Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
July 29, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 
We are all entertainers!
by Bartosz Brzostek on 07/15/14 06:24:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Hi! My name is Bartosz Brzostek, I'm one of the founders of 11 bit studios, the team behind Anomaly series, and recently announced This War Of Mine. A few days ago I had a chance to read The Blood Pact of Visibility by Ian Stocker (http://n4g.com/user/blogpost/indiemonth/528134). In his post Ian presented his thoughts on the topic of YouTubers and devs mutual relations, if there should be a flow of money included, and who should pay whom. I decided to also share my thoughts, as I believe some time ago we at 11 bit studios came with a neat idea aimed at addressing the problem.

Instead of beginning with the dev/YouTuber case, let me start with the player. In the end he is the one putting his money on the table. So let's think for a moment, why do people pay for games? They pay because the games provide them with a real value - entertainment value - and they consider this value to be worth the price. Of course there's a great disturbance related to F2P model, however after some time of its existence it's clear that not all games fit it well. Some experiences can't be monetized this way (at least not yet) and there are players willing to pay for them up front. They pay for being entertained.

Now think about Let's Play videos. What are they if not entertainment as well? People watch them because they enjoy them. They watch mostly not to get informed about the games, they watch to be entertained. The entertainment value is flowing from the maker of the video to the player. For this to be sustainable, somehow the money has to flow the opposite way. The creators have to make money for entertaining their audience! Either by the way of ads, or maybe pay per view, or maybe something else. I personally don't believe that ads are the best way of compensating the creators. If it was, the premium TV wouldn't work. Some game developers find quietly passing money to youtubers for coverage rather controversial. I think we need a more direct way, and I believe the introduction of tip jar by YT (Mashable has a nice video on that topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgB24_IU3Uk) is a recognition of that need. I personally think that paying the creator directly just for watching will not become very common. Payments for something that used to be free won't be easily accepted. We need more finesse here.

With this in mind, in the early 2013, we at 11 bit studios started to think about a solution that brings all parties together - players, game developers, and video creators. The idea came from an unexpected place. I spend quite some time reading car tuning forums. People spend so much effort and energy to modify their cars, either to race or just for the sake of modding. And I've noticed that there are some forum members who run professional tuning shops. They share their knowledge and give a lot of advice to the tinkers. And the latter, grateful for the advice, when buying tuning parts, order them from the shops of people who helped them in a show of support. I wondered - why couldn't it work with games? If people are going to buy a game anyway, why buy it from some random store, and not from the one who they like? This led us to Games Republic.

Games Republic is a platform that allows the buyer to support YouTubers, bloggers, or even other players by getting the game from their store, widget or affiliation link. Anyone can link to any game available on the platform, and say - "if you by any chance decide to buy this game you can support me by getting it here". Player pays the same price as elsewhere, and the creator gets half of the platforms' share from the transaction. Win-Win-Win! 

At first we were designing Games Republic as a storefront-free solution. We thought of it as a catalogue of opportunities for bloggers and vloggers – hey, guys, here’s a bunch of games that you can benefit from if you create materials about those specific titles. After several iterations we decided however to introduce custom storefronts for everyone who wants them (but they are not obligatory). Thanks to this solution users can focus on one specific type of games (say: hardcore strategy games) by creating their own space within Games Republic. And be very specific about it: this is my store and if you buy something here, you are directly supporting me.

The multiple storefronts functionality answers one of the most serious problems digital distribution is facing today: the problem with visibility and discoverability. Dominant position of Steam and its limited space on its storefront makes more and more games disappear without a trace. We think of our dispersed storefronts as a potential solution to that problem.

From the very beginning however we were thinking of our platform as a „context is king” solution. Therefore we decided to NOT go with the classic affiliation model which is a little bit of a pyramid scheme – in this model anyone who registers with your affiliation link contributes with her or his purchases towards your financial score. The more registrations you get, the more money you earn, which creates an obvious trend of spamming your affiliation link wherever and whenever you can. We purposedly scrapped this model in favor of creating a strong context between the blogger, his material, his audience and their needs. The blogger speaks honestly about a game and then - hype already created – benefits from game purchases that follow. We like to think about our solution as a „Buy this game and support me” button – two functions within the same action.

This of course sparks the discussion of blogger’s honesty. Wouldn’t that solution make him get excited about crappy games just to generate sales? Well, there are feeble minds everywhere but when a creator wants to be real and credible, he will never turn to such lowly tricks. Besides, as most of us know, content creators are NOT reviewers. They can create any content about a game and it can still be generating hype and sales as well. They can laugh about game’s complexity and create hillarious ragequit videos that shoot a title straight to top ten on Steam charts. Do those materials undermine their credibility? Hell no. Are they beneficial to game developers? Hell yes. But we believe that bloggers/creators should also benefit from those materials!

In spite of the fact that we launched only recently (last week of April), we already have proof that our model works. During Spintires launch (we managed to add the game to our catalogue before its release) we had a case of a YouTuber who created a pre-release let’s-play video about this game, honestly presenting it to his audience. Many people followed his link to Games Republic to buy the game and he made some good money thanks to it. I'm no expert in video ads, however I believe simple ads would not bring him such income. He generated context and earned his money on it.

The news about Kerbal affiliation program seem to confirm this is where the future is headed: content creators not getting bogged in stupid discussions „were you paid to create this material?!” but content creators openly saying – „No. Nobody paid me to create this material. But each and every one of you can - by buying the game I am talking about”. We believe this is a slightly more elegant solution than slapping a „sponsored material” text within video description. Could  it be more profitable? Well, here we get to the fundamental discussion of business models - flat sponsorship rates versus effectivity earnings. But in our case those two models do not exclude themselves.

For top vloggers our solution would mean more transparency towards their users but also an opportunity to benefit from any video they create (and not only those videos that are sponsored). With millions of views thousands of people become hyped but the vlogger is not benefitting from the hype he created. What’s more, that approach does not exclude sponsorships. Hello, I created this material as a part of a sponsorship deal but if you wish to buy this game, you can do so through the link in my video description. If you do so, you will also support me. Everybody’s happy.

For smaller content creators our tools may become an opportunity to get their piece of the pie – they may not be featured in publisher networks but they obviously have a group of loyal followers who will gladly buy games and support them at the same time. Is Games Republic a solution for long-tail monetization then? Could be. We hope it will be. We believe that transparency is the most important factor in a healthy relationship between „businesses” and their „fans”. And we are working on the transparency concept.

We will gladly discuss any feedback you may have.


Related Jobs

Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[07.29.14]

Cinematic Animator (temporary) - Treyarch
Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[07.29.14]

Associate Cinematic Animator (temporary) - Treyarch
Activision
Activision — Seattle, Washington, United States
[07.29.14]

Software Engineer - Activision Seattle
Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[07.29.14]

Senior Environment Concept Artist - Treyarch (temporary)






Comments


Anders Larsson
profile image
As someone else said on an earlier thread, in effect the youtubers (or streamers) become publishers/distributers with this model. I like the fact that you guys went ahead and released a product/platform around it, good luck!

In many ways it resembles a simple marketing/distribution agreement that you can have with established sites/platforms (more than Steam, as Steam does very little in actual marketing for you).

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
Hey,

GR director here.

I think it is a bit too much to consider vloggers publishers or distributors in this model as they have no real power over pricing, promotions and hundreds of other things. What they do have is complete freedom of treating a topic in any manner they want - and that is a freedom a distributor/publisher would never have. I remember seeing RoosterTeeth and their Surgeon Simulator videos where they made TOTAL FUN of the game. That would be absolutely a no-go with a classic distributor and it still can earn money for the vlogger if a transparent affiliate model is present.

As for the second paragraph, are you talking as a YouTuber here? I am not sure what kind of agreement you have in mind.

Koen Deetman
profile image
Great post Bartosz!

If I recall correctly I heard Steam was also working on individual gamer stores to share in the profits.
Maybe this was just a rumor! Anyway the Games Republic seems great! Definitely going to look into this for my games :)

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
You are definitely welcome :)

Peter Bollok
profile image
I think, ad money must be enough as a compensation. Having LP paid by devs is like having a tv channel being paid for a film by the film makers. Just break it down to the beginning of those channels. Why did they start it? Mainly because they wanted to play games and having fun, I suppose. If they are getting paid, this hasn't anything to do with fun anymore and neither with that whole fan-video thing. Guess which games are played if money comes into play? Furthermore, the player is entertained by the game, so she pays for the game. The viewer is entertained by the LP, so why should the dev pay for it?

You could just think that whole being payed for LPs thing to the next level. Just put an auction house for LP channel out there. Where every LP channel can offer its service for play time. Then every game maker can bid for play time. Guess who will win that? Isn't this something which is fearable? With something like that, you can get max. coverage... And all the small devs/games don't get any attention anymore, because they can not pay what others can pay.

Needless to say that a LP doesn't deserve to make any money, because these people are just playing games. This is against every ethics in the real labor world.

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
If they have a choice of which games to pick (and that is what we are aiming at), they will choose the ones that are interesting for them and their clients, the viewers. It is not a question of money being put up front, it is a question of money running through and that makes a big difference. A huge company with huge marketing budget is not in an "always win" position.

Thinking analogically about ads (that need to be of proper context), games played by LP are already biased towards the ads they are running.

As for LP not deserving any money, I strongly disagree. They are offering something to their viewers and they MIGHT deserve some remuneration - as a tip jar, as a PayPal donation but mostly - as a fraction of what they actually sold to the viewers. I think this is the most fair way of saying "thank you for your service, kind sir!"

SD Marlow
profile image
I wanted to address that last point. People that photoshop images or create gif's are in it for the personal enjoyment (or perhaps a chance at "meme fame," lol), and I can appreciate the argument that doing a Lets Play is along those same lines and thus equally absurd that they should make money doing so. But, it's a slippery slope argument to make because wouldn't it be cool to photograph naked women, or hang around porn shoots all day? Maybe you learned to fly in high school, flew military jets in the air force, and are now "living the dream" as an airline pilot. Professional race car driver? I mean, if the standard for "when to get paid for something" is based on whether or not it's something you enjoy doing, the entire system comes crashing down. Why does just playing games not count as work? Doesn't that invalidate eSports? Musicians don't get money because it's "just singing?" You and I don't get paid to read and respond to comments, so why should someone with over 100k followers be wanting financial compensation for basically doing the same thing when they interact with fans?

Jeff Richey
profile image
"You and I don't get paid to read and respond to comments, so why should someone with over 100k followers be wanting financial compensation for basically doing the same thing when they interact with fans?"

Probably because some of those 100k followers are going to go out an buy the game because they watched the youtuber play it, when they otherwise may not have.

Also many of these personalities spend hours recording then editing these videos. I don't think you can fairly compare you commenting and reading comments to making youtube videos. Atleast not the ones that would matter in this case.

Peter Bollok
profile image
"If they have a choice of which games to pick (and that is what we are aiming at), they will choose the ones that are interesting for them and their clients, the viewers"

Are you really sure about that? This sounds a little bit like, that viewers are watching LPs because of the games. But aren't the viewers actually watching these channels because of the presenters? This is at least what everyone says. And I personally think, that if it comes down to money, the only games that are played are the one which make the most money. Isn't a LP all about money? Isn't that phenomenon became the new way of making the money with the least labor to do? This is what my impression is about LPs. Sorry.

"As for LP not deserving any money, I strongly disagree. They are offering something to their viewers and they MIGHT deserve some remuneration"

Ok, my last post was a little bit too provoking. I still keep my opinion about that, LPs must stay with the ad money. But nothing more. Not only because I think LPs aren't real labor, but more because this kind of playing game exposed to a wide audience is welcoming frauds and other rubbish, in terms of shitty games being advertised in the shape of a game being played that "seems to be fun to be played", but actually isn't. And if people like to watch the channel, because they are entertained, there are some ways to pay for the content, like patreon. But also there, I am a little bit concerned about how much money YT game players make with that kind of "labor"... There are people who actually learned something and do hard work, who are earning less. This is my opinion. I think, being payed for casually playing games seem just wrong to me, to be perfectly honest.

But thank you for sharing you opinion, I appreciate it.

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
"But aren't the viewers actually watching these channels because of the presenters?"

Yes, they are. But when the presenter chooses a poor game, they will become discouraged.

As for vloggers transparency, there is the invisible hand of the market. If you pimp shitty games, your viewers leave you, simple as that.

I personally do not think ads are that much different. You have no influence on their content but why is that better actually? You sell first 5 seconds to 3 minutes of your video to someone who will say something you could absolutely disagree with or that could be offensive or stupid, or out of context for your viewers. How is that more ethical than saying openly: "if you feel the urge to buy this game, do it through my link and I will get my cut thanks to that"?

Ads, if placed not randomly, but as a part of a targeted campaign, can be much, much more dangerous than affiliation. As an ex-journalist (and an editor-in chief of a gaming magazines segment in a major publishing house) I've had my fair share of "rate this game 4/5 or more; or we take our ads off" discussions, and this will never change.

An LPer pimping a weak game is basically killing himself.

As for the labor itself, let's not get into that. There are various kinds of labor with various kinds of salaries and usually we don't actually know how much work goes into something we consider "easy to do and yet he gets paid so well". LPers are paid because they have HUGE audience. It costs A LOT to get a huge audience.

Mike Higbee
profile image
Speaking as a bedroom dev and someone with a monetized Youtube channel primarily with gaming content I hope I can clarify some of the points you're making.

Viewers tend to find a channel when searching for a particular game or from say a forum post or word of mouth, they tend to subscribe due to enjoying the content, personality, opinions of the youtuber.

As far as Let's Plays not being labor intensive let me state this, we're essentially doing the same job as a sports commentator only we're the ones playing the game, commenting, editing the footage, rendering it and uploading it.
One average the amount of time I spend actually playing the game for say an hour of footage that is going to be uploaded I spend double to triple that in editing, rendering, and uploading.
It's not just a case of quick and dirty otherwise your end product looks just like that and substandard.

I think this also speaks to your shitty games and frauds concern as well, if you've ever seen how vehement youtube comments and users can be creating content like this would be detrimental to the creator and their brand.

While ad revenue is nice and all (it's not as much as a lot of people think) it's nice to see devs who actually get involved with content creators be it granting interviews, offering keys for giveaways/promotions that are mutually beneficial (subscribe to their channel and social media, along with the content creators for a chance to win a key for example), or in this case offering a direct profit for accounted sales via a referral link (Kerbal Sapce Program is doing something similar).

What is kind of worrisome is programs like this Yogsdisovery thing where they get a percentage of all sales with zero accounting which means that if any other content creators are actually driving in new sales the Yogscast is getting a cut from their work and they see nothing.

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
Just think of the Yogscast/Keen Software deal as an ad based on effectivity of the company. Of course you, as a LetsPlayer, work towards that effectivity and therefore "your money" goes to Yogscast but basically (and philosophically :) the same thing happens when a company with a game that you LetsPlayed pays somebody a flat rate for coverage. Part of that flat rate was made thanks to you.

It is just a business partnership with a formula written in the place of "Amount due:" field. I would not worry about it.

Mike Higbee
profile image
Well it is a bit worrisome in that (while I haven't done any Space Engineers content personally) it could put a bad taste in the mouth of those who do as essentially they are helping the competition.
Personally if I saw this going on with something I had been creating content for extensively and based a following off of it (and hypothetically driven some sales due to it) I would be inclined to cease creating that content for the period a deal like this is going on for the reason I just stated.

James Yee
profile image
Hmm.. I'm going to have to give this system a look see as I love the idea of curated storefronts. It also gives me a chance to write more and give long term support to some of the Kickstarter games I've interviewed. Thanks for the heads up.

SD Marlow
profile image
I think YouTube'rs would still be getting more income from ads than "affiliate" links because the views-2-purchase ratio is going to be low (aka conversion rate). The bigger issue is that the big name shops (iTunes, Google Play, Steam, etc) will not want a middleman taking a few extra percentages of profit, but also, won't be happy with a 3rd party storefront (or going further than that, just turning into a back end service for independent sellers).

For some popular or known games, people will learn about Games Republic, but in order to make it a destination of it's own, I think the site needs to provide links/discoverability for YouTube personalities that use the "referral" service.

Jakub Kowalski
profile image
I have one example of very good CR and once I have the permission, I will disclose it. It proves that an engaging material is a huge driver towards sales.

What do you mean by providing links and discoverability for YT personalities?

SD Marlow
profile image
A YouTube personality will do Lets Plays for a lot of different games which means someone that follows them could discover new games, but if Games Republic is going to be a part of the community, it needs to provide "personality discovery" when people are looking at a single game. Meaning, a game "listing" will have links to Lets Plays done by a variety of YouTube'rs. You could go a step further and allow these affiliates to edit their own Games Republic profile page or have a private forum.

Games Republic needs to make its self relevant to players, reviewers, and even devs or risk being seen as "another hoop to jump thru."

I'd like to see you expand the idea to being a site where game devs WANT to have a landing page and player reviews because the industry needs a 3rd party "curated" game shop. But again, the likes of Google won't be happy if people think you're THE store because they want to be the one-stop destination. You need to be the online "consignment catalog" that allows for purchases to be made from "1st party" shops.

James Yee
profile image
SD Marlow is spot on here. Going back to your car tuner example the parts creators would also mention shops in people's areas either through "shops that carry our parts" type systems or their forums where they talk about shops that are known to work with their parts. It's a full circle cycle where you want to provide value on all sides of the market.

For instance your Spintires example you allude to basically describes Youtuber-->Games Republic-->Dev cycle but nothing leading back the other direction. Though I'm sure the Dev had links back to the Youtuber there's no mention of how Games Republic drove traffic to the Youtuber.

I'm at work so I haven't gotten a chance to sign up and play around with your system yet but a few things that pop to mind:

"You might Also Like..." link systems. That let me link to other curated stores and other creators that might be more specialized than me. (For instance I HATE platformers but as someone who covers Kickstarters I see a lot of them. So linking to a personality that actually digs and covers platformers specifically would be nice at GR not just on my own articles)

Theming. The ability to match up a GR curated store to the Youtube channel or blog so that with browsing they can find new channels and such.

Channel/creator searches/spotlights. Basically a way to see all the stores and who creates them and why.

Kee-Won Hong
profile image
Hi - as a game developer (not a content creator), I was wondering how you would go about getting a title added to the Games Republic store? I could easily be missing something obvious...thanks in advance!

Bartosz Brzostek
profile image
The interface to adding new titles is not publicly available yet. If you'd like to have your game added to the GR, please drop us an email. You will find contact details here:

http://support.gamesrepublic.com/category/contact

Kee-Won Hong
profile image
Great, thanks much for the info!

Anders Larsson
profile image
@Jakub We are a developer thinking about ways to distribute our first game, Games of Glory (now in Alpha stage). The range of possible distribution deals is obviously huge. Steam does a pure revenue share deal (which is quite expensive), without promising any marketing behind it. Other distribution platforms also do revenue share, but do promise different marketing activities. The approach of Games Republic sounds like this second model, where the marketing obviously is the featuring of the game in the stream/video

As I said, Good LUCK

/Anders


none
 
Comment: