Late yesterday, the Nintendo Creators Program was announced. This new program (in beta, admittedly) falls somewhere between their past stance of taking all revenue from any and all current Nintendo games content, and letting the Youtube gaming community use Nintendo copyrighted material without Nintendo seeing a dime. Nintendo’s new approach sees Youtube provide advertising revenue to Nintendo, which then gives the majority of their revenue share back to the content creator. Sounds fair, right?
Unfortunately, it falls very much short of fair. It puts Nintendo in control of a participant’s content, leaves the content creator jumping through hoops and sees their pay harshly diminished.
Nintendo As Content Authority
To those with the general idea that Let’s Play content, and those in the medium, lazily mooch off of copyrighted material with minimal effort, let me illustrate what goes down in the entire process of creating said medium.
A person (or group of people) sits down in front of a microphone, sets up gameplay video/audio recording programs and finally starts recording (mostly) improvised gameplay and commentary. Once a sufficient amount of content has been recorded (usually between 1-3 hours), the video and audio must be mixed properly so that one doesn’t overpower the other. Once that is done, the mixed product must be edited to include things like intros/outros, balancing of lighting/contrast as well as trimming the length to remove boring parts or technical problems.
Before it can be published, the finished video file must be rendered in order to fully optimize the file size. Then, prior to uploading to Youtube, most content creators would have to use Photoshop to create thumbnail title cards for each individual video (so the fans know which part of the series it is). Finally, the finished video would then be uploaded to Youtube, where the content creator would fill in all the tags, headlines and descriptions that lead to their social media accounts (while servicing said social media accounts). The total process to create an hour’s worth of viewable content can take anywhere between 2-5 hours, perhaps more.
However, under the Nintendo Creators Program, that effort could be all for nothing. You see, under the rules, each participating channel would have to register their video content with Nintendo prior to launch. Even if you decide to register your entire channel with Nintendo (more later on why that’s an irresponsible move), you will have to wait up to 72 hours before your content “request” is approved. Now, most of the reasons why a video would be denied have to do with showing game exploits and pirated software, but Nintendo has established terms that allow them to deny usage permission of their games licenses at their discretion.
The fact that Nintendo has even the optics of control over criticism of their video games places them with a clear ethical violation.
It puts Nintendo unfairly in the driver’s seat of control of one’s Youtube channel. Due to the flimsy structure of their approval process, it puts content creators’ ability to put up videos on a reliable schedule in jeopardy, which has long-reaching effects on a channel’s ability to grow. More importantly, due to the nature of one’s relationship with Nintendo, it puts them in a position where they can reject video approvals that are negative of Nintendo games, letting them act as a surrogate censor.
Think about it for a second; without certainty in content approval, Youtubers are put in an awkward situation. Do they praise a game more than they would just to ensure their videos are approved? Do they hold back criticism for the same purpose? How risqué are they allowed to be when referring to Nintendo characters?
It’s that uncertainty that turns what Nintendo is doing with this program into an ethical debate. They shouldn’t have the power to control how the Youtube community views their brand. By doing so, Nintendo would have the ability to mold how gameplay experiences of their titles are represented by content creators. No company should be able to craft a message like that. It halts creativity at the expense of propping up the Nintendo brand.
Lastly, it has a crippling effect on the viability of reviews. For most Youtube channels, this shouldn’t be affected. Using gameplay footage as part of a critical review definitely falls under fair use laws granted by the United States, and any video reviews of Nintendo games shouldn’t be submitted for their approval. However, the fact remains that registered channels require the approval process, as each video must be vetted in order for that 70% revenue share to go to the channel creator.
Not only will it have a negative effect on a reviewer’s ability to hit the embargo date, but their freedom of expression, both positive and negative, is at risk from the people they critique. Even if zero critical reviews from such channels are rejected over time, the fact that Nintendo has even the optics of control over criticism of their video games places them with a clear ethical violation. The situation creates a clear conflict of interest. It’s a problem that will have to be addressed in the beta stage of this program.
Nintendo As Bureaucratic Nightmare
In order to get started with creating Youtube content using Nintendo video games, whether you go for an entire channel or for individual videos, you have to join up with Nintendo themselves. Logging in with your relevant Google account, you must enter your PayPal ID and send confirmation emails to Nintendo through your Google account. Once that’s finally been taken care of, you can finally submit requests for content approval.
In some ways, the Nintendo Creators Program acts like a multi-channel network (MCN, with Machinima being an example). They will calculate how much revenue you earned each month, and pay you two months afterward. In February, they would calculate your January earnings and pay you in March. They have ways in which complaints can be handled via customer service. However, they do not nearly provide the same benefits as an MCN.
If Nintendo were to completely remove years’ worth of videos from [one’s] channel in order to move on, it would effectively kill the growth of their subscriber base, if not slowly kill the channel entirely.
There are no opportunities to create content for Nintendo as you can for Machinima’s own Youtube channels. There are no trips to PAX/E3/other conventions like you can earn with an MCN. Big MCN’s has deals with Nintendo in order to show their content on network channels already, mitigating this need. Plus, the networking opportunities that come with certain MCN partnerships do not exist in the same capacity with the game publisher’s platform. Nintendo has control with the Creators Program without providing anything other than using their games in return, making them the weakest “MCN-like” offering.
Furthermore, there are staggering complications surrounding registering channels. It makes zero sense to do this unless you’re 1,000% sure each video on your channel contains Nintendo gameplay, as registered channels will take 30% of your revenue share for each and every video, regardless of content. Even worse, it limits a Youtuber’s creative control over their own channel, as opportunities to branch out are severely limited.
If someone with a registered Nintendo channel wanted to play any non-Nintendo video games on Youtube, they have two options. The first would be to give Nintendo 30% of their revenue share on each non-Nintendo video, even if they have copyright control. The second would be to close the Nintendo Creator Program account and, under Nintendo’s request, “immediately take down any video and text related” Nintendo video gaming content, as per the Termination agreements in their Terms and Conditions. Your license to cover Nintendo gaming would become effectively null and void in that scenario.
What this means is that anyone who registers their channel with Nintendo in order to observe a fairer pay share is effectively pigeonholed into churning out Nintendo content. The alternative is unacceptable, for if Nintendo were to completely remove years’ worth of videos from one’s channel in order to move on, it would effectively kill the growth of their subscriber base, if not slowly kill the channel entirely.
The majority of a creator’s late-adopter fans would have unjustly missed out on the videos that brought the entertainer to their current-day standing once they chose to do non-Nintendo content. Any jokes, references or generally awesome content they created in the past could no longer be easily traced by fans, diminishing the channel’s fans the ability to share the best content with their friends.
The only workaround would be to create an entirely new channel for non-Nintendo gaming. Doing so, however, comes with the very real risks of fragmenting fanbases of both channels, as well as tons more work required to handle the day-to-day businesses of both operations.
In short, Nintendo has created a circumstance where they incentivize users to create Nintendo-only content at a larger payout, while handicapping their ability to extend beyond a Nintendo-only platform. Plus, with Nintendo’s ability to control the approval of a channel’s videos and retains the ability to terminate a channel for “legal, technical or commercial reasons” at any time, the negatives of maintaining a Nintendo-centric Youtube channel vastly outweigh a 10% increase in pay share.
Next: Paying Nintendo Protection Money And Submitting A Modest Alternative