In some not so awesome news, Warner Brothers was caught buying off YouTubers to give them positive reviews of their video games. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released details that the company was working with some of the most influential YouTubers out there to provide positive reviews of their games, film gameplay footage that worked around bugs and hype sales numbers that all ignored criticism of the titles they were being paid to look at. Oh, and they of course never disclosed that they were being paid to do this which is against the law.
While this is currently limited to video games, one has to wonder if it may extend to films as well.
Most damning though is that Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or PewDiePie as he is known to millions of ‘Let’s Play’viewers was involved as well. PewDiePie is the highest watched YouTube celebrity in gaming circles and had an undisclosed agreement to provide positive press for ‘Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor’ when it was released. While the biggest name on the list, there were over 40 influences that the FTC already know about, that Warner Brothers eventually suggested, but not required, to explain the promotional relationship with the company.
This happened after the videos had received over 5.5 million views. Even posting after the fact though would have been too late with the high viewership.
According to the FTC:
During the campaign, Warner Bros… hired online influencers to develop sponsored gameplay videos and post them on YouTube. Warner Bros. also told the influencers to promote the videos on Twitter and Facebook, generating millions of views. PewDiePie’s sponsored video alone was viewed more than 3.7 million times.
Warner Bros. paid each influencer from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, gave them a free advance-release version of the game, and told them how to promote it… The FTC contends that Warner Bros. required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found.
With YouTube videos having been viewed as more trustworthy than mainstream gaming reviews due to existing advertising arrangements, this could raise large concerns over the trustworthiness of gaming reviews in the future.
Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich added in that:
Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches. Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns.
While I love that the FTC is taking a hard line on these reviews it really makes me wonder if Warner Brothers or other companies are still breaking the law and buying reviews in other areas.
What are your thoughts on Warner Brothers buying reviews? Is this just the tip of the iceburg on companies being caught and types of media being examined or a singular incident? Share your thoughts below!
Stuart Conover is an author, blogger, and all around geek. When not busy being a father and husband he tries to spend as much time as possible immersed in comic books, science fiction, and horror! Would you like to know more? Follow him on Twitter!