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Dissecting Nintendo’s Control Battle with YouTubers

What is Nintendo's real objective here?

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If you haven’t had an ear towards all the news circling the internet as of late, you may have missed all of the craziness that’s been happening between content creators and Nintendo. The short version of this ongoing issue is that Nintendo has been at odds with YouTube gaming content creators by slapping content ID match flags to videos that focus on Nintendo games. While this has been the case for a long time now, it has received more attention since Nintendo had come forward with their Creator’s Program. The program received a lot of criticism for being deemed too unfair and archaic towards content creators and their ability to create content for monetization on platforms like YouTube. There have been bold lines drawn between everyone on the issue, ranging from fans and viewers, to game developers and popular online personalities.

To say this debate about who is right has been a rollercoaster is a complete understatement for many involved. A lot of the arguing against Nintendo has focused on the idea that content creators own the experience they present on video and contribute heavily to the general sales of newly released games.

This has been true on more than one occasion, with a lot of citing to Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and even some big budget AAA titles like Destiny. It would be incredibly unfair not to acknowledge the influence of a content creator’s huge following that purchase a game simply because that person showed it to them. It’s a new modern equivalent of hearing about a video game from others on the playground and then getting your parents to buy it for you. Most companies have already embraced this and used it to their advantage to not only push a stronger marketing presence, but also stay afloat at different times of the year, traditionally dominated by companies with more resources for marketing.

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Yet the flip side of the debate is just as strong in favor of and accepting of Nintendo’s actions. Viewed from a legal point of view, Nintendo has every right to control the message and image of their intellectual properties, as well as take ownership of any revenue made off of their intellectual property. This would include the messaging and appearance on any platform for their characters, regardless if it’s an amateur shot YouTube video or professional segment. Without all of the legalese to confuse everyone, that means they have a final say on anything about their games and can automatically take any sort of money made from using their games or IPs for any project. Safe to say, a lot of people who depend on showcasing games for a profitable career have been unhappy about that.

But now the real issue isn’t about who is right or wrong on the matter of money or freedom of expression. Both arguments are compelling and reasonably supported enough to sway anyone to either side. The real question however is: who is really in control here? This is something both sides, including companies who shied away from the issue altogether, have yet to clarify. Is it the consumers that control the direction and messaging of the game industry, or is it the companies that make the games, in this case Nintendo, that control it? Despite what money is spent or what legal claim is made, who has the final say?

Money is what keeps coming up between both sides of the issue. After all, content creators who make videos about video games on YouTube do need to generate profit from their work. It is the cornerstone of what started the issue at first, with recent videos from popular personalities like Angry Joe stating they wouldn’t cover Nintendo games because of the continuous monetization claiming of his content. Joe, as well as many others, have constantly expressed their anger with Nintendo’s monetization claims because of how they don’t need to horde the money earned by content creators, as Nintendo has been a long-time multi-billion dollar company. This however, has never been an issue for Nintendo despite what many are to believe in recent years.

Since the 80s and early 90s, Nintendo has always taken a tight grasp on controlling the landscape of the game industry. Having been responsible for single handedly saving the industry from collapsing, Nintendo always maintained a strict stance on protecting their IPs, as well as micromanaging aspects of the game industry. This was the case during the Famicom/NES days when Nintendo would restrict the amount of copies for games from third parties to prevent gaming oversaturation that would cause another industry crash. Since then, the company has stayed afloat and remained highly relevant in the eyes of consumers through this method of total control, despite being criticized the last few console generations.

But if Nintendo’s stance against game content creators is more about control than it is about money, then what do they possibly have to gain out of it? The industry has changed over the last thirty years, with more competition and other means of becoming successful in the world of video games. This presents more questions about their decisions than it does answers. Common sense would say that not allowing someone like PewDiePie or Angry Joe to promote and say great things about their games is leaving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of consumer dollars on the table for other companies to grasp. Could it be that Nintendo is still trying to grasp at the level of control it once had before the last few generations of consoles? Looking at the finer points of the Nintendo Creator’s Program announced earlier this year, it seems that may be the case.

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The white list of games that can be covered, the time for evaluating videos for approval, and the percentages of profit that go to everyone all appear to be vintage Nintendo methods. Their games and IPs have always been viewed as THEIR games and IPs, not that of the consumers or other companies. In the myriad of criticisms and comparisons to other publishers and developers, Nintendo has always taken a far off approach to how they handle the perception and messaging of their titles, even of the image of the company themselves. We have even seen this in their approach to attending important events like E3, where a traditional press conference is abandoned in favor of a more Nintendo oriented (Nintendo Direct/Treehouse) way to deliver news and announcements. Nintendo controls their event, the event and consumers tuning in don’t control Nintendo.

This standoff between both sides is going to be one that lasts for a very long time, with very little change as we go along. Some will say that Nintendo will eventually have to change their way of thinking and approach content creators in a more acceptable manner. But what has been acceptable to others has not always been acceptable in the eyes of Nintendo. This has been the case for longer than the game industry has been alive, dating back to the company’s roots in 1889. Companies will eventually change with the times, but only when they want to do so and not when everyone else does. Nintendo is no different. They love control, and it doesn’t look like they’re willing to give it up any time soon.

What do you think about the issue? Do you agree with Nintendo or YouTube content creators? Leave us a comment below and tell us how you feel all of this!

About The Author
Jakejames Lugo Senior Editor
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