The relationship between Nintendo and YouTubers has been contentious for quite some time, and the release of Super Mario Odyssey has done little to quell those concerns.
Game critic and popular YouTuber, videogamedunkey (Jason Gastrow), tweeted out an image last night condemning Nintendo for claiming copyright content in a review video he uploaded. The tweet comes after Dunkey spoke about his grievances with Nintendo on a recent podcast, admitting he knew that the video was going to get demonetized but was going to move forward with it anyway. Dunkey’s tweet was met with similar airing of grievances from other YouTubers in the gaming community, including Boogie2988, who have called out Nintendo in the past for the company’s policy on how YouTubers use the publisher’s games in videos.
Nintendo has been pretty forthcoming with how members of its creators program can use games from its library in videos. Let’s play videos and other uploads that include commentary, and would therefore fall under the purview of acceptable fair use, are fine. Livestreams, according to a recent update from Nintendo, are not. For the majority of YouTubers who want to capture game footage, add a commentary track and upload it to YouTube, Nintendo is fine with it. This is where it gets a little tricky: those who want to profit off of these videos have to belong to Nintendo’s Creators club, which was announced in 2015.
Big YouTube personalities have strayed from joining the program for a number of reasons, but the biggest concern is how the slicing of profit works. Think of it this way: A YouTuber earns 60 percent of a cut from a normal YouTube video, with Google (YouTube’s parent company) taking 40 percent. As part of Nintendo’s Creators program, that same YouTuber is going to earn far less than normal as both Nintendo and Google each take a piece of the profit earned (70 percent for channels; 60 percent for videos). If YouTubers don’t join the program, they aren’t able to profit at all off the video, as all revenue from AdSense goes back to Nintendo.
This is where the heart of the debate lies. If YouTubers don’t mind demonetizing their videos or are willing to sacrifice the revenue for that one specific video, Nintendo seems to be okay with various Let’s Play series. That might not be an issue for a smaller channel or YouTuber who’s just starting out and trying to build a subscriber base or view count, but for professional YouTubers like Boogie and Dunkey, the revenue from every video counts.
The ire that YouTubers face trying to create videos based on Nintendo’s games has led many people to move away from YouTube entirely. Twitch, YouTube’s biggest competitor for streaming, has become home for many personalities who want to stream or save Nintendo games without having to worry about demonetization.
Nintendo’s issue with YouTube creators has been building for years, but is only now just coming to a head. Protomario, a YouTuber with more than 500,000 subscribers who has dedicated his channel to various Nintendo games, has spoken at length about the fragile relationship between the YouTube community and the game publisher. In a video uploaded a couple of months ago, Protomario said those who signed up for the program were inviting future problems with streams.
“They’re going to be used and abused by Nintendo,” Protomario said. “Because guess what? You signed up for their creators program in droves.”
Ali Moiz, CEO of analytical firm, Streamlabs, told Polygon that in the wake of YouTube’s “adpocalypse” and its ordeal with demonetization, YouTubers have begun to move over to Twitch as a way of making more money. Having publishers like Nintendo, who restrict monetization even more for popular YouTubers, is further pushing personalities away from the platform.
“The ‘adpocalypse’ demonetized a bug chunk of videos and creators were upset with it,” Moiz said. “We know first hand, anecdotally, that people have switched over to Twitch. Streamers that we worked with did switch over to Twitch in that time frame in part because of demonetization. Twitch has made it easier to make money through an affiliate program, especially in the last three to six months, which makes it really attractive for streamers to make more money.”
Twitch has become the go-to destination for Super Mario Odyssey streams and videos, and while it’s unclear just how much of that has to do with Nintendo’s Creators program and underlying issues, Moiz confirms numerous monetization issues YouTubers are facing is a likely reason.
Polygon has reached out to Nintendo and YouTube for further comment and will update when more information becomes available.