Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Nintendo Wants Its Cut

Shamus Young | 21 May 2013 16:00
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When people discuss a game, it makes the game relevant. Being relevant is more important to sales than marketing. Apparently it's even more important than the game being good.

In the case of Nintendo, this "spoiling" concern is doubly ludicrous, since everyone knows exactly what happens in a Nintendo game before it even comes out. We know what happens in a Mario game. We definitely know what happens in a Zelda game. People do not play these things to see how they turn out. More than any other company, people play Nintendo games because they love the gameplay.

As has been repeated many times: Games are not movies. If I see a movie on YouTube, then I've seen it. If I see a game on YouTube, then I still haven't played it. Watching other people play a game usually makes us want to play it too. Just wait for someone to sit down on the couch beside you and see how long it takes for them to start bugging you for the controller. The best advertisement in the world is nothing compared to the power of, "This looks like fun. Give me the controller."

Imagine what this will look like when Nintendo gets their wish. Millions of people watching videos about Rockstar games. Millions of people discussing Ubisoft games. Millions of people posting hilarious footage from BioWare, Valve, and Bethesda, inventing songs and creating memes. And nobody talking about Nintendo titles.

When people discuss games, ideas spread, are remixed, and even seep into other games as in-jokes and pop culture references. This grand internet remix machine gave us The Cake is a Lie, Arrow to the Knee, Zerg Rush, Gentlemen (and about a dozen others from Team Fortress 2) and of course, Our Princess is in Another Castle. Sure, maybe you got sick of these jokes after a while, but for publishers this stuff is gold. This is the kind of exposure and audience participation that can't be purchased at any price. These jokes put the games in front of people who never would have heard about them otherwise. Most marketing campaigns are sad, desperate attempts to artificially create this kind of popular enthusiasm.

It's also worth noting that copyright notices on YouTube can be incredibly abrupt and accusatory. We had one of our Spoiler Warning videos flagged as infringing because of the licensed song that played in the closing credits of Alan Wake. The notices are worded to be intimidating to discourage you from making a fuss. (Not that you can do anything about it. YouTube just doesn't want to deal with your hysterical emails. You're expected to shut up and just accept it.) For those who don't know about this policy, their introduction will happen when they get a notice that ads will now be showing over their videos, and Nintendo will be keeping the proceeds. Nintendo is going to be sending hostile takedown notices to people over pocket change. Even if people don't care about the money, people will learn to avoid featuring Nintendo games simply because these notices leave you with the impression you've done something wrong.

Legal or not, fair or not, this is a horrible move for Nintendo. There is nothing for them to gain from this. They're not going to get their hands into the cookie jars of big YouTube personalities. Instead, their games will just vanish from popular channels. Their copyright notices will harass the small-timers making little fan videos. It will expunge Nintendo titles from the meme machine and alienate their fans, without making a single yen for the company. This is a backward and tone-deaf move by people who still don't get internet culture.

The Wii U is already a punchline and the next-gen competition isn't even out yet. The last thing the company needs is to give gamers another reason to avoid their titles. Heck, Sony is making a major selling point out of the fact that the PS4 will have a single button dedicated to letting people share game footage with their friends. Videogame footage is the watercooler conversation of the next generation. This is the future. Nintendo should be pursuing it, not attacking it.

Shamus Young has a blog, a book, a podcast, a let's play series, and a background in software. He's never gonna let Nintendo get their hands on his Internet Money.

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