Microsoft recently made headlines after several reports revealed that the company behind the Xbox One had paid YouTube gamers to support the new console. Microsoft’s deal, which it brought to YouTube with the help of Machinima, has drawn some attention because it appears to go against the FTC guidelines that require transparency for bought opinions.
Since that story broke, however, publications have noted several other instances of game companies paying creators for positive opinions. Not only is Microsoft’s behavior not new, it’s apparently common; and that is causing some ethically-questionable business relationships to arise.
After the Microsoft story broke, TheVerge brought to light an Electronic Arts subdivision called Ronku that brokers deals with YouTubers in exchange for videos highlight certain aspects of EA games. Through a screenshot captured by a NeoGAF user, we can see the terms of a Ronku agreement for a Battlefield 4 campaign, one that reportedly paid a whopping $10 CPM.
The main issue with these campaigns is their questionable half-compliance with FTC guidelines. Obviously, the game companies are going to make sure they do just enough to comply with federal regulations while not making the participating videos appear as advertisements to the casual viewer.
A recent video from Boogie2988 on the matter discusses this issue. Boogie warns that YouTubers might not be entirely forthcoming with the degree to which they were compensated, and that as a result it is important to take YouTuber gaming opinions with a grain of salt.
These sort of deals are ultimately good. They put money in the pockets of YouTubers who are having trouble earning their due thanks to, among other factors, the increasingly restrictive clutch of YouTube’s ContentID system. The important thing is for viewers to understand that these deals happen and to be careful when parsing video game review videos.