It’s pretty impressive how effective Youtube’s new Content ID system is at pruning Youtube of some of their most popular content. The system, which was invented in the interest of protecting intellectual properties, allows content owners to upload a file to the server. Youtube will then use that file as a reference to identify all the clips on Youtube that have a semblance to it. At that point, the owner of the content that appears in those videos is given a few options for what to do with the uploads. They can monetize a video by placing an advertisement either before or after it, but the most popular of options so far seems to be getting rid of the content altogether.
This puts a lot of Youtube users producing videos in the video game circuit in a weird position. Now they can’t simply play their favorite games and upload Let’s Plays, reviews, guides, or even provide commentary for trailers. Well, they can, but they can’t expect to make any money off of them. The knee-jerk reaction may be to say something like, “Well, good. They shouldn’t be making money off of other people’s property.” The issue, however, is more complicated than that.
When someone sits down to capture video, edit it, and then provide their own unique voice to it, they are promoting the company that provided the game. They may be able to make money off of it, but, in addition to the time sink, they are spending money to produce the content. Essentially, a popular Youtube video featuring a Nintendo game can be millions of views worth of exposure for Nintendo, at absolutely no cost.
There’s also the cultural impact that Youtube has had on games to consider. People like watching other people play games. People enjoy sharing their unique experiences with others. For some people, exhibition, competition, voyeurism, and community are the reasons they play. A bit of the backlash publishers are seeing could be a result of a feeling of disrespect for the fans. All of a sudden, people are treated like criminals when their intents were mostly harmless. Yes, I understand the publishers are legally protected in this endeavor, but adapting to trends is how businesses stay viable. For this reason, some publishers, and the entire indie scene, stands to gain from the Content ID system. By allowing their games to be captured, catch free, they are setting themselves apart from a perceived evil.
Publishers who employ Content ID to remove videos of their product from Youtube are also taking themselves out of the competition for exposure on Youtube. Due to a decrease in options, “Let’s Players” will be more likely to play Indie Games or the games of Youtube friendly publishers, because, let’s face it, Youtubers who have amassed millions of views and hundreds of thousands of fans, aren’t stopping anytime soon.
Perhaps this is why Ubisoft, Blizzard, and Capcom are so eager to set themselves apart from, let’s say, Nintendo. If Content ID flags a video for violation on behalf of any of those companies, whoever uploaded the content is able to dispute it with the promise that when the dispute is resolved they will be able to display it again. Response time is estimated to be around a day, which is indicative of a concentrated effort on the part of these publishers to keep videos of their games out in the public.
Content ID also draws a weird line in the sand. In many ways, Youtubers are not much different from the press who write about games. At what point is it okay for a publisher to say, “coverage is okay, but don’t make any money off of it?” Our website is skinned in advertisements, but the reason people come here is to read about the games we cover. We use screenshots and videos to help represent a title or news piece as accurately as possible to our readers. You’d be hard pressed to find a publisher who would be upset by this fact.
Gamers have reversed policy before. Just this year, Microsoft has been made to rework a handful of “features” in the Xbox One that were deemed unfriendly to the consumer. I have no doubt that this is something that will pass, and pass quickly. So, in the meantime, enjoy the content on Youtube that is sanctioned by the companies that appreciate exposure and community efforts