In a turn of events that probably shouldn’t be a total surprise to anyone, a survey conducted by Mike Rose over at Gamasutra has revealed that in sample of 141 YouTube gamers, where roughly 30 percent have over 5,000 subscribers, 26 percent have accepted money from game publishers and developers in exchange for playing or promoting their games. For those with fewer than 5,000 subscribers, the number drops to just 2 percent, likely because publishers only offer these types of sponsorships to creators with a significant subscriber base. Is it fair for publishers to pay YouTubers to play their games?
The study raises some ethical questions about YouTube gamers who occupy a grey area between video game journalists and entertainers who utilize video games as a medium. The piece goes on at some length to ponder the ethics of YouTubers accepting money in the form of sponsorships or outright incentives in exchange for promoting games. While the majority of gamers surveyed claim that they do not accept or expect payment from game publishers. It is telling that the number of creators who do accept compensation climbs significantly once YouTubers pass the 5,000-subscriber mark.
Of those creators that did accept payment for their services, many did feel they were under an ethical obligation to disclose those sponsorships within the video so that viewers could make fully informed consumer choices based on the content. Many of those being paid also point out that in the current climate, following YouTube’s more stringent ContentID standards, monetizing video-game content can be extremely difficult. In order to continue producing content, gamers must look elsewhere for revenue.
The full study raises some interesting questions about the largely uncharted water of ethics in consumer journalism. This area of online video content is still developing, and very few rules or best practices currently exists. At present it would seem the majority of creators prefer not to accept payment or sponsorships, but that 30 percent increase in sponsorships for creators with higher subscriber counts could be telling. Gaming content is booming on YouTube right now, and if there is a positive correlation between subscriber counts and sponsorships then it’s likely that the rising tide of YouTube gaming will leading to a similar increase in both.
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