Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a well-received game, both by fans and critics alike. It was a quality game with a unique take on combating an almost intelligent army of orcs. Some of that reception, apparently, was bought and paid for by publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
WB contracted big YouTubers to play the game for their audiences without saying anything negative about it. Even further, WB didn’t require full disclosure. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped up to issue an administrative complaint regarding the unlawful promotions, and WB has officially settled with the governmental body.
The FTC released a statement regarding WB’s actions and their settlement. In it, they state that WB “paid online ‘influencers,’ including the wildly popular ‘PewDiePie,’ thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media.” They say that these sponsored videos amassed more than 5.5 million views.
The FTC contends that Warner Bros. required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found.
The settlement bars WB “from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers.” That is, they can still sponsor content, but they must require influencers to note the sponsorship.
Being paid to advertise products on the internet is the way business works. Those ads need to disclosed, though, as users might take an advertisement as an honest recommendation. That deception is bogus.
The sad thing? Shadow of Mordor probably would have succeeded without WB paying folks to stay positive.
Update: The FTC specifically mentions PewDiePie as one of the YouTubers paid in this promotion. We cover that in the article above. PewDiePie was, he confirms, paid. However, unlike other YouTubers, PewDiePie actually disclosed that it was a paid promo video.
For what it’s worth, the disclosure sits in the description and can only be seen if users click through to it. PewDiePie’s fans love him, and I imagine most don’t bother to click all the way through each and every one of his descriptions to see if something was paid for or not.
I understand that the creator is frustrated with sites using his name in headlines for clicks; however, he’s not entirely without fault here. His disclosure should have been more apparent.