The ‘console war‘ between Xbox One and PS4 was a hot topic among YouTube gamers last November and December, and a report from Ars Technica reveals that Microsoft may have paid for a little extra boost. The report reveals a deal between Microsoft, top multi-channel YouTube network Machinima, and individual gamers through which the latter group could be paid $3 CPM (cost per thousand) for videos promoting the new Xbox One console.
Evidence of the deal is available in a since-deleted tweet as well as an e-mail from Machinima, both of which targeted the network’s army of YouTube gamers. Essentially, creators could claim the $3 CPM bonus so long as they featured at least 30 seconds of game footage and did “not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games.” Creators were also required to keep the deal secret in order to claim their compensation.
Here’s one video, from the GameSocietyPimps channel, that appears to have been part of the promotion:
It is the combination of forced positivity and discretion that could get Microsoft and Machinima in trouble with the FTC; according to the government agency’s guidelines, full disclosure is required for any deal that could “affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.”
Machinima had this to say about the promotion:
“This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content. Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion.”
Its questionable legality aside, the deal is actually a smart marketing move by Microsoft. Ars Technica’s report claims that the deal was only guaranteed up to 1.25 total views, meaning that the promotion’s budget was a miniscule $3,750. With that tiny amount of money, Microsoft was able to generate some positive buzz through videos that served as free marketing once the budget dried up. Game companies would be smart to continue with these types of promotions with the whole ‘potentially illegal’ part excised.