We’ve seen many disputes between Let’s Players and video game publishers in the past, and the controversy that this causes. Sega forced the removal of any videos that dared to feature Shining Force, and the ridiculous SOPA bill even threatened to end almost all creative freedom on the internet. Now, unfortunately, Nintendo appears to be partaking in the trend.
Earlier today we reported that Nintendo are claiming ownership of YouTube videos published by Let’s Player Zack Scott. Initially, this sounds like bad news for anyone but Nintendo. The company is not removing the videos, but simply claiming ownership; promoting their games while simultaneously sucking in all of the revenue without any effort on their part. Win-win, right? Short-term, maybe. But in the long-term, this will harm Nintendo’s potential sales.
The problem is, LPers won’t simply continue to create these videos. Why should they? The money generated from all of the effort of playing, recording and editing is now being taken from them. The aforementioned Zack Scott has already announced on Facebook that he will no longer publish Nintendo Let’s Plays until these business practices change. Even if Nintendo did change their mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if LPers continue to avoid playing their games. The sad thing is, these LPers are fans of Nintendo, and are supporting them. Now that they’re being labelled as thieves, it’s doubtful that this support will continue.
While some could make the argument that the footage of the game is not legally owned by the video creators and therefore they should not be earning revenue of Nintendo’s property, this is actually very short-sighted of Nintendo and could even prove harmful. It’s clear that Nintendo (and other publishers that have performed similar stunts) fear that the audience watching will no longer feel compelled to buy the game after watching a Let’s Play, thus losing sales.
However, watching a game being played is not the same as experiencing it first-hand. Fans of these videos are not pirates, and don’t watch them simply because they don’t want to spend money. These videos actually assist in boosting publishers’ profits, promoting Nintendo’s games without them even having to do anything.
For many, most of the appeal of Let’s Plays stem from the actual commentary and personality of the LPer, rather than the actual games. Users will watch their favourite LPers play anything if it means tuning in for more comedic, interesting and engaging discussion and real-time reactions to the game being played. If the videos happen to feature a game that looks fun to someone, then that becomes a sale for Nintendo.
This is not only bad news for Nintendo’s potential revenue, but for their image. This very news is sure to anger a lot of people and leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans. I know it’s only a simple business practice, but not everyone will see it that way. This could send the message hat the company are not only destroying the future of this form of entertainment, but are taking advantage of profit when they don’t need money.
On the flipside, Sony are actively pushing for content sharing, going as far as including a “share” button on the PS4 controller so that users can generate online videos. This will do wonders for them, with essentially free marketing and customers happy and full of freedom. We’re living in a world where entertainment is tied very tightly to the internet and a highly social infrastructure. If that world is not embraced, then it’s bad news for Nintendo.