If you’ve spent any amount of time following video game content creators online, especially back during 2013, you’ve heard of Machinima. Machinima is an MCN (Multi Channel Network) that takes individual content creators that make video game related content under their wing, fighting for them in the event of copyright complications and helping to facilitate collaborations.
Today, in its official complaint against Machinima, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has disclosed the details of a previously suspected deceitful deal between Microsoft and Machinima in 2013, where Microsoft paid content creators like Machinima a significant amount of extra money for videos that spoke favorably, and only favorably, about the Xbox One and its launch titles.
Content creators were given up to $25,000 for creating these videos, as long as they spoke only positively about the Xbox One, Microsoft, and its games (Most notably Ryse, a notoriously mediocre launch title for the Xbox One.) In numerous instances (the document cites “SkyVSGaming” and “TheSyndicateProject” specifically), the fact that the promotional videos were, in fact, paid promotions was not disclosed to the viewer, and was made under the guise of genuine opinions on the part of the content creator.
The uncovering of this deal is a harrowing reminder to many in the gaming community that some companies are willing to do anything to increase sales, even if it means being deliberately dishonest and betraying all integrity. Whether or not Microsoft or Machinima wanted content creators to keep quiet about the promotion is something we likely won’t ever know, but the fact of the matter is that some content creators took it upon themselves to keep their viewers in the dark about the nature of their videos, and while there is nothing wrong with promotional content, the disclosure of the commercial nature of that content is paramount to maintaining integrity.
In a world where most marketing is done by enthusiasts on websites like YouTube, consumers need to be aware of deals such as this one, and question the motivations of some content creators trying to sell them on things.Further reading: Machinima, Xbox, YouTube