Let’s Play, Please

‘Buying a new game’ is right up there with ‘waking up without a hangover’ in the list of top feelings, but like many great feelings, it’s the journey that makes it worth it. How do you normally go about deciding which game you want to buy? I’m quite partial to reading reviews, but I seem to be part of a dying number with Let’s Play videos becoming massively popular on many websites, especially YouTube.

Some gaming companies, notably Nintendo, are not quite so keen on the idea.

If companies taking umbrage at these videos see fit, they can ask YouTube to stop the uploader receiving advertising revenue (the way prolific YouTubers make their money) and funnel it to their company instead. Assuming a figure which I’ve seen bounded about, prominent YouTube uploaders can make $2-3 or more per 1,000 views on their videos. If you happen to follow any gaming vloggers, you will know that their videos can rack up a hefty view count, and in turn could be missing out on a sizable amount of money.

Of course you can take my revenue - Nobody Ever
Of course you can take my revenue – Nobody Ever

Call me a fool, but the most important tool in marketing surely must be solid advertising – gaming companies of all shapes and sizes pour large quantities of their budgets into getting their game into the public eye. This might seem like a stunningly obvious statement to make, but sitting alongside the fact that certain companies are actively taking measures against these vloggers who propagate scintillating, exciting footage of their masterpieces across a very large platform, I’m left wondering how some people manage to get dressed in the morning.

It’s contagious, too. If you watch a video of some playtime in a game you have never played, you yearn to do the same. Many videos spawn copycat videos, but many also spawn new, exciting adaptations of the gameplay which end up giving more depth to the game. Put ‘minecraft’ or ‘gary’s mod’ into YouTube and see what I mean – the variety is endless.

Better yet, this is not just the broad-spectrum kind of advertising, this is the best kind – advertising tailored to a very specific audience. These viewers are engaged, not just subscribers with half an hour to spend – the vast majority of the people viewing these videos have actively searched for the game in question, arrived at the video and are running their fingers along their debit cards in consumer limbo.

If I have the choice between buying FIFA 14 or eating this month, which team will I manage first?
If I have the choice of FIFA 14 or eating this month, which team will I manage first?

Perhaps the gaming companies who frown at this behaviour misunderstand the balance of power on display. Certainly, they are well within their right to put a solid metal-of-your-choice curtain around the advertising revenue of their games, but do they expect that people will still play ball? Of course not. Moreover, why risk the public hanging that will result when the subscribers find out that their chosen channel will be unable to host videos because of restrictions? With many vloggers already being far more adept at the nuances of social media than many of these companies, as well as having a battalion of angered followers, you would think it a fool’s errand. And I, personally, would wholeheartedly agree.

Many indie designers have chosen to befriend and pitch their games to many e-famous YouTube gamers in the hope that they will give their title some airtime. Many have chartered success with this venture too – The Stanley Parable Designer Davey Wreden has given praise to those who helped the title gain popularity – and I am sure bigger companies must be able to say the same.

Let’s Play videos have sparked a new approach to gaming journalism over the past half a decade, no longer is a cool-as-hell screenshot and matching caption enough. Things have advanced, and the YouTube community leads the way – I can certainly assure the gaming industry that this will not be changing. If you can’t beat them…

Author: graemefinch

Teacher, avid Warcrafter, gifted Dungeons and Dragons character creator. Passionate about all things high fantasy and RPG.

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