrocketed in popularity over the years from since its original launch. It has become so big that it is one of the most well known and most visited websites around the world. Many people have become ‘Internet famous’ thanks to YouTube, for both good and bad reasons. Regardless, that popularity isn’t just an ego-boost, it’s also a monetary boost, as YouTubers can gain profits from ads that are placed on their videos. Not only have many YouTubers become famous, they’ve also made quite a few dollars to boot.
When it comes down to the gaming industry, YT just isn’t a place for companies to release new trailers; gamers themselves have gained a lot of traffic by doing ‘playthroughs’ of titles they bought. This has been a very successful two-way-street for quite a number of years. On one side, the uploader gains popularity, and the uploaded game footage is shown off to thousands of people. On many occasions, this has helped to increase sales thanks to heightened levels of awareness.
So, if things have been going so good for now, why is Nintendo trying to step in only now? The answer to that isn’t really clear, but another question is, are they wrong for intervening?
Like we discussed earlier, other companies have time and again slapped people with fines and even sometimes jail-time for the misuse of copyrighted material. So, what makes the gaming industry so different? Unlike other industries, the gaming industry has benefited from Youtube content as people have been exposed to the titles in a more personal manner. While a gameplay trailer takes out the best parts from a game and throws it into one short, flashy clip, watching raw gameplay footage is like playing a non-interactive demo. You get a good look at the true game, even though you’re not in control. This has led many who were either on the fence or just curious to make their final decision, and as we’ve seen on several occasions, that decision has ended up making the companies behind the titles all the more richer, as well as the uploaders.
Interestingly enough though, other industries haven’t been so kind.
While gamers have been able to get away with getting rich and famous off of playing video games and recording it, film-watchers and channel surfers have been far less fortunate. While you can upload a playthrough of a game with mostly no hiccups, try uploading a ‘watchthrough’ of a movie or TV show. Even if you really love it and are encouraging people to try it out for themselves, you’ll get smacked with a copyright infraction faster than you’ll finish responding to your first comment.
The TV/movie industries have a very tight grip on their creative works, so much so that if you ever want to know what it feels like to get your channel banned from YouTube, uploading movie/TV footage is the most surefire way to do so. Why the contrast? Well, that’s because the way they make their profit versus game companies, is different. In order for a game to make money, a copy needs to be purchased. Watching gameplay and playing the game yourself is two very different experiences. On the other hand, you can only watch a TV show or movie. If you see the entire thing or even just a good chunk for free on YouTube, while the uploader is sitting back counting the virtual dollar bills pouring in, the company who created the film in the first place is pulling their hair out.
Where does Nintendo fit into this?
Well, Nintendo doesn’t make a profit the same way TV/movie companies do, they’re still doing what they have a right to do—protect their IP. Why are they suddenly getting territorial with it? Who knows? But another question, how exactly are people reacting?
As mentioned before, Nintendo has been blasted left and right by various affected YouTubers as well as regular gamers alike. Very few seem to be supportive of the idea. However, that hasn’t wavered the Big N’s determination to keep pushing.
Even so, this is what I find interesting. If you upload a TV show/movie, your video will be flagged and forced to be removed. This not only takes a cut from your profits, but your entire YouTube channel can be forced to be removed. What Nintendo is doing however, is giving YouTubers an ultimatum. While they won’t shut you down like the TV/movie companies—either you sign up with Nintendo’s YouTube Creator’s Program and share the revenue, or Nintendo will flag the video, thus preventing the uploader from making money from it entirely. The main problem people have with this is that Nintendo has a ‘whitelist’ of games that can be uploaded, leaving several others out in the cold, so if they don’t have any of the games on that whitelist, or simply don’t want to cover them, that’s a loss of profit opportunity. Should you decide to sign up with Nintendo, they will take as much as 30% of the ad-revenue from the earnings. Many have complained about this as other networks only take about 10% away.
Nintendo has created a very interesting situation for themselves here. Even though YouTubers still get to upload to their hearts content, many see this as unfairly limiting creative works and pure corporate greed and have demanded that Nintendo either rethink their stance or dissolve the program entirely.
With that being said, one last question remains: Who stands right?
—YOUR WAY OR MINE?—
Nintendo has a right to exercise their legal muscles, as at the end of the day, it is their property. YouTubers are making money from other people’s work when they do things like Let’s Plays and monetize them; YouTubers can’t cover what doesn’t exist. So, all Nintendo is doing is getting another source of income from their own products.
On the other hand, gamers are angry over this because they believe that they’re being restricted from their creative works…or is it? They consider what they are doing to be ‘Fair Use’ and make the argument that in the end, they’re giving these games and their parent companies exposure and as a result, free advertising. Now let’s be honest, what gamer wouldn’t enjoy being paid to play video games? That’s a dream job! In addition, they are beefing up their ego by advertising their identity to the world. Sounds good, right?
With that point in mind— is the main reason why so many have acted out on this really because they feel Nintendo is limiting their creativity? Or, are they really acting out because of the money?
Nobody likes paying their taxes, or getting deductions in their salary. Anytime someone knows they’re making less money than they could, that bothers them. Getting upset over that isn’t really a bad thing—everyone loves getting money. Even little kids put on a big smile when they get a 5 bucks for cleaning their room. So then, what about these gamers who are living it up by getting money from simply playing video games? No doubt, it takes a lot of time and effort recording footage and commentary and even more time during the editing phase, however, what about people who’s everyday job is to work out in a field from morning to evening? In some countries, all that work only gets them a few cents, and they have no choice but to accept it.
Some people work in the hot sun all day, every day for a mere few cents. Then there are some who sit in A/C, play video games and scream into a mic and camera for a living. They then proceed to sit back as the thousands of dollars from ad-revenue pour in. I’d be pretty ticked too if someone tried to mess that up.
In all honesty, this entire conundrum really pushes towards the notion that some Let’s Players simply feel entitled. They argue that since they bought the game, they can do whatever they want, and as far as they’re concerned, that also means they can go ahead and make some extra cash off of it. Here’s the most common argument I’ve seen from a lot of the complaining LPers — “It’s Fair Use! I’m not making copies and selling it! I’m giving you free advertising!”
To be honest, the free advertising thing is true. A lot of indie titles have blown up in popularity over it: Minecradt, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Slender are some notable examples. These titles, among many others, are usually made by a handful of people, and sometimes, even just one. They can’t afford to go all out with advertising like AAA-titles. With that said, when popular LPers play these titles, it boosts awareness, thus leading to more sales for the developer and in addition, more ad-revenue for the YouTuber.
However, when it comes down to AAA-titles that come from Nintendo and other big devs, the whole ‘free advertising’ thing doesn’t have the same effect. These developers are the juggernauts; their franchises are household names. Everyone knows what Assassin’s Creed, Need for Speed, Mario, and HALO is. There’s no need for ‘free advertising’. So then, what does that mean for this situation? Simple—the LPers who upload footage of these popular titles get most of the benefits. They’re the ones getting more exposure and as a result, more revenue — not the big companies.
So who truly is right?
In all honesty, this topic really falls under a matter of opinion. The arguments over this are far and wide. Some support it, while others despise it. The funny thing is, despite all the flack, who’s prevailing? Nintendo.