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Nintendo wants people to make money from videos on YouTube featuring Mario and Zelda games, but the Japanese company also wants a piece of that cash.

Earlier this week, the publisher introduced the Nintendo Creator’s Program that enables video makers to earn advertising revenue on YouTube. If you upload videos featuring Nintendo games, you can sign up for Nintendo’s program, register your channel or individual videos, and Nintendo will give you 60 percent to 70 percent of the money it gets from YouTube. This is the only real way to make money from these kinds of clips on Google’s service since videos with Nintendo games almost always get flagged for featuring copyrighted material. This is the only example of a major company with a partner program like this on YouTube.

So this is good news for people who want to make some money from their Nintendo-related videos, right? Well, maybe for some. But many established creators on YouTube hate this idea and feel like the publisher is taking advantage of them.


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“The new Nintendo partnership program has come out, and it’s totally horrible,” YouTube creator Geek Remix said in a video (via Kotaku).

Nintendo is now a Multichannel Network

Nintendo’s program works a lot like a Multichannel Network (MCN) on YouTube. An MCN is one of those groups like Machinima that has dozens or even hundreds of independent creators making content on YouTube. The MCN takes all of the ad revenue, and then it gives about 70 percent back to the original creators. YouTube users agree to work with these MCNs because they are often great at promoting content and providing support.

Nintendo, however, is going to take its 30 percent or 40 percent without giving any support. That number will vary depending on how you register with the publisher. If you just want to register certain videos, Nintendo will only give you 60 percent of the advertising cash. You can register your whole channel and get the 70-30 split instead only Nintendo will take 30 percent on all of your channel’s videos and not just the ones with Nintendo games in them. Even if you upload an original song about hedgehogs that has zero to do with any Nintendo property, the company still gets to collect cash from you.

“I think this is a slap in the face to the YouTube channels that do focus on Nintendo games exclusively,” YouTube sensation Felix Kjellberg wrote in a post to fans. “The people who have helped and showed passion for Nintendo’s community are the ones left in the dirt the most.”

It’s a pretty extraordinary arrangement that Nintendo is proposing. You can play games and talk about them on YouTube, but you better give Nintendo its take or else.

A dilemma for creators

The Nintendo Creator’s Program presents even more problems for critics.

“A YouTuber who makes money from game criticism and game reviews would have a problem reviewing a Nintendo game,” said Geek Remix. “Not only do you have to essentially pay Nintendo to review their games, you have to review the game by their rules. You signed a contract with them in order to be allowed to review their game.”

Reviewing Nintendo games on YouTube and trying to get paid for that work will now create a conflict of interest. Especially when Nintendo is approving every single one of your videos before they can generate ad revenue.

Maybe a critic will start biting their tongue to avoid running into problems with Nintendo’s YouTube team. Maybe the difference would just manifest as a change in tone, but if it’s because of the influence of Nintendo, it destroys the sanctity of the review.

“Although I appreciate [Nintendo’s] efforts to keep this issue out of the legal realm, I see this program as a potential mistake,” YouTube creator Zack Scott wrote in a Facebook message. “I’ve always felt our relationship was mutually beneficial, and most developers — from large triple-A studios to the smallest indies — agree. I cringed when I heard about certain YouTubers demanding a percentage of game-sales revenue in exchange for coverage. I feared that developers would adopt the same sentiment and demand a percentage of video ad revenue. With Nintendo’s latest move, that time has come.”

Nintendo is unique when it comes to this approach to YouTube. While some companies do use the site’s ContentID bot to find and strip ads off of copyrighted material, a huge number of developers and publishers have given blanket permission to everyone to stream their games.

You can find a list of game companies that permit monetization on videos of their games right here.

“Anything Nintendo decides it doesn’t like — it could be your hat is on crooked — they could decide that’s objectionable,” YouTube creator FarFromSubtle said in a video. “That enables them to terminate the creator’s program agreement.”

FarFromSubtle, which also runs the Games Are Awesome channel, went to say that this program is not for him. He relies on his videos to make a living, and he’s unwilling to give so much power over to a company like Nintendo.

It’ll be interesting to see how many other prominent YouTubers agree with him.

From a business perspective, IDC research director Lewis Ward has some thoughts, and he doesn’t think that Nintendo won’t use this agreement to hurt small YouTube creators.

“I like the direction in which Nintendo is headed,” he told GamesBeat. “I’m a fan of crowdsourced marketing pushes, and so this sort of arrangement seems inevitable for game developers and publishers. The devil will be in the details, but I suspect that Nintendo isn’t going to come out after the program launches and start smacking down smaller YouTube channels like Mario landing on a bunch of Goombas.

“I suspect that, out of the gate, Nintendo will want to get all of the gaming channels onboard that have over a million views a month. So they’ll work with the biggest YouTube channels to get a revenue sharing system in place that covers Nintendo’s most popular franchises.”

Ward thinks that this could turn into a long-term win-win situation for Nintendo and the people making “derivative works.” If it is successful, he expects to see it from other companies as well.

“A careful ‘fair use’ balance needs to be struck here,” he said. “And everyone’s on a learning curve about this, but over time, this program could be replicated by many other developers and publishers if it proves to be a win-win for Nintendo and YouTubers by late 2015.”

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