Since the lengthy development of indie hit Fez – a game we love – became a thing of news headlines, its creator Phil Fish has been a voice that people in the industry (or following it closely) pay attention to on social media. He was even one of the spotlighted developers of Indie Game: The Movie, a wonderful documentary if you’ve yet to see it.
His controversial words at conventions and on Twitter have gotten so much attention (read: too much) that he’s become one of the more famous gave devs and because of it, expectations of certain media representatives resulted in a Twitter brawl last year, causing Fish to erupt into a fury of social media rage to the point of him cancelling Fez 2 – just a month after announcing it.
At the time, Fish explained that he wanted to get out of games because being a developer with his reputation is too “abusive.” Now, just about a year after those events, Fish has found himself the subject of headlines once again, this time for expressing opinions on another hot button topic in video games: YouTube Monetization. He feels that YouTubers using gameplay footage to make ad revenue as part of a YouTube partnership or YouTube network agreement should entitle the game developers behind those products to a “huge portion” of said revenue. The timing of his thoughts are no doubt in response to the recent revelation his week that #1 YouTube channel and personality PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg) had raked in $4 million last year from YouTube gameplay videos.
Here’s what Fish said yesterday on Twitter:
- “YouTubers should have to pay out a huge portion of their revenue to the developers from which they steal all their content.”
- “[Ad] revenue should be shared with developers. This should be built into YouTube. Anything else is basically piracy.”
- “If you generate money from putting my content on your channel, you owe me money. Simple as that.”
- “If you buy a movie, are you then allowed to stream the entirety of it publicly for people to watch for free? No, because that’s illegal.”
- “Systems are in place to prevent that. But buy Fez, put ALL of it on YouTube, turn on ads, make money from it and that’s TOTALLY FINE.”
- “And the developer should in NO WAY be compensated for their work being freely distributed to the world. Right. Makes sense.”
And a few minutes later, after some heated feedback to the tweets, Fish said “nevermind.” After more heated feedback, he actually fully shutdown his Twitter account. Phil Fish is no longer on Twitter.
We don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining how interactive content differs from films or cinematics. Viewers aren’t watching PewDiePie for graphics or video game assets, they’re watching to see and hear PewDiePie experience and react to something. Watching a game does not equate to playing a game, the same way watching Wil Wheaton and friends play board games in his series TableTop does not require them to share ad revenue with board game makers. That would be absurd. But if it were a digital interactive board game (i.e. a video game) they were playing, would that then deserve ad revenue sharing?
What Fish neglects to touch on or seemingly even consider is that what PewDiePie and countless other YouTubers are doing is freely promoting video games by sharing gameplay footage to millions of viewers online. When PewDiePie has fun playing a game and it’s entertaining to watch, countless others want to experience the same thing. In fact, it’s partly thanks to PewDiePie that Flappy Bird became such a sensation.
And it’s absolutely because of YouTube’s inherent word-of-mouth viral ability to spread that Minecraft became one of the biggest games of all-time. Minecraft made a ton of money because of YouTube, but not because of YouTube ad revenue – because of the boom in game sales resulting in it. On the flip side, it’s because of Nintendo’s antiquated video monetization policies that major YouTube channels don’t even play Nintendo games. That means, these games are not promoted and seen as cool by the biggest personalities. Essentially, they’re preventing the most famous gamers in the world from playing their games.
Anton Westbergh, chief executive of Sweden’s Coffee Stain Studios – developer of Goat Simulator tells The Wall Street Journal how important YouTube celebrities are to marketing a game.
“Having guys like PewDiePie playing our game has been tremendous marketing. And for us, there have been no costs involved.”
And there you have it. This is why an increasing amount of publishers and developers have added video policy sections allowing YouTube monetization to their official websites and why the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are both built to support video sharing and streaming.
For more on Phil Fish, Innuendo Studios put together an interesting analysis and recap (video at top of post) of how Phil Fish became famous and then infamous, and more importantly, how it reflects upon video game culture. It’s an interesting watch.
Do you watch YouTube “Let’s Plays” and if so, what channels do you like best?