MUD2MMO: Are game devs fighting youtubers and the press?

There has been this disturbing trend in the world of video games, game developers are being given tools to silence critics. Let’s talk about that.

About pb-Tyger

MUD2MMO is a bi-weekly show talking about gaming culture. It's not a typical review or "go buy this game" show, we focus on the gamers, the industry, everything else. Come on by, enjoy the show.

26 comments

  1. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity!” – Paris Hilton

    …. Except in EVERYTHING.

    • The common idea of “at least they’re taking about us” doesn’t hold anymore, because internet mocking doesn’t translate into sales. So IMHO, they’ll get it together once the AAA studios understand that.

  2. the simple answer is to get a review copy of the next AAA game sign the embargo agreement and a week from launch get as many other reviewers to break embargo together, if the penalty is not getting invited back then a significant number of the reviewers don’t talk about your game, and people not talking about your game says alot in this industry at least that’s what I think

    TLDR:If enough people pretend review embargoes don’t exist then they don’t

    • I like that idea, but IMHO a lot of the AAA e-zines will just ignore the idea. I’ve mentioned this before in the new series, the major news sources rely on the game industry for news AND revenue (advertising). So the only ones who MIGHT buy into this are teh small producers, and that’s a drop in the bucket. But it might be a start.

      That and a lot of the youtube people are kind if in with the AAA people now, they accept ad money to lets-play the games. Covered that too already, so I don’t want to repeat too much.

      • Sure the AAA review site would take a short term hit but it would not be long before the industry would notice it hurt them just as much if not more, it’s a risk but a calculated one.
        On the DMCA end the only thing I can think of is to petition for youtube to change their DMCA claim handling policy.

        • the thing is, review embargoes have a use of preventing reviewers from having to rush to finish their reviews as fast as possible to make sure their review gets up first. the only time review embargoes serve a negative is when the embargo time is set to after the launch time of the game.

    • Its not a bad idea, its been done before. With the idea that “They cant take us all down”. But there is one big obstacle in the way and that is getting the people organised.
      You need everyone who get a reviewcopy to risk both sources of income and material.
      Usualy these would be the big sites and channels who seem more unwilling to risk it then the small people who have more to lose.
      When Nintendo try to hijack videos i would tell anyone who listen to just make their videos with Nintendo material unavailable for a week or so but i doubt anyone will do that no matter how much they nod and agree.

      So without everyone stepping up and saying no you might have to look elsewhere.
      I suppose one possibility is to make a petition that is sendt to the companies.
      The problem is that money is a lot louder then a list of names and it could easily be ignored.

      Then the thought of allying with gamestores and such come up. Refusing to sell until after the embargo is lifted and reviws are made available would be effective. It would also mean losses and a lot of pissed off consumers so no. That wont happen.
      And that is a damn shame since people will nod an agree to “Do NOT pre-purchase! It is not worth it and you dont know what you are getting!” while they hand over money for a pre-purchase.

      The only way i can think of would have to be the legal way.
      The laws need to be changed or put into place to ban the use of the reviwer-embargo.
      This can be done, protests and signatures can change laws.
      But as with anything else it is damn difficult and you can be sure that the companies will fight this with all their might. And they do have a lot of might to bear.

      It would take a lot of commitment to do this and then you have the problem that the laws are not the same allaround the world.
      Pluss again it takes organised effort. That again bring the same old problem with Everyone waits for someone else to do what anyone can do but nobody wants to do.

  3. I agree that the copyright system is broken. It’s funny considering the fact that they’re practically in violation of the 1st amendment. It’s not the critics that are violating the law, it’s the copyright holders themselves. “Fair Use” is there to protect those who are criticizing the content, not the content itself.

    Pretty gutsy of you to tackle this subject. This is definitely something that I’m pretty sure everyone gets pissed off at. I don’t think that there is no real “solution” to this problem. It’s just that people are being cry babies about it and they think that “big brother” will come in to save them. They don’t want the responsibility of their game becoming terrible to the public eye.

    • the “First Amendment” isn’t really applicable here. The “freedom of speech” only applies to the government. You can openly criticize the government and not be arrested. It does not protect you from repercussions of what you say, or from private entities acting on what you say.

      So in the case of, random choice here, Daybreak Games. They can ban anyone they want for any reason they want as long as it’s not based on gender, ethnicity, religious belief, physical disability or (depending) sexual orientation. So Daybreak can ban a player for “disruptive behavior”, even if that behavior is only “I disagree with your dev team” or “your in-game moderator is abusing his power.” The only other way to fight them from banning is if you can prove the treatment you got is exclusive to yourself, and is not how they treat all customers, but I digress.

      Fair Use laws, however, do apply. the problem is youtube, as they routinely put the burden of proof on the video creator to prove the (rather fuzzy) fair use provisions. Then they decide if the video producer is correct or not. It’s a rather frustrating system, but it’s the one we’ve got.

      • It’s a really recent interview (I would like to introduce you to an NGO called the Electronic Frontier Foundation which deals with exactly the subjects you are talking about. https://www.eff.org/

        I know that these guys have acted against false DMCAs in the past. For example they offered legal advice to a YouTuber called Myles Power when a YouTube documentary of his exposing AIDS denialists was Falsely DMCAed by said AIDS denialists. They are also going for the big goals, lobbying for fixing copy rights laws etc.

        It might be worth for the gaming community to allay with them, raise their awareness to the state of video game criticism and while at that raise awareness to them in the video gaming and video game journalism crowed.
        At the very least these guys have already gave these subject a lot of thought and might have some good advice on what gaming journalists and youTubers can do to defend themselves.

  4. VulpesHilarianus

    This is one of the maybe six episodes of your show I’ve watched. Most of the time I just pass it over because it’s stuff where everything’s been said, or where the idea seems… Incomplete. I watched this episode to the end, and I have to say I’d work with you to remove the stranglehold developers have on the industry. The way I’ve thought about doing this is to work with indie developers like Yacht Club games (creators of Shovel Knight) on things like releasing promotional material, allowing full and open criticism, and giving the outsiders and inside view on how things are done. There’s already glimpses of this in the indie section with things like pre-release testing pools and beta access, and the major developers jumped on that bandwagon like the money-hungry bastards they are, completely missing the point of having the early access features in the first place: for criticism and feedback, the very things they’re trying to stamp out. You mentioned Trion, who is a perfect example of this. They give people early access, expect them to use the pay-to-advance in-game store in most of their titles, wait a few months to rake in early money, and then release the game to the rest of the public with the previously restricted features available and the game still essentially in a beta state. It’s like General Motors back in the 1970s — “The bean counters say we can’t innovate and spend money to improve quality. Let’s just mix and match what we know works and see if we can put a premium on those parts for a profit.” The thing is, I understand game developers are a business. But a business is like a tower: it cannot be so big that it cannot support its own weight. Once the tower gets so high (or the budget for the games gets too big in this case), the entire thing comes tumbling down. It’s why the indie developers are having free reign right now. They’re building a tower that’s the right size for everybody, and these towers aren’t expensive and flimsy. I’m not expecting them to take over the market. Eventually the big guys are going to wise up (much like Konami did, though they handled it like brutes and killed the golden goose) and they’re going to tear down their towers and rebuild them. We have to hope they learned not to make more Towers of Babel, though.

    • I think there is some kind of a weird feedback loop going on here. Devs want feedback so they “beta test”, but more and more the players want the “beta test” to be more polished and more like the final product. So the pressure on AAA studios is to pre-release a beta that’s as good as the final product which makes the players expect more polished betas. Either that or studios are saying “See? They’ll BUT unfinished games if we call it pre-release and promise “firsties”! Let’s do that!”

      And the gamers buy it. Over an over. *sigh*

  5. What you need to understand Tyger is that many of the things happening because AAA developers are afraid of us and just how fast bad news gets around. A thumbs up of a game lasts a minute but seeing horrible glitch ridden ubisoft release screen shot sticks. With an ever increasing development prices top developers don’t want any bad news to taint people buying games blindly. So they do things highlighted in your video, and its shady as hell. But I do believe people are taking notice. That super bunny hop video was put back up by youtube themselves because Konami didn’t put try and justify their take down request. Youtube actually did something for the video maker and not the other way around. If the big publishers keep messing with the fan base people are going to notice on their own. In the end while we may suffer its the developers who ultimately have to most to loose. Gamers can find their milk and honey in various places but with a market as large as video games these guys are digging their own graves.

    • Yeah, the SBH video was reinstated after youtube cited that Konami didn’t supply enough information in their DMCA claim. But again, if that happens to my videos I have to weigh a serious option of “is this worth losing the channel?” And for me, that’d still be a hit that I may not be able to recover from.

      related, there’s an IGN video that’s actually a promo for the next assassins creed game, and that’s probably going to be a “very soon” episode catalyst. I don’t stink AAA studios are afraid of us, I think they’re seeing the audience as an opponent. Hence why they are actively banning players who are vocally critical and they amplify only “good” voices and are now abusing the DMCA system. #TinFoilCap

  6. What if everyone stopped using copyright material? I know they won’t, and they argue Fair Use and twist it till it’s completely different to what it’s suppose to be about, but if everyone stopped using copyrighted material but still talked about the game… How would companies be able to shut you down? Like if you’re using none of their copyrighted material they would have literally nothing to stop you with. At that point they really would be suppressing ‘free speech’ in a way that would cause a stink. If you use a copyrighted image then the copyright owner can flag you on it, fairly or otherwise. But if you don’t, you become somewhat untouchable. They can’t claim any copyright abuse if you’re literally not using copyrighted material.

    I know most people will automatically be against this, and that this will never happen, but if people made videos saying what they wanted without the content, and they got popular… How would companies be able to stop you when everything you’re using is completely yours?

    • Free speech only implies to the government. If a company doesn’t like what you say, there’s no law that says they can’t bar you from their products using legal methods. The only law/amendment is that the GOVERNMENT can’t persecute you for it.
      Also, you can’t really do a video review and make it worth watching without using copyrighted material. You need to give context to what you’re saying more often than not.
      Even written reviews use screencaps.

    • “What if everyone stopped using copyright material?” That is almost literally impossible to do. Almost. I mean it CAN be done, and I may address that down the road, but you have to undergo extraordinary lengths to do so.

      Just to give you an idea, today I want you to walk somewhere with a medium amount of people. (school hallway, city street, similar) and take a moment to notice how many copywriten images you see. Ever character on a t-shirt, every logo on a pair of shoes or socks, every label on a pair of pants, logos on car tires and bumpers, billboards, can you kind of hear music somewhere… Literally you are being bomarded with logos and branding. If you take a picture in this random scene, and count the number of copyright “violations” you’d be shocked.

      I’d love to be able to not use game footage in my show, but then what am I left talking about? Plus, the Sega thing? They DMCA’d videos that didn’t have any footage, the people were literally just talking about the game. Hence the problem.

  7. Personally I think the best solution is to just not buy games at release. If they want to put an embargo on reviews, then wait until that embargo is lifted to buy the game.
    I never buy games at launch with very few exceptions, usually Pokemon games because, let’s be honest here, Nintendo’s not going to mess up a main-series Pokemon game.
    But that’s part of the point: Nintendo takes some shady tactics of their own (mostly having to do with monetization, which honestly i can’t blame them for trying, the execution was just stupid.), but they don’t release bug infested messes like other companies do. Problems with their games are usually design elements or stylistic choices that don’t work out, not technical issues (only programming for your own hardware helps i suppose)

  8. Orcish Librarian

    First I wanna say that I like your videos Tyger. Keep them coming and I’ll watch them! One video I like especially is “Defining Hardcore and Casual Gamers”. The part about “attitude” was something that really struck a chord and I’ve send the link to some of my fellow gamers in the hopes of planting an idea.

    I really understand your anger. In fact, I feel it too, most of the time. Sometimes I feel despair. Such great times, such great technology, such great possibilites! Gamers united throughout the world (I’m from Germany by the way), playing together, sharing information, creating content. Yes, we have some… problematic gamers out there. Swatting, Gamer Gate… We have our problems. And then there are the devs and publishers. Not all of them are bad. Certainly not. But there are two disturbing trends to be witnessed in the gaming industry.

    One: Players are treated as cash cows to be milked, as the idiots who spend money on crappy games – and not as customers, as human beings. I got burned as a Founder of MWO and since then, I have a more sceptical view on things like Early Access and Buying into Closed Betas. And In-Game Micro Transactions! What the hell gaming industry? Nothing against the concept, but the execution… There are far to many examples of In-Game Micro Transactions that are way to expensive, insultingly ridiculous and unapoligetic cash grabs! In shitty games!

    Two: Silencing criticism and promoting uncritical praise. And the missuse of copyright laws to further these goals. Sceptical reviews could damage sales figures, so suppress them or divert them to a time when their effects aren’t as damaging anymore. It really feels like the gaming industry goes to war against critics and reviewers.

    In my opinion, this stems from how economy works nowadays. Growth is important. You have to earn a certain amount to be successful and your earnings have to grow every years, or else you are “failing”. There are game developers who still try to deliver a fun experience and… value to the gamers. And there are others who whip up a shitty game or release a unfinished version as Early Access and rake in the cash. And the gamers? Screw them, we have their money. Could we get more? No? Yeah, screw them. On to the next project.
    This worshipping of growth, the believe that stability equals stagnation (and stagnation is bad) is part of the problem. Yes, companies want to make money. I’m okay with this. As long as they deliver a working product worthy of the money you have to pay to get it. Or if they deliver a half-finished product that they finish it. Because that’s what you pay for in Early Access or Buy-In Betas. But the gaming industry is less and less about the product, less about delivering something worthwile – and more about getting into the customers wallet, as deep as they can.
    And that’s why they need best press possible. Yeah, our game is bad. But let the gamers find that out on their own. So reviews should hype up the game (or shut up at all) so we can get the sales figures we need to not get canned. Great, the copyright laws are utterly broken, let’s use this to our advantage. Screw the gamers, we just need their money.

    OK, I’ve been ranting more than I originally intended. Maybe I don’t get it right, but for a (in my view growing) part of the gaming industry, I think I’m spot in. But what to do about it? Well, I stopped playing new games, sadly. The last big title I put money in was Star Wars The Old Republic (2012). I occasionally buy a three-month VIP account to DDO and I play some MWO (but they haven’t seen money from me since 2013), but that’s it. I buy movies, tabletop rpg books, but no video games. Voting with your wallet would be one solution, but I’m afraid it won’t work.
    Too many gamers still buy Early Access games, buy 200 dollar bling (I’m looking at you, Neverwinter) to get into Betas and just grab the next AAA title at release. If enough would just say “Nah. I’ll pass.” and wait a year or two before buying a game, that would help. Hell, a few weeks would help. “How long is the embargo? 4 weeks? OK, I’ll buy the game in 5-6 weeks… depending on the reviews.” Sadly, this doesn’t work in this day and age. You want to be all over the new games, be “world first”, “server first” or just stay competively. So you have to buy in as early as possible. Not reviewing AAA titles is not an option for the press and for youtubers. For the same reasons. You need to be up to date or you won’t get enough readers, viewers, not enough revenue.
    But that is the best solution I can think of – boycott! Or at least holding yourself off buying new games for a few weeks or even months. To ruin initial sales figures. But there is a problem with this, too. The game devs declared war on us (by proxy… kinda…) and we would accept it this way. We would pick up the gauntlet and yell “IT’S ON, BITCHES!”. But is that really a good way to handle this? Don’t get me wrong, we should stand up to them! But going to war, so to speak… would that really help the situation?

    Sadly, I’m at the same point that you are, Tyger. The way it is now is wrong, but I’m at a loss at what to do about it.

  9. Moviemantweeter1999

    Oh i understand your pain and madness tyger. Good video too lets hope this doesnt happen to your channel 8r youll have to start a petition.

  10. Hey there, I am a bit late to the discussion since the month was busy, but still want to drop you a few lines. First off, don’t worry, I try to watch all your episodes start to finish once I get down to watch them. And I am pretty glad that you try to keep sharing genuine impressions and opinions, rather than trying to put on the mask. However, I always enjoy when your little Second-Life sidekick shows up to give you the narrative tool to tackle things from a slightly different point of view (not to mention to add some comic relief every now and then, because with serious topics like these we all can use the occasional chuckle).

    As for the issue at hand: The obvious of course is to keep bringing it up. Make people aware of it and point out those in the industry big and small who resort to these schemes whenever you notice it. It may take a while and like you pointed out, it isn’t without risks, but speaking up against things that are wrong is always important in my book.

    The crux with reviews often is that the industry and individuals behind reviews pretty much give the publishers the power to pull this stuff in the first place. One thing where that is most obvious to me is the argument for ‘speed’, as in, getting your review out as quick as possible. If reviewers could agree on a certain grace period before they actually publish their articles, they are less dependent on reviewer’s copies with all their attached strings.

    Of course us consumers likewise need to get wise enough not to fall for preorders without solid information and/or demos behind it and not to run for every game at day 1, rather give it a week or two to avoid some pitfalls (even with good games, because it is pretty likely that the first patch will be there within a week’s time).

  11. lol is there really a cameo fee to have someone like Nostalgia critic in your videos?

  12. TheFalseProdigy

    It seems like there really isn’t a good way to fix this problem. I’m not versed in legal matters in the slightest nor should i be taken very seriously, but as someone who has watched the video game world slip slowly into this sort of 1985 corporate bullying tactic, its nigh impossible to actually fix without a type of divine intervention, a power greater than them that’s willing and able to fix the electronic parody and copyright laws.
    This can almost be considered analogous to the corruption of government in America back in the 18, early 1900’s, and how its more or less savior was Teddy Roosevelt. BUT since these are separate corporations all acting in a detrimental way, it would be closer to Teddy trying reform all of a highly corrupt Europe, in that its hardly possible.
    the only conceivable way I see to put an end to this is a sort of mass boycott by the people, which would also be impossible without majorly slandering the evils of video game devs. Slander and propaganda would be the only real way to rally enough people to make the major league listen to the little guy.
    Another more gradual way to try and change these business monsters would be through sheer opposition. Things like Mighty Number 9, a crowd sourced video game, if it were to grow in popularity along with other non biased game devs, the major corporations would have pressure to ease up on these laws in order to maintain popularity in the public’s eyes.

    As a small time guy with a position I support wholeheartedly, there’s scant little you can do. the only way to get that word out is with a popular opinion, and while this video’s point is become more widespread, its still not one that many agree with.
    Maybe the only way to really beat them is to join them, and then maybe, once you get to the top, crash everything down around you. But that’s just what I think.

    • TheFalseProdigy

      Although a union amongst youtubers doesn’t sound too bad in theory, things like machinima come in and capitalize on it and sort of ruin any chances of a good unity between such a diverse people found on youtube…

  13. Ok, I’m kinda late for this discussion, but here are my few cents anyway… it’s gonna be borderline thin-foil hat territory here, but here I go:

    first of all – Censorship is the term used for government related stuff? Really? LOL, I don’t know who said it, but censorship is related to content of any sort as far as I know. Unless porn became politically extreme lately 😛

    As for “innocent until proven guilty” – yeah, it is the law and one of international human rights (well, at least on paper), but private companies don’t go by laws, they go by rules of agreement, basically their own terms you agree to when you decide to use their service – and yeah those same rules say they can do whatever they want with your content and account without them being responsible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually have much to do with copyright laws as much as it has with profits and partnerships.

    I never actually understood why people expect a private company to act as a law enforcement or human rights organization. Of course Youtube is going to side with Konami (just an example) or EA or whomever – small content producers are not worth the troouble or cost even if they are right. Of course Steam will delete the comments that rant on their multi-million dollar partners since in the end it’s their own bread and butter your trashing on as well.

    You are in their own territory using their tools and their infrastructure, if you really want independence – then don’t use those tools, it’s simple as that. Now, simple doesn’t mean easy. You could use your own fan base and services like Patreon to maintain your own infrastructure for hosting your videos. It’s going to be an uphill battle for sure, but the alternative would be to bite the pillow, bend over and take it, or just give up – would it not?

    It sounds extreme, but when you think about it – similar thing was happening when first pirate radio stations started broadcasting rock n’ roll music. There was no broadcasting union or syndicate that stood up against censorship. You know there will never be a critical mass to boycott Youtube for them to take notice or Steam or anything like that, they are just too big to get hit by such things (I’m sure it works great in theory, but let’s be a little bit more real here).

    It’s all matter of changing the terrain of the battlefield. Damn, I just read all of this, and I know it sounds crazy, but… hey I did give you a fair warning at the beginning 🙂

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