You got big dreams of becoming a famous Youtuber, getting showered with constant free games and getting paid the big bucks to pretend you like them? Well, you might have to put those fantasies on hold because one big video game publisher at least is demanding more disclosure from Youtubers and influencers. After a couple of notable controversies surrounding Youtubers and their failure to disclose supported content to their audiences, Electronic Arts is clamping down with new rules for streamers in order to provide more transparency to their customers. Or, rather just clarifying the rules that already exist. EA made the announcement this week on its German website in a move that could be the start of a trendwhen it comes to Let’s Players and streamers promoting new games. While the announcement is for German audiences at the moment, an EA rep confirmed to “PC Gamer” that they’ll soon be coming to everybody.
The translated announcement post gives a run-down on all the ways that influencers must now label their content if EA helps support the content by providing a free copy of the game or other benefits, or in the case of a paid advertisement, whether or not EA itself created the content. The announcement says that “Gamers and viewers must be able to see whether they are independent and editorial content, “supported placements of messages, or advertising.” It then goes on to outline specific hash tags and watermarks streamers then need to use if any of that is the case. And the rules are actually fairly extensive.
First up, content creators must post the hashtag supported by EA” to denote any content that EA supported through various means. That could include being invited out to a private review event hosted by EA, travel fare, or a free copy of the game for instance. Now EA says that with that hashtag, you rest assured that EA exerted no editorial control over the content itself and that all the views expressed therein were simply that of the content creators themselves.
“The content is independent, but the creation was supported by EA.” They’re not necessarily expecting a specific score, but they did send you a review copy. And it’s fair, actually for all that stuff to be disclosed. So next, EA outlined the hashtag “#advertisement” which is content that is written by EA or that EA exercised editorial control over, otherwise known as “shit EA paid people to say.” EA also provided two watermarks for Youtubers to use as well. In the event of a social media post, entertainers are required to use the hashtags. If the content is in video form, the watermarks must be present at the beginning of the video, or the streamers must explicitly mention EA’s involvement as either supporters or advertisers.
According to EA, these new rules are to reinforce their motto of “Players First”, because, “We take the concerns and concerns of players and fans seriously at all times and react to them. “We want to create transparency with the markings and help to ensure that supported content and advertising are immediately identifiable as such.” So, this is a new and improved EA, making good on their recent promised to put players first. Or- Or is it just a showy bit of ass-coverage? Yeah, we can still get a good result out of ass-cover. Yeah! It should be noted here that quite a few streamers already make a point of transparent disclosures without any prompting like this.
EA even acknowledges that many streamers are very good about it. But there’s certainly not a standard out there, which has led to a few problems in the past. And a lot of times, if a streamer fails to disclose something, it’s the game publisher that ends up looking like the asshole. And sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not, but you can tell they’re- like a mean, rich grandpa.
They’re definitely making sure that if someone fails to disclose EA stuff, not their fault. I’m sticking with this rich grandpa metaphor, okay? Warner Brothers recently got dinged actually by the FTC, for instance, over the allegations that the developer shelled out a lot of cash to Youtubers for favorable reviews without any disclaimers noting that fact. According to the FTC, Warner Brothers paid Youtubers in the range of hundreds of dollars.
To favorably promote their game and to avoid disclosing the sponsorship their viewers. Yeah, the settlement of those allegations hit in July with Warner Brothers getting not much more than a slap on the wrist. And before that, we had the case of Machinima, who had to reach a similar settlement with the FTC over an Xbox promotion last year. So on one hand, this is EA trying to keep from landing in the same boat, because no one wants to be there, especially when you’ve already been voted the worst company in the world a couple times.
They’re now being proactive about it, so they don’t get fined or hit with some kind of restriction down the line. I think once you get voted the worst of something by everybody, you don’t really get to live that down very easily. Like, even if it happened a few years ago, it still happened. But on the other hand, this does go a little bit further than merely covering their asses because at the moment, the rules around Youtubers and disclosure are a little bit muddy.
It’s easy to see when the law has been clearly broken, like with Warner Brothers and Machinima. But, everybody else just kinda operates according to their own personal guidelines. It’s like the Wild West. And you know some people will disclose only when they’re paid, some will disclose if they get the copies for free as well. It’s all down to the individuals, but this, at least for EA games, makes it a lot a more straight across the board.
EA setting these new standards is kind of the opposite of what Bethesda’s been doing. Because they decided that only Youtubers and influencers are now getting early copies of their games rather than critics and reviewers. That happened late last month, when Bethesda posted that it would no longer send out early copies of its games to the press, so that everybody got to experience their games at the same time.
Only that wasn’t true, because streamers had already had Skyrim Special Edition an entire week before the game launched. Yeah, for Bethesda, it’s a way of insuring early buzz about their games is coming from what would be called supported content, in EA’s new system. Now not saying Bethesda or any of these streamers are being dishonest about this because they’ve all been pretty up-front about getting the games early, and typically if you get the game early, that means that the publisher gave it to you.
But it’s definitely not a move that creates more transparency for Bethesda. It’s meant, in a way, to actually obscure transparency and change the conversation by removing non-supported content from the mix. So, yes, while EA is covering their own asses here, they’re also going above and beyond what other publishers have shown recently that they’d rather control the conversation.
It’ll be curious to see honestly which way this ends up going. Some may be shocked by how much supported or paid content is actually out there when they start to see it fully disclosed, and others may be pleasantly surprised that some of their favorite creators are playing certain games because they love them and not because they got anything. Because we guarantee, it’s goin’ on more than you’d expect in certain cases and less in others. And you could probably expect more publishers to follow suit. It’s important to know the distinction between when somebody was told what to say and when they’re saying it for themselves, especially in the Wild West of Youtube!