Companies assure users that deals are "typical promotions" and comply with Federal Trade Commission guidelines
If you've been vaguely near a games site or Twitter this morning, you'll have noticed talk about publishers paying YouTube users to mention their games and consoles.
Such strategies often provoke cry of foul play and corruption from consumers, but the companies involved have been quick to clarify and defend these initiatives.
The first deal reported on was that of Microsoft and Machinima. Under the terms of the partnership, Machinima users would be offered $3 per thousand views for any YouTube videos that contain 30 seconds or more of Xbox One gameplay footage, mention that the featured game is being played on an Xbox One, and contain no negative comments regarding the Xbox One, its software or Machinima.
In a statement released to Polygon, Machinima claimed this was "a typical marketing partnership" and that it has not made efforts to hide the nature of this deal.
The statement reads: "This partnership between Machinima and Microsoft was a typical marketing partnership to promote Xbox One in December. The Xbox team does not review any specific content or provide feedback on content.
"Any confidentiality provisions, terms or other guidelines are standard documents provided by Machinima. For clarity, confidentiality relates to the agreements themselves, not the existence of the promotion."
The programme was also limited to a total of 1.25m views, which equates to a maximum payout of $3,750, and video producers are free to mention the connection to both Microsoft and Machinima. By doing so, neither the two firms nor the Machinima users break guidelines by the US Federal Trade Commision, which states that product endorsers must disclose any connection to the seller.
Microsoft has also spoken to Eurogamer, further clarifying that the promotion has been brought to a halt for now and videos included in it should now be marked as adverts.
"Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion and we didn't provide feedback on any of the videos," a spokesperson said.
"We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy and we have asked them to add disclaimed to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising."
The Verge also reports that EA is running a similar initiative, referred to as the Ronku programme. This issued YouTube users with specific assignments for EA titles, offering between $10 and $15 per thousand views depending on the game. For example, YouTube users would receive $10 per thousand views for showing next-gen or PC Need For Speed Rivals footage and branding their video according to EA guidelines.
A spokesperson told the site: "Through EA's Ronku program, some fans are compensated for the YouTube videos they create and share about our games. The program requires that participants comply with FTC guidelines and identify when content is sponsored. User-generated videos are a valuable and unique aspect of how gamers share their experiences playing the games they lover, and one that EA supports.
"We explicitly state in the Terms & Conditions of the program that each video must comply with the FTC's Guidelines concerning Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising."
It should be noted that publishers have been using the popularity of YouTube users for years. Bethesda, for example, commissioned cartoonist Harry Partridge to create viral parodies of Skyrim as part of its marketing campaign for the hit Elder Scrolls RPG.
Interestingly, details of these programs have emerged a month after YouTube's new Content ID system began pulling videos that contained copyrighted footage of video games. Several developers and publishers opted not to follow up these automated claims, recognising the marketing benefits of videos about their games online.