The Daily Grind: Should MMO companies host influencer programs?

    
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Today’s Daily Grind topic comes to us by way of commenter Rndomuser, who thought it would be fun to riff on Ashes of Creation’s new “content creator program” and others like them.

“This program is not really something new and plenty of other game developers have similar programs,” he wrote. “On one side, the content creators will get extra benefits simply by covering the game in their videos even if no one will use their referral links, and this may attract more people in game which is beneficial both for developer and other players who like seeing more players in game. On the other hand, this will definitely influence the content creators to cover the game in more positive way because they will always fear that they will be removed from program if they will criticize the game too much so this program will decrease the amount of criticism towards the game and developers.”

I’ve never been a big fan of these programs, honestly; they solicit free or low-paid marketing work from gamers, and they flood social media with content biased in favor of the company, thereby compromising the creator. I don’t love that they train the companies to treat journalists as influencers either, something that always results in a rude awakening (for them) when we won’t toe their line like an influencer under their thumb might. But as Rndomuser notes, more than one great streamer and artist has managed to pivot an influencer position into something much bigger in the industry, and that’s definitely a good thing.

Should MMO companies host influencer programs? Are they a net positive for the genre?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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miol
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miol

Wooden Potato could also not believe, that, because he doesn’t have early access to new GW2 patches as other content creators, his so very late video criticizing GW2’s last chapter is spearheading any criticism about it! o.O

Saying: “Be wary of snake oil!”, when it comes to partnered content creators!
“And the conspicuous absence of real conversation!”

“There’s this little thing in the horizon, called End of Dragons affiliate link and basically people want you to want End of Dragons as much as possible, even if there are obvious signals about what’s happening to the game.” (?end of actual GW2 after this expansion?)

“Maybe I shouldn’t be talking about this. It’s messing with my livelihood too to a certain degree. What I’ve seen being serious and overly ranty can do to Youtubers in the past. Maybe I should keep it light, frothy and jokey, but I think I should be better than that! I don’t think that’s really me!”

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SmiteDoctor

He had a reaction video before this one, which I posted; he wasn’t late he was right on top of it.

miol
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miol

Well, he said it himself at linked start time! Maybe he meant late in the content creator world and its algorithms! ^^

EmberStar
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EmberStar

My only experience with such a program was as an outside observer (IE, audience, not content creator.) That would be the one for Warframe. The part that I’m mostly aware of is a couple of *fantastically* toxic “creators” having a direct line to the devs to make demands. Including one who very much fell into the mindset of “not a problem for me, so no problem exists.” When some people said they wanted pet updates (quality of life changes like even the most basically functional pathfinding, weapons that could actually damage enemies ever, and most importantly for Vacuum to become an inherent trait and not a special ability tied to one specific pet) he was *viciously* opposed to it. To any of it. Why? Because he didn’t care about loot, and he had a favorite type of pet because it was pretty obviously broken. Any attempt to balance pets would almost certainly have meant fixing the one he actually cared about so “F*** all of you, I got mine!”

So… yeah, I guess I’m not really a fan of “content creator” programs.

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Brazen Bondar

I think SWTOR has done a good job with their content creator program. They mostly all stream but even more than that, they are the ones who make the guides. The ones I read/follow are pretty good and none of them are afraid to call out Bioware when something isn’t working right or a cosmetic item doesn’t look good, as recently happened both on the test server as well as when the last flashpoint was formally released. I don’t watch them stream, usually, but the guides are excellent and its clear when they are having some kind of inside access. SWTOR recently changed their referral link program. I think it was terminated although I didn’t follow that so I don’t know the reasons for the change.

The content creators are different from what I think people refer to as influencers. If SWTOR has these, I don’t know who they are.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Influencer is altogether too polite a term for these folks. What they are is shills.

shill noun

Definition of shill (Entry 2 of 2)
1a : one who acts as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler)
b : one who makes a sales pitch or serves as a promoter

The Conniving Roots of Shill

Verb

Professionals licensed to shill won’t necessarily knock you dead, but they may not do you any good either. They might simply be pitchmen employed to extol the wonders of legitimate products. But in the early 1900s, when the first uses of the verb shill were documented, it was more likely that anyone hired to shill you was trying to con you into parting with some cash. Practitioners were called shills (that noun also dates from the early 1900s), and they did everything from faking big wins at casinos (to promote gambling) to pretending to buy tickets (to encourage people to see certain shows).

–Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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NeoWolf

I don’t think we need any more means for Influencers ego’s to get out of control, they pretty much think the world only turns because they are in it already :)

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Hikari Kenzaki

There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in the comments and as both a content creator and someone who works for a video game company, it’s probably a good idea to clarify a few things.

Content creators on every platform of note must divulge when they are doing sponsored content where they have been paid a fee to showcase the product. This is the law in several areas and is also on the TOS on most platforms.

Content creator programs are wide and varied, from only allowing select large streamers to allowing anyone who wants to cover the game. They may receive in-game items or even special items exclusive to the streamer (like Warframe), but in most cases, the creators don’t really get anything more than a key and a thank you. And in most cases, the creator will state several times over that they got a copy of the game for free and any other benefits they received.

The cases where a game has paid for a creator to do a favorable review of the game do indeed happen (you know the game), but those usually aren’t part of any creator or partner program. The game company sees the large streamer and directly reaches out with an offer “Would you like money to say what we want you to say?” MMOByte has a few videos on some of the more shady asks they’ve gotten.

Not all creator programs are created equal and you should judge them based on how the game manages them rather than just jump to generalizations about all streamers, influencers, and content creators being the root of all evil. They’re not. Most creators are simply an important part of the communities they enjoy covering.

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Utakata

Please no…

…nothing worse than Stans than ones that are “paid” to be so.

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Ken from Chicago

In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with it–if they are upfront about their ties to the company.

If they are hiding their ties by not mentioning it, not displaying the link or ” burying” the link (eg, in the middle or at the end of YouTube shownotes, in the middle or the end of a long video) vs showing it or saying it literally upfront at the start of a video.

Fisty
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Fisty

Sure, why not? They get the word out like advertising and journalism does. MMO’s need all the help they can get at bringing in new and old life.

Turing fail
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Turing fail

In my jaded opinion, not enough consumers can distinguish between journalism and advertising. Whether by intention or incompetence, critical thinking skills are not taught widely. At least not in USA.

That being said, even so-called journalists shill for the highest bidder. Witness John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode on sponsored content for hilarious yet nauseating examples.

We should replace “E pluribus unum” with “Caveat emptor”on our money.

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Bruno Brito

The entirety of the two segments by John on Astroturfing and Advertisement were not criticizing people’s critical skills, it was literally saying that companies were doing what they could to pay for advertisement that were as close as possible to “unbiased reviews”. Most of them are legally obligated to disclose advertisement, but they would disclose in ways that were scummy, like using smaller fonts or hiding below a long winded review that you would then discover would have no value because it was paid for. It was calling for more regulation.

Turing fail
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Turing fail

My opinion on lack of critical thinking skills is related to, but separate from, the issue of “journalists” shilling. That’s why I addressed these issues in separate paragraphs.

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Bruno Brito

I’m not saying you’re wrong, i’m saying that John himself is against this pilling on consumers and average people. Most of these problems stem from lobbying and lack of regulation, which is not something common folk have much power to do anything anyway.

Do i agree that citizens around the world should be more involved in politics instead of just delegating responsability to candidates that know nothing about their lives and struggles? Yes. Absolutely. Critical thinking is a must for healthy opposition.

But having “naive” people is not really an issue, the issue is having conglomerates being scummy and other people enabling this.