Not every video on YouTube is pure creativity; some of them are paid for by publishers, the equivalent of ads. (And sometimes, the FTC has to step in, to make sure everyone knows what's going on.) It's unsurprising, then, to see marketing firms coming up with new ways to convince YouTube creators to take their money.
Indie Boost, a company focused on boosting awareness and sales for smaller games, has a unique solution: Asking creators to submit blind bids on how much they'd like to get paid for a video.
"The bidding is currently open for Medieval Kingdom wars [sic]," reads an email from Indie Boost, forwarded to me by a YouTube creator yesterday, typos and all. "Follow the link below and enter desired amount you wish to earn for creating content for this game."
The form itself asks a few different questions—channel name, email, etc—and the amount you'd like to bid on the chance to make a video. There's no indication what the "right" amount is, leaving everything to the imagination of the creator contacted.
The creator who received this email has not done any paid advertising on their channel, and boasts less than 6,000 subscribers.
A separate email from Indie Boost, also forwarded to me, outlined this new feature in detail. Dubbed Indie Boost Bid, the idea is an effort to add "value to the indie video game industry."
"The benefits and value content creators add to Indie Developers is undoubtedly the greatest return any developer can hope for," reads the email pitch. "Unfortunately this form of advertising is unattainable to a majority of creators due to budget constraints."
There are two games people can submit bids on: Medieval Kingdom Wars, an early access medieval strategy game, and Crash Force, an arena multiplayer shooter with cars. If a bid is accepted, the creator receives their money "immediately" after the video is live.
"A lot of our customers have been asking for paid content creation," said Nemke Kostic, co-founder of Indie Boost in an email, "and we have come up with the bidding program."
Kostic told me his clients don't have enormous marketing budgets, and thus cannot afford to pay "5-20K per video." Kostic labeled this as an "experiment," and if the response from creators are videos that would cost hundreds, rather than thousands, they may expand it.
The cost of paying for a YouTube video is not public. When the FEC settled with Warner Bros. regarding paid videos for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it said the publisher paid "thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media." In 2014, a leak suggested Electronic Arts was willing to pay $10 per $1,000 views for folks making videos about specific features in Battlefield 4, up to 20,000,000 views (or $200,000).
With Indie Boost, at least, there's no requirement you say anything positive, and as with other paid videos, you're supposed to disclose to viewers about the money.
It might not stick around, either. For now, according to Kostic, it's just another option for developers who choose to work with Indie Boost.
"This is just something to supplement that for clients that are willing to provide additional incentive for a guarantee of coverage," said Kostic.
That's the key word: guarantee. When a publisher sends a game to someone, Waypoint or otherwise, there's no promise they'll write or record anything. There's a chance, of course, but not a guarantee. This is why Warner Bros. paid PewDiePie to talk about Shadow of Mordor, why EA was willing to pay for creators (influencers?) to record videos about Battlefield 4, and why Microsoft handed over cash in exchange for Xbox One videos.
It's never been easier to publish a game, but it's never been harder to get someone to notice that game. The floodgates opened on places like Steam years ago, resulting in wild headlines, like this one from Kotaku: "nearly 40% of all Steam games were released in 2016." You can imagine, then, why a creator who's worked their ass off for years might be interested in getting people to talk by any means necessary, even that means paying for it.
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