Earlier this week, Kotaku was approached by a marketing firm working for the publisher Perfect World. They wanted us to help sell two of their games. And in the process, they inadvertently gave us a behind-the-scenes peek at what it looks like when YouTubers shill for game companies. The marketing firm in question, Reelio, sent us this email on Thursday:
Hope you're doing well! I'm reaching out again in regards to the opportunity I have with Perfect World, and specifically their games Neverwinter and Star Trek. I think you would be perfect for this campaign.
They're looking for influencers like yourself to play a game (or both!) and show off some of the awesome gameplay and mechanics. This would be a 45 sec to 1 minute integration at the beginning of your video demonstrating the awesome features of the games. We will pay you a flat fee of $120.00 and for every sign-up to their site you'll receive an additional compensation! We're looking to have the videos live as soon as possible.
"Influencers", as you may be aware, has become a corporate buzzword referring to internet personalities who make videos, host podcasts or reach a significant audience in some other way. Over the past few years, as more and more gamers have turned to YouTube for video game footage, analysis and commentary, the game marketers have followed, chasing after these "influencers" in hopes of selling more games. Many big publishers have paid YouTubers to make videos about their games, to the point where the US FTC has had to get involved and start slamming groups like Machinima for not disclosing sponsored content.
As tempting as $120 sounds — that's enough for two whole video games! — we aren't really interested in helping market Star Trek Online. But we are interested in understanding what these programs are really like, and sharing that understanding with our readers. So I asked for more details, and received a packet full of information about the marketing plan.
It starts off by explaining A) that the participant cannot talk about competing games in this video; and B) that Perfect World will get to review each video before it goes live. Standard stuff, I guess?
Welcome to the Perfect World campaign! We're excited that you're going to take part in this campaign and are looking forward to seeing your video.
The primary objective of this campaign is to encourage viewers to download and play Neverwinter and Star Trek Online. Remember, this campaign is CPC based so the more creators that sign up using your link, the bigger the payoff for you!
No competing brands/games may be mentioned in the video.
Perfect World will require 3-4 days to review videos prior to going live. Plan your posting schedule accordingly.
(CPC stands for "cost per click" — what this means is that the YouTuber in question will get paid extra based on how many people click on the referral links they provide.)
After that intro message, things start getting really interesting. There's a list of "talking points" that the marketing firm says should be mentioned in each video. It's full of gems, which Reelio specifies should not be recited verbatim but should instead serve as a "guide of the ideas Perfect World would like to convey".
Check these out:
- Neverwinter is a large scale PvP.
- There is an all-new challenging guild-based PvE mode: Greed of the Dragonflight
- This is great to play with your friends.
- Neverwinter is available for free on Xbox One (with a Gold subscription)
- FREE to play and download on PC
- The game is based on the acclaimed Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game
- Neverwinter is an action MMORPG that features fast-paced combat and epic dungeons.
- FREE to play and download on PC
- In Star Trek Online, the Star Trek universe appears for the first time on a truly massive scale.
- Free-to-play MMO where players can pioneer their own destiny as Captain of a Federation starship, become a Klingon Warrior and champion the Empire through the far reaches of the galaxy, or rebuild the Romulan legacy as the commander of a Romulan Republic Warbird.
- Season 11 brings along new lore, story progression, as well as new gameplay options in the form of the Admiralty System.
(Yes, "FREE to play and download on PC" really does appear twice.)
After listing out these informative bullet-points, Reelio goes on to give their marketing partners some helpful tips for what should and shouldn't be done in these sponsored videos:
- Find something in the game to gently poke fun at
- Incorporate trailers / gameplay footage in the video.
- Curse or use foul language in your video
No poking too much fun! You have to be gentle.
Finally, Reelio lays out how their new video-making buddy can get viewers signing up for Neverwinter or Star Trek Online by listing out some outro options:
Outro/Call to Action Options: Creators can say something along the lines of:
● "You should really check out Neverwinter and play with me. It's completely free and you can download the game using my link below" ● "Looking to beam up and enjoy some sci-fi action? Star Trek Online is your answer. Play for free today." ● "Ready for some sci-fi action? Check out Star Trek Online, a free-to-play MMORPG. Explore the final frontier today." ● "Take a digital voyage through the Star Trek universe in Star Trek Online, a free-to-play MMORPG. Join the action today."
To their credit, the marketing materials also specify that anyone who participates in this program must clearly disclose that the video has been sponsored by Perfect World. They're not trying to hide the fact that this is an advertising campaign. Otherwise the FTC might come knocking.