Earlier this week several documents came out that suggested Microsoft paid YouTubers to make videos promoting the Xbox One. The news in and of itself was not troubling, but the fact that Microsoft required the video makers refrain from disparaging comments and not reveal their videos were paid promotion left us more than a little concerned.
Now, it appears the floodgates have opened, and more YouTubers are coming forward to reveal a dark side of the Let’s Play video making community. The latest report suggests Electronic Arts deployed a similar promotional campaign for their products — paying YouTubers to record positive videos — and also forced the video makers to keep the agreement secret.
According to a post on NeoGAF, EA’s campaign was centered on promoting some of their upcoming fall releases. In exchange for $10 per 1,000 views, YouTubers were asked to promote titles like Need For Speed: Rivals, Battlefield 4, and Madden NFL 25.
Again, while these particular promotions are commonplace in the Let’s Play and YouTube communities, what’s distressing is that video makers had to refrain from full transparency in order to gain payment. They couldn’t mention that they were being paid by EA for the video, or reveal the contents of the agreement (i.e. that they were told to avoid glitches). The campaign also featured a stipulation which prevented the YouTubers from highlighting any of the aforementioned games’ problems, including “major glitches” in Rivals or Battlefield 4. This is significant because, as we now know, Battlefield 4 featured a large quantity of glitches and server problems at launch.
Here’s the supposed assignment for Battlefield 4 content from Electronic Arts:
The one key difference between this campaign and Microsoft’s Xbox One campaign is that EA did not explicitly require the video makers avoid disparaging language about the games. That doesn’t mean it isn’t implied, but at least the agreement doesn’t outright mention anything in that regard.
We speculated earlier this week that the Let’s Play community would be a huge talking point for 2014 – especially after the recent copyright crackdown by YouTube – but we didn’t realize that would happen so soon. Clearly, there is big money to be gained from the community, both by video makers and by publishers. But where there is the potential for big money, there is the potential for underhanded deals.
What bothers you more: that companies are paying for positive videos or that the video makers are agreeing to these terms? Does it paint the Let’s Play community in a different light?