In the last few days a scandal exploded (reported by Ars Technica and others) due to an agreement between Microsoft and Machinima to bring positive coverage to the Xbox One on YouTube, but apparently and unfortunately Microsoft isn’t the only company enacting that kind of practice, as showcased by the screencaps at the bottom of the post, unveiled by NeoGAF user shinobi602.
The “assignments” given via one of the many networks operating on YouTube and leaked by an unnamed source, are very specific, aiming to show the game in the best light. They also clearly forbid to talk about major glitches and bugs shipped with the games displayed, showing that Microsoft isn’t alone in the attempt to “encourage” YouTubers to go in a positive direction with their coverage.
According to the source, the contract he had to sign also included the following non disclosure clauses.
You agree to keep confidential at all times all matters relating to this Agreement and any Assignment including, without limitation, the Details and Compensation listed above.
You understand that You may not post a copy of this Agreement or any Assignment or any terms thereof online or share them with any third party without EA’s prior written consent. You agree that You have read the Nondisclosure Agreement (attached hereto and marked as Exhibit A) and You understand and agree to all of terms of the Nondisclosure Agreement, which are incorporated as part of this Agreement.
Talking to the owners of two popular YouTube channels (that requested to remain anonymous) to verify the information, we were told that this practice isn’t at all uncommon on YouTube, and that several publishers give quite explicit instructions to drive positive coverage on their games, often with the promise of compensation. Even when the specific agreements don’t forbid the owner of the YouTube channel to disclose their existence, that’s often covered by the initial contract between him and the network.
We were also told that this isn’t limited to games, but it extends to many other kinds of products outside the video gaming field. Finally, we learned that in most cases the bulk of the bonus isn’t (predictably) paid to the owner of the YouTube channel that does most of the promotion work, but remains with the network itself.
While by no means we endorse or approve of this kind of practice, and as a matter of fact we find it quite contemptible, it extends way beyond Microsoft, and it’s deeply rooted in the often shady labyrinth of YouTube promotion. This, of course, is not to say that all, or even a majority of YouTube users or networks engage in it, but you may want to consider the fact that it’s not as uncommon as it may seem.