The news has been buzzing around for a day or so now, and bringing it up here will likely get me called some kind of fanboy, but… we really should talk about it, as it brings into question the value of anyone you don’t know’s word rather directly. So here we go. It appears that over the past few weeks, Microsoft and Machinima have had a backdoor deal in which the big Ms were paying off youtube channels to promote the Xbox One. Now this in itself wasn’t that big a deal, considering we see things like that all the time in movies, games, sporting events and many other public actions. A company or three will sponsor the event provided they get some positive publicity from it.
But the problem here arises in that the very terms of the event required the people doing it to not breath a word that about this sponsorship.
Basically, the full rules were:
- The video must be published before Feb 9th
- The video must be at least 60 seconds long.
- The video must contain at least 30 seconds of ingame XBox One footage.
- The video must NOT say anything negative about Xbox One or Machinima.
- But you MUST say verbally that you are playing this on an Xbox One.
- You must tag your video with MX1M13 so the company/ies involved can tell this is part of the “promotion.”
- And finally, you must keep this “promotion” confidential.
Doing this will earn the youtube creator an extra $3 per 1000 views they get for the video. So in essence for shilling the system whether the content creator actually likes it or not, they are being paid off, and they can not tell their audience “this video was sponsored by” or something similar like we would normally see with sponsors of this sort. And as I said above, this is where the problem (and anger from many gamers right now) arises.
Now let me be up front about this: I am not convinced these actions are illegal. Hell, at this point we are not even sure which company is responsible (in fact, Machinima is calling it a typical partnership while MS is denying all claims, so the finger pointing game has begun in earnest). However, for both companies involved, this is a PR nightmare, as neither has had the best reputation in the gaming community as of late to begin with. This can only drag them both through the mud, showing Machinima to be a very scummy company who will likely lose subscribers and putting a huge asterisk next to any positive review of Microsoft products (especially the Xbox One) because we have seen this happen around their stuff, possibly at their hand. This is frankly bad news for everyone.
And THEN we can get to fanboy reactions, which are just as pitiful. So far, I have seen accusations fly about MS’s desperation to sell the machine, to arguments saying “well the others do it too” and of course the usual “yeah, well your guy likes DRM” or other bullshit that has nothing to do with this so the fanboy can feel better about his shit.
It’s seriously pathetic, partly because battle lines have been drawn over pieces of plastic which as of yet have not proven themselves (seriously, from where I stand, I have yet to see a single game draw me to either of the new consoles). But also because of the wild nature we always see in these fanboy battles. So let’s put the record straight.
First and foremost, calling Microsoft desperate to sell their machines is retarded… in fact it’s pants on head retarded. It may not have sold as well as the PS4 so far, but it’s been out a few months and already broke 3 million sales. This is NOT grounds to be desperate for the sale. Sorry, but it is not. (If anyone should be that desperate for sales right now, it’s Nintendo, all opinions of the WiiU aside.)
Second, no one else has been caught doing it, so what proof do you have that the “others are doing it too?” Being in the States, I much prefer the attitude of “innocent until proven guilty” which is why I am not ready to claim that even Microsoft pulled this shit beyond maybe telling Machinima they will pay for advertisement (which again, is NOT a big deal. That is sports endorsement territory). So please, show me what they are doing before you point fingers without proof. In fact the only thing that comes to mind was YEARS ago when Sony did viral advertising in the form of a blog by an actor. The “purpose” of the blog was for the youngster to talk about how much he wanted the PSP and in fact became infamous because of a particularly terrible rap about it.
Even this really is only to blame for how god awful the video is. After all, this was a no-name actor who no one knew and no one cared about. This issue with the Xbox One is happening right under your nose by people you may have watched for years and come to trust the opinions of… and no hint that you were now being advertised to by them instead of listening to their honest opinions.
And finally, really what the fuck does this have to do with any actual function of this or any other machine in the gaming world? Actual OR perceived by the technology being available, it is completely unrelated. It’s the fanboy version of losing an argument with “yeah, and you’re ugly.” Please… just stop. It’s sad and pathetic, and I was hoping more people would be better then this.
Long story short, Machinima’s hand was caught in the cookie jar doing something shady as fuck and there is reason to suspect Microsoft may have directed them, though no evidence to prove it. Suspicion is not conviction, so everyone, please… be angry if you want to be. You have a right to be, but please, don’t be idiots about it… ok?
Update: Well it seems Machinima’s words about this kind of shit being typical may indeed have some merit. Shortly after this story broke and was all over the internet, EA was caught in a similar position. Alleged screenshots of their “Ronku” program were posted in a NeoGaf forum called “EA Too!™: Be extra nice and EA will pay you (participants may not disclose details)” which contains details explaining that there is a non-disclosure clause explaining that the gamers who join up are not allowed to talk about the program. In fact, the images suggest their program is almost identical to Machinima’s though they are a little more flexible and allow for some critiquing in the video.
At the time of writing this update, EA has sent a response to IGN in relation to this:
“Through EA's Ronku program, some fans are compensated for the YouTube videos they create and share about our games. The program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored. User-generated videos are a valuable and unique aspect of how gamers share their experiences playing the games they love, and one that EA supports.”
So now that the program’s existence is confirmed, the question for you is who do you believe? EA could be lying or even have added the rule to the site since writing this (the internet is not set in stone). Hell, it could even have been a mistake that was in the terms but not put online for some freakish reason (hey, it happens!).
But on the other hand, the evidence that opened this were screenshots from some guy on NeoGAF who frankly, I have never heard of. He would have cut or doctored the screens he posted. It’s also worth noting that Machinima is saying that the confidentiality is about the details of the promotion, not it’s existence, so could EA be in the same boat? But one this is for sure, something is amiss and was clearly at the very least not clarified enough to be anything but shady, and we may well be looking at just the tip of the iceburg. Who else will be found to have such programs? And who in a mad panic will shut them to avoid joining into this current scandal? Time will tell.
- Destructoid: Microsoft secretly pays YouTubers to advertise Xbox One
- IGN: Report: Machinima Paying YouTubers for Positive Xbox One Coverage
- IGN: EA Also Reportedley Paying YouTube Channels for Coverage
- NeoGaf Forums: EA Too!™: Be extra nice and EA will pay you (participants may not disclose details)
- IGN video: Is Machinima Paying Youtubers for Positive Xbox One Coverage?