Mobile Mavens

Rise of the YouTuber: An opportunity too good for developers to turn down?

Rise of the YouTuber: An opportunity too good for developers to turn down?

The last couple of weeks has seen the rise of the 'YouTuber'- and specifically claims that developers are paying those prominent (and, sometimes, not so prominent) in the field for favourable coverage in videos – hit the headlines

Putting the ethics to the side a little (and the question of whether those YouTubers should be declaring said payments) we asked our Mavens:

What opportunities does the rise of the YouTuber present for developers and should devs ever consider paying them for coverage?

 

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

Of course devs should if it's a cost effective method of generating installs, however that's something that would be very tough to attribute due to a lack of tracking. In paid it's less a concern.

I would feel more comfortable that paid coverage was disclosed, more for the YouTubers' own longevity as their audiences mature and become more savvy to their workings. Undisclosed paid coverage harms the YouTuber more than the product they're pushing.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

The issue of paid versus organic media coverage is something which is a growing challenge, and I do worry that it is made deliberately opaque to consumers whether what they are viewing or reading is sponsored or not.

I fully appreciate that editorial requires some kind of revenue stream in the absence of paywalls, but I agree with Will that I would want to see any sponsored content clearly marked as such. The problem with that is that there is a much greater value in primary editorial than advertorial, and maintaining a line between the two isn't always simple.

My personal view is that I am against things like paid-for reviews.
John Ozimek

In terms of importance, YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for game discovery, although the most popular channels are still heavily biased towards console and PC. However, I fully expect this to change as more mobile games deliver a console-esque experience.

My personal view is that I am against things like paid-for reviews. We saw the same problem a couple of years ago when review sites would charge of 'accelerated reviews' or premium site placements; any payment in return for editorial in my view denigrates the value and independence of any resultant coverage.

I would always encourage developers we work with to explore different ways of working with sites and channels for any paid exposure that compliments the editorial or engages the audience in other ways, and you see the better YouTube channels already taking this approach.

The issue of trust and credibility is paramount when it comes to reviews, and payment for exposure damages both of these values.

Keith Andrew With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

I think what worries me most about this is that, if you read the account of these YouTubers, most started off doing it as a hobby and have almost fallen into making money out of it.

That means there's no real editorial process - something you only really value when you've had it - and also it seems dubious that any of these YouTubers are paying the appropriate tax on their earnings. That's a side issue, but is indicative of the unregulated nature of this 'job'.

Without regulation, without any official right of reply for the developers effected, this could cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

To be fair, I think an awful lot of people in this industry, whether developers or journalists, started off doing it as a hobby and fell into making money out of it. It seems unfair to presume that people earning money this way aren't paying their income tax - why wouldn't they be?

I find the rise of the YouTubers fascinating - and scary - in that it's one of the first "I'm getting old and I don't get it any more" experiences in my life.

I discussed this with my teenage children only recently; whereas I would much prefer to consume short reviews, tutorials, editorial etc reading them (mainly because I find reading much quicker than watching a video), they are the opposite. We need to embrace that.

There's no question that younger players are increasingly getting their entertainment and information via curated YouTube channels, and the number of people some YouTubers attract is astonishing - particularly for someone from a world where game print magazines had tens, or possibly low hundreds of thousands of readers.

As someone who used to get excited to get a mention in Edge (readership in the tens of thousands) in the nineties, knowing that channels exist to reach tens of millions of gamers is incredibly exciting.

Times are changing - now that users expect their content for free, and increasingly banner or interruptive advertising is blocked, skipped, or just ignored, new models need to emerge that allow games to be promoted, and the reviewers/promoters to earn a living from it. Paying for coverage may feel unpalatable, but the 'old model' certainly saw PRs 'build relationships' with reviewers via expensive press trips, drinks and events, and with magazine publishers via paid advertising. Much of which is basically spending money in order to maximise one's chances of attention.

I agree I'd prefer YouTubers to make clear when a feature is paid or not - information spreads quickly and gamers are not stupid - great reviews of bad products will quickly come back to haunt all involved.

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

If they're not paying tax, it'll get caught and they'll cotton soon enough. That sort of thing works itself out.

Additionally, smart business people will start to gravitate towards YouTubers and run things anyway (I'm sure that's already happen).

I agree with Harry that YouTubers are a generational thing. However, I would definitely move towards getting my games info in video form, but most YouTubers are like narcissistic toddlers hopped up on blue M&Ms. As they're audience matures I'm sure so will their content.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Personally I find this a really exciting medium and we are seeing the same mistakes which happened why people started blogging professionally. The blurred lines between personal expression and media are fascinating and extremely powerful as individuals can generate audiences which TV channels would kill for.

If most YouTubers are simply narcissistic toddlers hopped up on blue M&Ms then how come they have an audience - I assume we aren't talking about the kids with only 5 followers each!

For the YouTubers it seems to me that their credibility is on the line.
Oscar Clark

Many of these guys are smart and entertaining - even if unpolished or occasionally unpalatable. I suspect the best ones really understand what their audiences want in a much more visceral way than many professionals.

But it does take time and effort to build up enough of an audience to generate revenues and they are probably still learning things like Income Tax or VAT receipts; let along professional standards of conduct which took the journalistic media a long time to establish.

As with all things transparency is important - and for the YouTubers it seems to me that their credibility is on the line and their audience is not likely to forgive them for fabricating reviews that they were paid to make.

We should all embrace the opportunities of video with our games not just through the YouTubers, but by creating our own video media and building audiences with that to support our game.

P.S. Despite this I still never find the time to watch Total Biscuit or PewDiePie… instead give me a podcast to listen to whilst I get on with all the other stuff I have to do.

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

Just because they have a big audience doesn't mean they have everyone, Oscar. I think the demographic for most YouTubers is under 18. Gaming demographic is much broader than that today.

Also popular doesn't mean good. Look at Coldplay.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

My point is 'good' is in the eye of the beholder. I used to like Coldplay (but then I like a lot of different music - mostly not so mainstream).

It's easy to underestimate a market because the average is under 18. Nintendo? Magic: The Gathering?

Keith Andrew With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

I'd just like to point out I actually bought Coldplay's latest single.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

Is this not the same thing as a celebrity endorsement? I meet with developers all the time and ask them what their marketing budget is. Three out of 10 tell me they have a celebrity to tweet or take a photo using their app. That drives downloads and word of mouth.


With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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