Nintendo's Creator's Program: Tragedy or Disaster?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Nintendo's Creator's Program: Tragedy or Disaster?

You know, there really are only so many times in life you actually get to watch a company shoot itself in the foot. The last one I remember, as far as games go, was back in 2013 where Microsoft slammed into rock bottom with its Xbox One announcements at E3 and then spent the next six months flailing wildly to try and make up that lost ground. While Microsoft actually did make up quite a bit of said losses, the same may not be said for Nintendo, who seems to have done its level best to make a bad situation much, much worse with its new Creator's Program.

The Nintendo Creator's Program, as it's called, started when Nintendo became a multichannel network on YouTube, and it...invited...those who use Nintendo content in Let's Play videos and the like to join in. An MCN, for those not familiar, is a lot like Machinima or the like, where a bunch of independent channels get together and work under one banner. The banner in question gets a slice of the take, and usually provides promotion services and the like, giving everybody a benefit.

So why the concern about Nintendo's new MCN? Well, the problem here is that Nintendo means to take its MCN cut—here about 30 to 40 percent—and in exchange provide...well...nothing much. The percentage varies based on what kind of registration you engage in with Nintendo; registering individual videos gets you a 40 percent hit to your take, while the entire channel—Nintendo-oriented or otherwise—will reduce your take by just 30 percent. Of course, that's a step up from the old way, in which Nintendo got 100 percent of the take by having all the ad revenues routed to itself instead, but that's still kind of a kick in the teeth.

That's posing some real problems; for instance, game journalists and critics who are writing reviews. Under normal circumstances, using portions of gameplay video in a review or an article not only makes sense, it's actually kind of expected, particularly on YouTube. But now, based on the reports at hand, Nintendo will be wanting its cut, or the video will be hit with takedown notices aplenty, even though such use would normally be covered under certain legal principles like “fair use” protocols, depending on jurisdiction.

It becomes a point of contention here about just how far Nintendo really should be going with this. While there's some reasonableness in saying that Nintendo made or licensed the games, so why shouldn't it get a piece of the money around “derivative works” like Let's Play videos and the like, there's also some clear value in eschewing that slice of the pie for a very basic commodity: gamers' goodwill. Now, there's a certain value in the Let's Play video that isn't immediately measured in ad revenue. More specifically, it could be said that the Let's Play video acts as a kind of advertising for the game's maker. When a YouTuber with a million views a day is playing a certain game, all those viewers see that game played. What's more, those viewers voluntarily went to see that game footage, which makes them—from a marketing standpoint—infinitely more valuable than those who were there for a completely different reason (like to watch a television show) and just got hit with information about a game while they were in the neighborhood. So for Nintendo to come along and demand a hefty cut—a third to nearly a half—of advertising revenue for the Let's Play maker to make an ad that's seen by hundreds or thousands or millions of players strikes me as slitting the throat of a certain goose that laid a particularly precious variety of egg.

Nintendo, for crying out loud. Have you forgotten that you're currently a distant third in the console wars right now? Have you forgotten that even PC gaming is handing you your hat and showing you the door? Is this really the best time to make heavy-handed demands for a substantial chunk of revenues from a YouTube venue that's serving as free, unsolicited advertising and promotion on your behalf?

Timeliness aside, one thing is clear: there are likely to be a lot fewer videos involving Mario and other characters from Nintendo right now. This particular move here could be Nintendo's death knell, and for good reason; it's already well behind the crowd, and now it's fundamentally limited the amount of reviews it will get, the amount of Let's Play time it will get, and a host of other options that will suddenly become often unavailable to it. Sure, that's not going to be the case all over; for example, PewDiePie has reported planned to carry on and allow Big N its bite, since he does so many other videos anyway. But there's a lot of people just starting out who will be looking at the staggeringly huge array of titles with no such limits out there, and these people will not be looking to Nintendo. This is a move that may well come back to haunt Nintendo, though only time will tell if that proves to be the case.

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