Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ad Revenue Must Flow

Monetization is a tricky thing when it comes to video games; episodic content, micro transactions, paid DLC, crowd funding, early access programs, monthly subscription fees, and the list goes on.  Traditionally, all these methods have have there place in the game industry depending on the business model.  However, one big exception is used game sales, a three way battle between publishers, used game retailers and customers who just want to get the most bang for their gaming buck.

Nothing new here, but there is another conflict of interest which has been rearing its multi-lassoed head more and more of late.  It is, simply put, an amalgamation of Youtubers, "Lets Play" videos and commercials.  In this case though the situation is more complicated than used game sales in that the entire arrangement is based around advertisers making money off advertisements.  That last sentence probably threw you for a loop so let me explain a bit more.

People will record footage of themselves playing video games and upload it to Youtube.  By opting in to slap a short advertisement at the beginning of each uploaded video they are able to make a little money from ad revenue.  In return the video game creators essentially get free publicity in the form of "Lets Play," "Quick Look," or "Machinima" style videos.  Some Youtubers are so successful they can even make a living doing this sort of thing.  Although it requires a large viewership, prolific video uploads and advertisers with a budget to burn.

Added to the mix are people who watch the videos, but hate having to sit through commercials.  Thirty seconds might not sound bad, especially compared to the four minute and fifty second commercial breaks on regular television channels such as MTV, but I can personally attest that having to sit and stare at the exact same obnoxious clips over and over for stuff I don't want (or  need) can get annoying really fast.  Especially when the videos themselves are only a few minutes long.  Of course the solution for viewers is to use "AdBlock," a simple free little piece of completely legal software that not only silences those buy-our-crap videos, but also gets rid of pop-ups and banner ads too.

The downside to AdBlock is those hard working Youtubers are out of some earnings.  Some websites with content similar to Youtube will try to avoid this problem by offering a premium (paid) subscription model or else straight up ask for donations.  Then on the other side of the fence are companies like Nintendo, Sega, and Square-Enix who will block (or rather take) revenue earned by videos using footage from an arbitrarily select list of their games.

So, who's in the right here?  Everyone...and no one.  It's really a case of greed, selfishness and an archaic methodology hopelessly inadequate for the times we live in.  The result is there are no winners in the tug'o war, only losers.  There also needs to be some reasonable ground rules, but in order for that to happen everyone has to uniformly push for it.  Instead, each interest group is pulling there own way which ultimately benefits nobody.

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