It was recently revealed that Warner Bros. paid YouTube personalities to promote their games in a positive light. Among those paid was the very prominent and influential PewDiePie, who has over 46 million subscribers and holds a net worth of $12,000,000. The Federal Trade Commission revealed,
“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc. has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers during a marketing campaign for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to adequately disclose that it paid online “influencers,” including the wildly popular “PewDiePie,” thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media. Over the course of the campaign, the sponsored videos were viewed more than 5.5 million times.”
Essentially, Warner Bros. paid certain personalities to promote Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor in a positive manner while making sure not to disclose any glitches or bugs. Warner Bros. are now officially barred from disclosing any such information in the future. Despite disclosures being in the description boxes of YouTube videos, the FTC complaint states that they were only visible to users who clicked the “Show More” button.
In other cases, the personalities themselves failed to disclose that they had received payment in exchange for positive promotion of the game and instead stated that they only received early access.
Large video game journalism outlets such as IGN, Game Informer, and GameSpot are accused of taking money in exchange for positive reviews on a daily basis, for years and years. However, these comments and accusations are not backed up by any evidence, spawning simply out of disagreement with review scores.
Since streaming and YouTube personalities have such a big influence over the gaming community today, this is especially disheartening to discover.