Nintendo launched a new affiliate program yesterday for YouTubers that, on paper sounds like a good thing. It’s a way to let YouTubers make money off their Nintendo-related videos on YouTube, after all. But if you look at the finer details, things don’t look so great.
Called the “Nintendo Creator’s Program,” the scheme lets people earn advertising proceeds on any Nintendo-related stuff that uses gameplay footage of Nintendo games. Think Let’s Plays, like the kind that Pewdiepie does. Or walkthroughs. Or the type of video that an average joe might upload to YouTube about their sick Mario platforming. All of this stuff would be eligible to make money from advertising.
In order to earn the money, YouTubers can register specific videos or entire channels with Nintendo. Individual videos can earn 60 per cent of advertising proceeds, and registered channels can earn a little more — 70 per cent. Unless Nintendo decides to change that. And they can. The Nintendo Creator’s program says that this rate “may be changed arbitrarily”. Presumably, Nintendo wouldn’t be a jerk about this and wouldn’t just change the rate to something ridiculous, but the fact that fine print exists at all does not inspire confidence.
The other big problem with this policy is that it puts certain type of Nintendo content in an awkward position. In many cases, the idea that Nintendo would want to take a share of the money produced by video content of their products makes some sense: they made the game(s) in question, and want in on the action. Of course they do. But let’s say a YouTuber decides to make a review of a Nintendo product. Should Nintendo be able to get a cut of the advertising revenue on such a video? When a review runs in a professional gaming outlet, chances are good that the outlet would not be paying a developer or publisher a certain percentage of money just because they use footage of a game. That would be crazy. But it’s going to be policy on YouTube.
Another aspect of this program that could potentially prove disadvantageous for YouTubers is the fact that it can “regularly take up to three business days” for registered videos to be reviewed and okayed. While it’s unclear on whether or not an entire registered channel would have to wait that long, the problems with this system and individual Nintendo-related videos is clear. Again, let’s use the example of a YouTuber producing a review of a game. Would the fact they have to get the video okayed by Nintendo influence what someone says? Is there a chance a policy like this could make people timid about criticising Nintendo, or offering valid critique?Let’s say a YouTuber get a game in advance, and they crunch on it so that they can get a review out on time, before embargo. Having to add in three day’s worth of potential waiting time is absurd in that scenario: it’s hard enough to get reviews out on time, when it’s useful to someone who would like to make an informed purchasing decision. Adding rules that require Nintendo to ok a video before it can run does not serve the interest of the consumer, or the interests of a YouTuber: it only serves Nintendo.
Now, that’s not to say the current program is all bad. Certainly it’s better than what existed before, where Nintendo-related content only let Nintendo and YouTube make advertising revenue. And Nintendo isn’t fumbling YouTube as badly as companies like Sega, that have shut down entire channels just so that the company could get eyeballs on the videos they want, and not the videos that are produced by YouTubers. This new program by Nintendo at least lets YouTubers, who are actually making the original content, get some money out of their hard work too. But, in its current state, the program isn’t well-constructed either. As a result, some YouTubers aren’t very happy about the new affiliate program.
“This program further drives a wedge between video creators and game developers,” YouTuber Zack Scott wrote on his Facebook page. “I’ve always felt our relationship was mutually beneficial, and most developers from large AAA studios to the smallest indies agree. I cringed when I heard about certain YouTubers demanding a percentage of game sales revenue in exchange for coverage. I feared that developers would adopt the same sentiment and demand a percentage of video ad revenue. With Nintendo’s latest move, that time has come.”
“Not only do you have to essentially pay Nintendo to review their game, you have to review their game by their rules,” YouTuber Geek Remix griped in a recent video. “You’ve signed a contract with them in order to be allowed to review their game.”
Last year, Nintendo promised that their affiliate program would be a mutually beneficial one, where content creators would be granted some sort of access to resources they might not otherwise have. And in the past, Nintendo has worked with certain YouTubers, like Mega64, to make Nintendo-related videos. In those cases, the usefulness of a partnership between Nintendo and YouTubers is clearer: they’re both helping each other out, and the result is something that a viewer can enjoy. But, not every Nintendo-related video will work like this, nor should they.
Part of the issue here is that Nintendo is clearly interested in moulding YouTube coverage to their benefit. You see this in the way Reggie Fils-Aime described the plans to work with YouTubers last year. “The first thing we needed to do was make sure that the content that’s out there was representative of the franchises,” Fils-Aime said to Kotaku last year. “These are our lifeblood. These are our children. We needed to make sure that the content there was reflective of what these franchises are.” Naturally Nintendo doesn’t want their products to be misrepresented. But more than anything, it seems that Nintendo would like YouTube to be an extension of their marketing department. But a journalist, critic or YouTuber’s interest is not necessarily to make sure their content is on-message, and acceptable to Nintendo.
And the fact that content has to be reviewed by Nintendo means that videos can be shot down by Nintendo. While we don’t know how much control Nintendo would exert here — can they shoot down a video if it says something negative, for example? — based on principle alone, the program has some problems. And then of course there’s the whole dilemma of whether or not Nintendo is entitled to make money off original content that they did not make. That one is up for debate. For now, we’ve asked Nintendo for clarification on the review process for the program, and will update this story if we hear back.