More Than Your Fair Share

Hello people, hope you had a great New Year’s party. I’m sure you kept the drinking to a minimum….

Something that is becoming increasingly commonplace in videogames (among other things) is the topic for this next blog entry, the first of 2016. Picture this scenario: you are playing a game; however, there is in-game content that potentially is beneficial to you. Yet it is not given to you just like that. In order for you to use it, you have to buy it with real money. Sound familiar? Welcome to the prevalent world of microtransactions.

What Are Microtransactions?

Perk (2014) gives a definition: ‘Microtransactions (or micro-transactions or micro transactions) are a term that applies to small value financial transactions that happen within digital games and apps.’ Essentially, microtransactions are all about generating extra money. This business model has been increasingly used as a popular method for companies to do just this. The way it works is that within a game, there are additional (and optional) ‘extras’ people can buy using online payment that provides additional benefits or bonuses to their game, although the reason varies from game to game. In order to purchase in-game content, the player needs to enter their card details just like you’d normally do for online payment (e.g. Amazon purchases).

It must be stressed that microtransactions are not mutually exclusive to videogames. In fact, many other businesses implement them. It’s the same for certain software such as antivirus protection. If you downloaded it from the web, you can pick from the basic version (no charge), or for a fee, the premium version which gives more functions and services. In a way, paying to use a premium account is like giving you ‘preferred customer’ status, allowing you to use more of the service. Other websites such as LinkedIn also uses some form of micropayment, allowing users to ‘upgrade’ to the premium version.

There are a number of reasons why this business model is used. Perk (2014) lists some reasons below:

• 1. Small purchases add up very quickly: Some of today’s highest-revenue apps (games in particular) are free for users to obtain, but earn money with microtransactions. These success stories are evidence that users spend quite a lot of money even when individual purchases are small.
• 2. Free-to-play is growing fast: The trend in digital is decidedly towards a free-to-play app market, in which users expect to download or acquire an app/game for free. In 2013, 90% of the Trillion (yes, that’s a T) dollar app market is free to download.
• 3. Implementing microtranscations is easy: Our SuperRewards platform allows any developer to have microtransactions up and running in a few minutes. This means you can accept payments today for the goods or content that increase engagement and make users happy.

It’s an interesting dynamic in regards to the first point. Imagine an in-game content costing 5p, which doesn’t sound a lot admittedly. But if you have an audience of one million players (perfectly feasible) who all spend that 5p, then you are looking at a profit of £50,000. But then you can have people spending loads more, leading to a greater profit. Sometimes, it’s not question of how much it is, rather how often they spend. That is just an example of the potential profitability of microtransactions.

This business model is increasingly relevant to games colloquially known as ‘free-to-play’. Free-to-play games generally means there is no charge to play the game in its base form, but in order to take advantage of the bonuses or specials, one needs to cough up for the benefit. So in the strictest sense, they are not free-to-play unless you plan on not paying for any benefits. A lot of mobile phone apps fall under this category. There are some pretty big examples such as Farmville, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja that are free-to-play with optional micropayments.

As Perk (2014) explained, this trend is on the rise. Team Fortress 2 is a very popular game on Steam, which used to be a full game but has since converted to a free-to-play model in order to take advantage of microtransactions, of which there are many. And while I’m on it, Steam itself is a walking billboard for online payments. I’ve been banging on about the Steam Market and all about the collaborations and transactions between the players (insert post link here).

Lori Bray agrees (2013), stating: ‘Keeping the title free means fewer barriers to entry and a more efficient cost-per-install. Micro-transactions also mean that far more granular price points can be developed, converting a wider base of users who might not be willing to maintain a €12/month subscription or purchase a retail box for €30-40.’ Because of this, players are not hit in the pocket quite so much and can spend more on the game as a whole.

How Are They Implemented?

As stated above, microtransations/micropayments are popular within free-to-play games. Let’s face it, game designers have to make money somehow otherwise they’d go bust; same with any other business. Microtransactions are a way of providing an incentive for players to make in-game purchases and keep the game running as a free-to-play model.

The idea of going free-to-play in the first place is to entice players, to get as many people into the game who may otherwise have been put off by the (sometimes) extortionate price tag of retail games. Come on, have you ever seen a game you wanted but bulked at the asking price? Think of the poor people who play on consoles when they have to shell out £40-50 for new games. Free-to-play games offer a different alternative for people who are reserved with their money. The player doesn’t lose out financially if they don’t like the game so it’s less hassle about getting money back.

Many successful free-to-play games are massively multiplayer online role-playing games. This is not surprising given that these MMORPGs can have huge scope in their content. Often the size of the in-game world is vast, allowing players to explore to their heart’s content and therefore allowing developers to maximise micropayments. World of Warcraft is a big player in this genre. When you have as many people as World of Warcraft does, it presents a very good opportunity to rake in the money.

The game introduces in-game items that are extremely valuable, such as extra damage or health boost, but of course, you can’t give it to everyone otherwise that would devalue it. Instead, the developers use micropayments: players wanting the items must pay for it to have the right to use. For these types of games, the ‘money’ is usually called whatever in-game currency the game uses. In World of Warcraft, the terms ‘coin’ or ‘gold’ are used in place of real money in keeping with the game’s fantasy setting. The conversion rate from real money to whatever in-game currency is used varies. For instance, £10 real money equates to ‘£10’ of coin, but not necessary the same value.

Case Study: World of Warships

Let’s look at an example of a free-to-play game, subsuewntly one I have been playing recently. It is called World of Warships, which is part of the Wargaming series. I quite like the cool explosions of battleship guns, but that’s another story.

World of Warships has a loyal and popular following, but that doesn’t mean they can operate completely free. Everyone who creates an account and downloads the game initially does not pay any price to play it. This creates an opportunity for the player to experience what the game offers.

As with many games, there is a system of ‘levelling’. Basically, as the player accumulates more experience and credits in the game, the higher their level goes. Everyone starts at Rank 1, with progression to Rank 11. With more experience gained, players can spend it on better ships.

However, it is a slow process to rank up. As an added incentive, the player may instead purchase what is called in-game as a ‘premium account’ to speed things up a little. There are certain versions to purchase such as 1 Day accounts all the way to 1 Year; it depends how much the player wants to spend. I think the rate for 1 Day is 80p, which is not a lot but can add up with continual use it.

The bonus of having a premium account is 50% extra experience gained in battle. So if I earned 100 experience points, having a premium account would then give me 50% more so I’d end up having 150. It may not seem much but it goes a long way to getting that next best ship. For a while I didn’t spend any money but I eventually did out of curiosity, and I must admit, I have spent more than I’d like to (but still not a lot to make a massive dent in my bank account). That’s the thing with free-to-play games, you spend what seems an innocent amount at first, but it slowly spirals into more as you spend more time in the game. It’s almost like gambling.

wow store page

A screenshot of World of Warships ‘Premium Store’ listing various deals on doubloons

There is an in-game currency called ‘doubloons’. Their role is to create a monetary system in the game. A dedicated website ‘store’ allows players to add funds in exchange for doubloons to use in-game. As I said before, real money and in-game money are not necessary the same value. I think 1000 doubloons is £3.60 of real money, which is quite expensive actually. That could buy you a decent lunch. Doubloons can be used to purchase special camouflage, signals, ships or flags to use. Of course, the better the extra, the more it costs.


While microtransactions are beneficial to developers of free-to-play games, the practice has drawn criticisms amide what is perceived as an obvious attempt to fleece more money. No-one denies that companies have to make money anyway, but what is disliked is that with the myriad of microtransactions, it gives the impression that the biggest concern for designers is how to make as much money as possible. According to PCGamer (2013:1), “Free-to-play” and “microtransactions” are dirty terms to some. That’s understandable. Famous Facebook Skinner boxes like Farmville have clouded attitudes toward today’s free-to-play games, and there’s an assumption all microtransaction-driven game design is handicapped by the need to create ways to charge players.’

The article continues to say, ‘a lot of the distrust toward microtransaction-driven games comes down to the way they habitually obfuscate both what exactly you’ll be paying for, and how much you’ll be paying for it. This starts with the standard practice of exchanging of standard currency for fake fun-bucks equivalents. In Rift, it’s “Credits”, in The Old Republic, it’s “Cartel Coins”, in War Thunder, it’s “Golden Eagles”, to name just a few. The deliberately awkward exchange rates are of course designed to hide the actual value of the items you’re buying, but hiding the value of every transaction at this fundamental level appears dishonest. There’s a widespread lack of clarity around the payment systems attached to free-to-play games. The price and payment method of engaging with a game should be quickly apparent, and expressed in a way that lets players know exactly what they’re getting for their money’ (PCGamer, 2013:1).

This point is important, as it can be confusing for players to know exactly what they are potentially buying, and more significantly, whether is it worth it. Here is a screenshot of the store of World of Warships. The in-game currency is doubloons, but you can see the different rates, so for 500 doubloons, you need to pay £1.69. For 30,500 doubloons, the price is £75.50. These are actually very expensive for, to be honest, not that much. You can easily use that many doubloons very quickly and end up spending more real money even quicker. It seems insane to spend that much but people do it.

This environment that free-to-play games promote has lead to the term ‘pay-to-win’ which is not complimentary by any means. Pay-to-win is the idea that in order for you to have success in the game, you need to spend real money for those special bonuses and abilities. For balancing purposes, these extras are mainly cosmetic items such as clothes or costumes so as not to give too much of a disadvantage to those who have not paid. However, depending on the game, it doesn’t work like that. Some games clearly have a competitive edge so players who spent have an advantage to possessing powerful items like weapons which can’t be obtained any other way.

So I guess what the real reason as to why pay-to-win exists as a term is the principle behind micropayments. As Phil Hartup (2015) writes, ‘Principles, even in something as wretched as the videogames industry, matter. What Konami and other companies are up to represents a very real problem in videogames. The wanton, gratuitous monetisation of any aspect of any game that a developer thinks they can squeeze a dollar out of is a sickness within the industry and it’s not without consequences. Games are built to accommodate pay-to-win mechanics.’

He goes on to say, ‘The greed of the games industry manifests itself in other ways too. The pre-order culture that now employs glorified pyramid schemes to secure early sales. Paid-for mods, a concept roundly rejected by players that may yet resurface with the release of Fallout 4. The pre-order DLC (downloadable content) packs where developers place chunks of content behind unnecessary pay walls or tied to specific sellers, preventing players from owning the whole game on launch day’ (Hartup, 2015).

I have to agree somewhat with what he’s saying. Sadly, it is increasingly becoming the standard industry practice. We looked at paid-for-mods in a previous post regarding Skyrim and that idea did not go down well with the players. They feel mods should be accessible so by slapping a price tag on them it restricts access. Again, it’s not about so much the money, it’s about the principle being implemented that it’s just another way to gain it.

For free-to-play games, nobody denies the developers shouldn’t make money from them. Yet with the myriad of potential in-game content, it seems that to get anywhere in the game, you have to spend, and spend lots. World of Warships has a levelling system where you’d have to raise enough points to get the next best ship. The process gets exponentially longer the higher you go, so it almost feels ‘obliged’ or even ‘necessary’ to upgrade to a premium account to get there faster.

This Is This Reality?

It would certainly seem so. In a world where we spend so much, so fast online, it was only a matter of time before the idea of micropayments caught on in games. In fact, the free-to-play model has expanded the games industry to accessible levels, allowing even the smallest of companies to grow that wouldn’t have been possible if they sold their titles in retail. Ethan Levy (2014) makes this point, summarising, ‘meanwhile, the influence of free-to-play has only grown over time. Not only was it the dominant business model on social network and mobile phone games, but its influence could be felt on console and PC, too. Struggling subscription-based MMOs found sustainable success in microtransactions (MTX), Team Fortress 2 went free-to-play and League of Legends conquered the world while selling champions and skins. F2P juggernaut World of Tanks was ported to the 360.’

Levy (2014) adds, ‘last month I ran a survey about gamers’ DLC and MTX purchasing habits. Over 2,700 gamers answered questions about how they have spent their money in the past 3 months. The results may surprise you. 1 in 10 gamers have purchased MTX in a premium AAA game in the past 3 months. 6 in 10 gamers have played a free-to-play mobile game in the past three months and 1 in 10 have made a MTX purchase in those games…these are, on average, 25 to 34-year-old men with full-time jobs making microtransactions inside premium console and free-to-play mobile games.’

Of course, this is not without its criticisms as we’ve had a look at. I’m not suggesting that companies shouldn’t make money, of course they do. But some of the practices do seem like fleecing people for extra money and the games industry is a lucrative business. The fact that there are so many microtransactions in-game accessible only by paying seems to reinforce this. Some of these micropayments may seem small at first, but continual usage will begin to dent the wallet.

Even AAA games have taken this route with what is called a ‘season pass’. It basically means that the player has paid for all the upcoming downloadable content (DLC) for a season. I think what we’ll begin to expect is that people will have to buy the game ‘in pieces’. As Perk (2014) said before, small payments add up big-time. If you have enough people paying then companies can bank a tidy sum, far more than they could if sold in shops.

I try not be against micropayments because I know they are vital for smaller companies to get recognition and profit. It’s hard enough in an already-congested industry to make a name for yourself as it is. But with free-to-play on the rise, as a gamer myself, I certainly  understand the criticisms of microtransactions and what they represent. It’s not nice to pay for something only to have to pay for something else just to get anywhere in the game. Before you know it you spend far more than you wanted. It’s easy to do that at the click of a button.


Lori Bray’s article ‘Microtransactions: 3 Common Mis-conceptions’

Phil Hartup’s article ‘Pay-Win, How Videogame Companies Exploit Players Deliberatrely’

Ethan Levy’s article ‘Why microtransactions aren’t going away anytime soon’

PCGamer’s article ‘Microtransactions: the good, the bad and the ugly’

Perk’s article ‘What are micro transactions and how do developers use them?’




Welcome 2016

Hello everyone. Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying the festivities. Who ate all the mincepies?

So we come to the end of 2015. It surely must not just be me to feel it has flown by. One minute I was saying hello to 2015, next I’m saying goodbye. In fact, we’ll be saying hello to 2017 in no time at all.

What are your resolutions for 2016, the same as before? Whatever they are (or if you don’t have any), have a great New Year, and I’ll see you then!



Happy Christmas, Everybody!

So the year is almost at an end, but before it is, there’s a little thing called Christmas. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you will have a fantastic Christmas with the family as it only comes once a year. Hope you’ve done your shopping and your presents all wrapped up.

I realise it has been since May I last posted, but something called life has been getting in the way. Sorry about that. There are ideas and topics I want to discuss, but perhaps they should be something for 2016. In fact, it won’t be long before we are waving goodbye to 2015. What are your plans for the New Year?

So there it is, have a wonderful time. Just make sure to wear those Christmas jumpers!



The ‘Two Year Ago’ Anniversary Message

Hello everyone,

Where has the time gone? I cannot believe it is over two years since the blog was setup (although I’m about over a week late with this one). You look behind you and ten years have got behind you. I’m sure I said something like this a year previously. 2nd-birthday

Ok, so I have not been as active as I’d like – thanks, life – but we’ve covered some topics that I wanted to talk about, such as the rise in esports. I know there’s going to be more in the future that should be discussed as we live out the year.

So thanks guys. I’m very pleased to reach the two year milestone and will be looking at the very next article to write. I predict exciting times ahead. Hope to see you at the three year anniversary.

Thank you.

Paywall Is The New Firewall

If You Want It…

Hello everyone. Hope you had an enjoyable Easter. Something has come up on Steam recently that has copped a lot of negative feedback. It seemed inexplicable that Valve would consider going down this route, and now that they have, prompted many users to vent their disappointment (to politely put it). A few days ago, Valve implement a policy where users who wanted ‘mods’ for the game Skyrim would now have to pay for them. This is known as a ‘paywall’, a system where you must pay to gain access to certain information.

Skyrim and Modding

Skyrim is a 2011 game released by Bethesda Softworks. Part of the successful Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim is an action-based role-playing game set in a fictional, mythical universe. In this case, Skyrim is set in the snowy, alpine and Scandinavian-inspired setting of the same name. Like many RPGs, players may customise their character and chose to do whatever they wanted. The ‘open world’ of Skyrim is expansive, providing players with many different opportunities to feel their way throughout the game world.

A large part of the appeal of the game is the act of ‘modding’. Modifications, or mods, are add-ons created by the gaming community to be implemented into the main game via download. These mods can range from anything such as serious add-ons such as new armour, weapons, locations and characters, to humorous and miscellaneous ones like funny sounds and voices.


Skyrim can accommodate many different mods

The modding community of Skyrim (and Elder Scrolls in general) is large. Several dedicated websites, notably TES: Nexus, are essentially databases for hundreds of different mods that have been added over time. People create these mods either to add something new into the game, to work on their programming skills or for recreational purposes. Most mods are created usually by a single person. The sheer scale of mods can be vast: you can find ones which make small changes to ones which adds entire new quests and missions.

In fact, the longevity of Skyrim is largely down to mods. These are a good way for players to spend more time once they have beaten the core game. There is generally no limit to how many mods a player can have, although it is not surprising that there will be clashes between incompatible ones.

Building a Paywall, Brick by Brick

Until recently, modding in Skyrim had been free on Steam. Players did not have to pay to download and use these mods, although donations were welcomed as a ‘thank-you’ to the creator. This has essentially helped with the continual growth of the modding community.

However, on 23rd April, Valve and Bethesda implemented a change to this on the Steam service. The main feature was that (as far as Steam was concerned), if you wanted to download a mod, you would now have to pay for it. Want to know why? Here is the statement:

Many of our fans have been modding our games since Morrowind, for over 10 years. They now have the opportunity to earn money doing what they love – and all fans have a new way to support their favourite mod authors. We’ve also updated Skyrim and the Creation Kit with new features to help support paid mods including the ability to upload master files, adding more categories and removing filesize limit restrictions.

What does this mean for you? As a modder, you now have the option of listing your creations at a price determined by you. Or, you can continue to share your projects for free. For those shopping for new mods, Valve is making sure you can try any mod risk free.’ – Skyrim Steam page, 2015

At the same time, Valve released their Steam Workshop feature. This is basically a database within Steam of uploaded mods, similar to the Market feature used for buying and selling in-game items. Skyrim happened to be the first game to use the Workshop, which is why this concerned the game. Here’s how it works:

‘Whether you’re just getting started or are already a professional artist or developer, now you can make money from your creations in the Steam Workshop. Starting with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can make new cosmetic items, sound packs, custom skins, fancy houses, epic quests, entire new cities, or just a new hat for Lydia. Once you’ve made your creation, you can easily set a price and earn a portion of each sale made through the Steam Workshop.

Set a price for your creation, list it for sale in the Steam Workshop, and earn a portion of sales. Plus, the Workshop Revenue Activity site will help you track your sales and revenue so you can make better decisions about what to work on next. Workshop games will support paid content in the coming weeks. As creator of your Workshop submission, you get to set the price. You can specify a set price or choose to sell as pay-what-you-want and let the customer decide how much to pay.’ – Steam Workshop page, 2015

When a person wants to release their content for others to access, they upload it into the Workshop. By agreeing to various terms and conditions, and following acceptable content policies, their work will be added to the database within their own account. This acts as a portfolio as a showcase of their work.


Steam Workshop lists mods, both for free and for sale

The Workshop exists as a central hub of player-created content for everyone to use. This is similar to the Greenlight and Market features we’ve looked at before in regards to Team Fortress 2. Initially, this sounds like a good idea. With Steam being so inter-connected and well-known, people can have their works readily accessible. This is supported by the fact that you needed Steam to actually run Skyrim in the first place.

What Does This Mean?

But there is one problem which we mentioned at the start: paywall. If you wanted to use these mods, you needed to pay for them. How much is dependent on different factors. The more expansive and immersive mods (those which add a lot of features) tend to be more expensive than those that are more limited in design. For example, ‘a Blazing Ringsword or Scrib Crusher – additional weapons – are a mere 17p each, but the Midas Magic Gold pack, introducing 80 new spells to Skyrim’s mystic arsenal, is £3.99’ (Kamen, 2015).

This is the reason why this issue has created such a negative reaction from many people. It is not because they have to pay; it is more of the fact that this policy had been implemented in the first place. Being an online platform for collaboration and sharing between people has been one of Steam’s its strongest points. For a company like Valve who actively encourages community activity, the implementation of a paywall seems to be surprising and disappointing. This was highlighted with hundreds of people quickly posting a negative review, not against the game itself, but against paid mods. There was even a petition created on for a reversal, gaining 20,000 signatures.


Just one of the hundreds of negative reviews in the wake of the paid mods policy

The pricing of these mods will be neither Valve’s nor Bethesda’s decision: the creator will make that choice of how much to charge. Valve’s statement for modders to ‘have the opportunity to earn money doing what they love’ is also questionable. For anyone making money out of Steam must file a bunch of tax information, including filling in ‘tax interviews’ for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After dealing with this extremely complicated system (isn’t dealing with government services is always fun?), here comes the damning statistic. Modders, regardless of whatever price they set, will only get around 25% of the total revenue for their content. The majority of it is split between Valve and Bethesda. The small print is listed in Steam’s supplemental Workshop terms, another legal wall of confusing text that many would not bother reading. The clue is in the Revenue Sharing section, point 1:

The percentage of Adjusted Gross Revenue that you are entitled to receive will be determined by the developer/publisher of the Application associated with the Workshop to which you have submitted your Contribution (‘Publisher’), and will be described on the applicable Workshop page.’ – Steam supplemental Workshop terms page

In theory, anyone can garner a lot of sales of their work, but the reality is that what they receive at the end is largely reduced. It is ultimately the developer/publisher that decides how much you would get for your work (usually less than 40%). In Skyrim’s case, modders get the 25%. Is that a fair deal? I don’t know but it’s listed on Steam’s terms and conditions. What’s more is that the money they receive is only useable within Steam. In other words, they cannot draw the money out like in a bank; only for use in Steam.

So Long, Goodbye?

About a week after they implemented it, Valve removed the paid mods feature. ‘In a post today, Valve employee Alden Kroll confirmed that the functionality will be removed, and all customers who have paid for mods will be refunded. The move has been made with Bethesda’s blessing, Kroll added. “We’ve done this because it’s clear we didn’t understand exactly what we were doing. We’ve been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they’ve been received well. It’s obvious now that this case is different. To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free and paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.” (Prescott, 2015).

The backlash against this policy was so strong, so dense that it seemed they had no other option. You could cut the resentment with a knife, it was that solid. Valve received a ‘dump truck’ of feedback on the matter, of which its disposition was very clear. Many didn’t like the fact that they had to pay to enjoy player-created content.

Here’s my take on it. Nobody expects anything for free and gamers do not expected things to be given away. The trouble is that when you impose restrictions and limitations, you will cause friction and it is no different here. For a long time, mods have been freely and readily accessible for others to enjoy, which has helped to grow the community and in turn keep Skyrim alive.

I don’t think anyone has an issue with the creators getting a financial incentive for their work. However, most people advocate a donation system as the appropriate way to support the content creators. The gaming community is, by and large, very generous and supportive. TES: Nexus, which arguably has a larger database of Skyrim mods than Steam, is still free to use. Its community and supportive feel makes it a popular choice for discussion and sharing.

There is no sense of entitlement from gamers that they have a right to use mods at will. It’s the fact that paid mods was thrown on them rather suddenly. Valve and Bethesda made the mistake of moving too quickly and have suffered considerably for it. If you ask me, having this system is largely counterproductive. Steam is full of creative content that probably will never get experienced or used because people have to pay for them. Perhaps that is the sad thing.

This is not the end of paywall, far from it. With the amount of games that are modified by the community on Steam, I’d say it’s a matter of when not if, this crops up again. Valve talked about using the situation as a ‘social experiment’, but they have a definitive answer to the question. Their reputation has taken a considerable knock so lessons need to be learned.


Matt Kamen’s article: Modders backlash supports paid Steam mods

Shaun Prescott’s article: Valve has removed paid mods functionality from Steam Workshop

Entertainment for the Masses

The Sport With No Athletes

‘Welcome to the International’ – Gabe Newell, 2013

Hello everyone. Hope you’re well. I’m excited to do this article as it’s about something that is on the rise in the world of video-gaming. It is called a ‘sport’ yet it does not have any athletes and has an audience of millions worldwide. This isn’t any conventional sporting event like the World Cup, but there is that feel of competition about it. ‘There are many stories to be written about trends in the gaming industry this year, from Kickstarter to casual gaming to multi-screens and more. But there’s one aspect of the industry which has simply exploded over the past year, and it deserves a bit of a retrospective to see just how far it’s come’ (Tassi, 2012). He is right. This is electronic sports, otherwise known as esport.

Before we begin, I’d like you read this BBC report ( The report highlights the growth of esport on a general level, but the important point is that esport is a big, booming multimillion dollar environment. There is much more to playing games than meets the eye. The report argues the case of whether esport should be considered an actual ‘sport’. This post will instead take a more neutral ground and look at the history and impact esport has had on videogame culture.

One the things we’ve looked at is that there is a big audience for watching people play videogames (see last post on Let’s Plays). And then we learned that, if really successful, people could forge this into a full-time career (e.g. Pewdiepie). But the thing is that watching other people play games is not just exclusively confined to YouTube. I mentioned very briefly about Twitch, a website that allows real time live streaming of people playing. You are watching as the player is playing, completely live. There exist numerous streaming channels in which people can readily stream their gameplay and have an audience watching them who can comment simultaneously.


Get ready to rumble…

Esport has taken this to a new level. It is now a show for the masses. As the BBC report (2014) states, ‘40,000 fans in a football stadium, some of them in fancy dress, all of them glued to the action on giant screens.’ These events now take place in large venues, with gameplay now projected on large LCD screens to amplify the moment. I’ve never been to one myself but I imagine it’s a lot like going to a music festival, where thousands of other like-minded people watching events as they unravel. It’s a new kind of sport: one where you don’t need to be physically fit to run a distance or kick a ball, but enough to be able to react to motions on your screen. In fact, it is spectator sport: it’s as much exciting for the audience as it is for the players.

Esport are organised competitions featuring many different gamers, either by themselves or in groups (usually called ‘clans’) to compete in front of an audience. Many different esport competitions exist, including The International, European Gaming League, Major League Gaming and more. The players involved are considered the best in their league. After all, people pay to watch the best play the best for the greatest spectacle. You never expect it from gaming, but real drama can be made. The audience ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at every bit of skill, mistake or showboating.
But how did e-sports, starting out relatively small, achieve global status with an audience of millions? There are a few factors which have helped it develop into this juggernaut of gaming.

1) The Early Gaming Competitions

What constituted to esport of today could be traced back to the 1970s. Edwards (2013) writes, ‘competitive gaming has existed almost as long as video games themselves. Even the earliest arcade games inspired some fierce competition. Early on, a lot of that competition took the form of friends challenging each other to best their high scores, but it didn’t take long for organized tournaments to begin popping up.’ In 1972, Stanford University hosted an ‘intergalactic spacewar Olympics’ for its students. Perhaps the moment came in November 1980. Atari, the game developer and publisher, hosted the Space Invaders Championship and attracting over 10,000 people. It was the first ever large-scale videogame tournament for and helped to promote Space Invaders (which is still widely-played today). Due to the design of the game, the emphasis was on creating as high a score as possible. What this significance of this was that, many years in the future, ‘this tournament, and others like it in following years, sowed the seeds of what would eventually become esport’ (Edwards, 2013).

From the 1990s, gaming competitions were increasingly common and was where it really took off. ‘The popularity of competitive events was then catalysed in the 1990s by the boom in PC games including StarCraft and Quake’ (Jarvis, 2015). One of the reasons for this was the rise of PC gaming, which allowed greater multiplayer capabilities. After all, videogames has its roots within in computing. The 1997 Red Annihilation tournament for the first person shooter Quake ‘is widely considered to have been the first real instance of esport, drawing over 2,000 participants. The winner received a Ferrari previously owned by John Carmack, lead developer for “Quake.” Just a few weeks after Red Annihilation, the Cyberathlete Professional League, one of the first major gaming leagues was founded. Later that year, the CPL held its first tournament. By the next year, it was already offering $15,000 in prize money. The CPL was just one of the more prominent of many new tournaments and leagues founded during this period’ (Edwards 2013).

The new decade also saw the phasing in of new game genres for the tournaments. Esport became readily involved with first-person shooters and real-time strategies. One of the most famous titles of this genre was StarCraft: Brood War. ‘With its asymmetrically balanced races, each with their own unique troops and abilities, StarCraft offered nearly limitless strategic potential and became one of the driving forces of the esport world, though it would not reach the height of its popularity until after the year 2000’ (Edwards, 2013).

2) LAN Parties and Gatherings

LAN stands for local area network. This means instead of using the internet to connect machines, they were connected physically by cable. Essentially they were all in the same location connected together. Theoretically, there was no limit to how large a LAN was besides room spacing and technical aspects, so you could have small LAN parties or huge ones numbering hundreds. Initially, they started off as nothing more than a few friends gathered at one house with inter-connected systems and playing games until dawn. Sometime of that, some people figured that this could be taken to a much bigger level. Where you had a few friends in one house, you now had hundreds and hundreds in a larger venue all connected and playing games.

Large-scale LAN parties required people (players and spectators) to have shelter, food and additional services, which is why they took place in large venues. Takeaways such as pizzas, pies and soft drinks were passed as ‘food’; anything that did not require much cooking technique was received. Often there was a dedicated support team responsible for the running of the party. In 2013, DreamHack, a LAN gathering based in Sweden, boasted a record of have 17,403 connected systems. As a result of the significance and popularity of these parties, numerous companies have become sponsors; mainly technological firms such as NVIDIA and Alienware.

2452_DREAMHACK 2008

DreamHack LAN gathering inside a large venue

It is a rule that participants are required to bring their own systems to use. Many dedicated PC enthusiasts have therefore brought their systems to showcase to others. Often they have been built custom-made and were decidedly powerful. It’s like going to a car show, showing of the flashiest set of wheels and gaining the respect of your peers.

Most esport competitions now follows the LAN model. The benefits of this includes better quality and lower lag due to using physical cables rather than wireless connections. It also required that players are present in person, which adds to the competition of arena feel. It is much better to see players perform in person if you are lucky enough to go to tournaments live. Dota 2 and League of Legends have both implemented LAN options after initially being released as online play only.

3) Online Battle Arenas Rules the Roost

Around the time of the 1990s-early2000, there was a collection of different genres that had dedicated leagues and tournaments. By 2010, one such genre had dominated the Esport landscape. It is called multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). MOBA has elements of real-time strategies built in but with some differences. Players control only one unit as part of a team. Games consist of two teams who have to destroy the other team’s base while protecting their own. These games can take up to an hour to complete as teams find a way to gain the advantage, therefore being both long and entertaining enough for the audience. It is like watching a gladiatorial battle raging between the best in the business.

Titles of this genre such as Dota 2, League of Legends and StarCraft are box-office draws. This is where the main attraction is, where the best players are found and where the big money is. Shooters like Counter Strike and Call of Duty still enjoy success but still pales in comparison. In fact, they seem boring compared to MOBAs. What makes them so popular is that it requires careful coordination and teamwork. This is why it makes watching exciting because a lot of the time you are watching people with extensive game experience, who have invested a significant amount of time to perform on the big stage.

Dave Cerra (cited in Lockley, 2014), lead producer on EA’s MOBA Dawngate says, ‘Awesome isn’t it? MOBA or ARTS (action real-time strategy) or whatever we want to call them are the most exciting thing in gaming. Their popularity is the result of several different things that have evolved and converged in the world of gaming. And as with any skill-based competitive experience, these games are intrinsically motivating: players play them to get better and express mastery, not just to consume content. All of this boils down to: once you get into MOBAs, they’re just a ton of fun. The traditional MOBA top-down isometric view is easy to watch, allowing the player to participate in the game as a consumer of the experience in addition to a participant. The games are more fun with friends so they spread socially.’


The International. An esport tournament for Dota 2

According to Twitch, MOBAs make up over five billion minutes of content viewed every month. That tells you everything you need to know about the popularity of the genre and where it sits within esport. A consequence of this is that players of the genre are treated ‘like superstars. There’s even a League of Legends fantasy league. Forget Ronaldo, Messi or Bale. Now you can fill your pro gaming roster with the likes of Doublelift and Wildturtle. Or pit team Fnatic against SK Gaming’ (Lockley, 2014).

David Nicholson (cited in Lockley, 2014), vice president of Jagex’s Transformers Universe says these games aren’t just for die-hard esport fans. ‘MOBAs appeal to a wide audience of gamers, wider than their esport profile might initially suggest. They are both aspirational and accessible because people cannot only watch the elite gamers playing them; they can jump online with friends and others at a similar skill level and have a fun experience. The good MOBAs are very well balanced in terms of learning curve; you can play a game and enjoy yourself as a beginner, but also see where and how you could improve.’

An indication to its growth is by looking at how much money has been thrown in. The financial incentive is staggering with sponsors and developers pumping in. For instance, Dota 2 awarded $28,132,976.00 over 336 tournaments and League of Legends $19,337,457.12 from 1301 tournaments. The International 2014 gave $5,028,308.00 to winners Newbee; conversely Empire and fnatic got $21,862.00 for finishing last place. As of 2015, Wang Jiao (handle ‘Banana’) amassed a total of $1,192,049.90 in winnings (with 98.99% from Dota 2 alone). He’s basically a millionaire.

4) Dedicated Channels and Live Streaming

From 2000 onwards, such competitions have seen an increase in establishment. This has been able to supplement an additional increase in terms of professional teams and players, creating a stage for competition. In other words, a set of dedicated leagues helps creates and maintains the culture of esport. More and more people are getting involved, which means that for game developers, they are increasingly implementing design features that support this competitive play (e.g. competitive league ladders).

The advancements in broadband and streaming channels like Twitch are crucial to the growth of esport in reaching out for a wider audience. As can be expected, the internet remains the main standard for coverage of tournaments. For a time, there had been sparse coverage from many major news organisations, unless they’re doing a feature with a technology focus (like the BBC article). If you wanted reports from tournaments, best places were official websites dedicated to videogames in general.

Coverage of tournaments usually plays out like you would find in other sports coverage. Ever watch live football? You have a commentary team in a studio who discuss the day’s events and provide analysis. Then you have the commentators reporting on the actual games as they progress. Afterwards, there are interviews and feedback from players. It is near enough the same in esport tournaments. Commentary and analysis is provided by knowledgeable people, perhaps even former players, so that you get that ‘competition’ feeling. They can provide a report into goings on.

Nowadays, streaming of live events over the internet remains the top option for many audiences worldwide. For example, 1.7 million viewers watched Dreamhack Winter 2011. An even bigger audience of 27 million watched the League of Legends tournament in 2014. ‘These kinds of numbers show esport has come a long way. Just last year, 4.5 million concurrent viewers on Twitch was a new record for the streaming platform. Riot Games drew more than twice that number for its finals, and likely hit that total on most of the 15 days of the World Championships tournament’ (Lingle, 2014).


Twitch TV. Users get to pick coverage options of live play

Twitch remains the main streaming channel, although there are alternatives such as Hitbox and Azubu. Additionally, the tournament itself may have an official channel for people to view, such as Major League Gaming’s For the Twitch service, users could also stream their own gameplay (independent to any tournament) by agreement with the service. This is similar to how users on YouTube work, too. For TV coverage of The International 2014, ESPN simulcast the tournament. Not surprisingly, the viewership numbers from online streaming far surpasses that from TV.

Summary: A League of Their Own

Esport have certainly come a long way since the days of Space Invaders and Pong. It is now a multimillion dollar business endorsed by large companies, played by the best professional players and watched by an audience in the millions. It’s a quite remarkable evolution that owes a lot to the development of the modern internet but also to a host of other things.

Competition with other players in videogames is nothing new, but the recent surge of esport tournaments is. We now are seeing tournaments played with the best professional player against the best professional player, making for an exciting spectacle. We can also attribute technological advancements and increased financial support as factors that have allowed it to expand, but also because there is a player base and audience that are actually into this. Without the players, there is no show.

If you truly want to see how much impact esport has had on society, look no further than South Korea. It is a country where esport tournaments remain highly popular and a serious business. ‘Massive venues such as the Busan Bexco Stadium and Haeundae Beach are constantly packed to the brim with thousands of fans, keen to see their favourite teams and players battle it out. When considered alongside the massive success of Korean pro gamers in a multitude of esport, it’s easy for the average foreign fan to look upon Korea and see it as a haven for esport’ (Manisier, 2012). It is so popular that the government has created a specialised department, the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) to oversee the regulation of esport.

This post was not set out to argue if esport could ever be considered a ‘real’ sport. I think that belongs in the same bracket as asking if videogames makes people violent. I do ask, though, if esports is any different from traditional sports. Millions in the UK watch their football team play (either at the stadium or on TV). Is that any different from people watching professional players and teams play (either at the venue or on TV/internet)?

Instead, I tried to showed where esports now stands as an entity in its own right. For as long as there is a demand, esports will keep growing.


BBC iWonder’s article, ‘Is Computer Gamin Really a Sport?’

Tyler Edwards’ article, ‘eSports: A Brief History’

Matthew Jarvis’ article, ‘Understanding eSports: A Bfief History of eSports’

Samuel Lingle’s article, ’27 Million Watched the League of Legends World Championships’

Greg Lockley’s article, ‘MOBA: The Story So Far’

Alex Manisier’s article, ‘The Surprising Esports Culture of Korea’

Paul Tassi’s article, ‘2012: The Year of eSports’

Let’s Play in YouTube

Hello everyone. In this article, we discuss the theme of ‘Let’s Play’ in YouTube.

YouTube and Me

YouTube was created in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. The website is a video-sharing platform for people to upload and share their video-based content, with themes and content ranging from different genres such as music, film, TV and adverts. Over the past 9 years, it has grown to be an important site for social communications where millions of interactions takes place each day, vital for people trying to get their word out.

This has allowed different people and groups to post their opinions and views through online videos, ranging from individuals to national corporations such as BBC, NBC and others. Because of its video-sharing nature, interactions between people is fluid. People uploading videos to their accounts can have others view, comment and provide feedback on them. The video itself also contains bits of metadata such as total number of views, publishing date and the number of likes/dislikes (which many use a barometer of how ‘great’ a video is).

The social impact of YouTube is remarkable for a number of reasons. The effects on culture have both negative and positive aspects, but for the sake of this article, we will be focusing mainly on YouTube as a platform of expression for individuals. Anyone can create an accounts and begin uploading pretty much whatever they want (within reason to YouTube’s terms of service). It is here that people can begin to create a steady following depending on their success.

People can subscribe to a certain channel they like. The more subscriptions to a channel, the more popular that person becomes and the recognition they receive. If they are extremely successful, they could even have contracts from established media companies at their door. Even those companies use YouTube to get their content across. Famous celebrities (mostly singers) such as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Justin Beiber and One Direction upload their music online via their record label. A myriad of established groups and organisations also use it such as various news channels and political parties.

What is interesting, though, is that it isn’t just famous people making a name for themselves. Its video-sharing aspects has allowed ‘grassroots’ talent to emerge. In short, ordinary people have used YouTube to become successful in their own right, becoming YouTube Personalities. Channels such as Jenna Mourey (Jenna Marbles), nigahiga (Ryan Higa), Zoella (Zoe Sugg), and Fine Brothers have all developed a steady/devote following that has propelled them to online popularity. The examples listed garner well into millions of subscribers from all over the world, but there are plenty of others who have had similar success in their channels. If you are successful enough, you can make a living.

The people mentioned have gained millions of subscriptions, the biggest YouTube draw remains Felix Kjellberg, better known by his online handle, Pewdiepie, and has over 30 millions subscribers. Pewdiepie is an interesting figure in the community. The fact that he has over 30 million subscriptions is not because he is a singer. He is not a politician, activist, athlete or actor. Unlike the examples listed above, he is a videogame player, and his success revolves around what is known as ‘Lets play’ videos.

What is Let’s Play?

In its simplest definition, Let’s Play (LP) is essentially people playing videogames themselves for others to watch. People often provide commentary to their videos, generally expressing their current thoughts, opinions and feelings of a particular game. Patrick White (2013) defines it as ‘a video showing a screen captured video of a gaming session wherein the player provides commentary over what is happening’. Think of it as a running commentary of people playing games. The term is apparently credited to Michael Sawyer (aka SlowBeef) who produced a screenshot play through of The Oregon Trail which founded the LP culture. As a result, a forum was established to store and archive future LP called Something Awful. ‘A long, long time ago, back in 2006, a little trend started slinking around the Games subforum of the Something Awful forums: people were posting up screenshots of themselves playing various old fondly-remembered videogames (such as Oregon Trail and Pokemon) and including their own humorous commentary. This proved to be a winning – if not entirely original – formula which very quickly exploded in popularity! Before too long, everybody was trying to get in on a piece of the action’ (Something Awful, 2012).


Felix Kjellberg (aka Pewdiepie) is the most subscribed person on YouTube

Let’s Plays are separate from similar formats such as walkthroughs. Whereas a walkthrough is about sharing experience and knowledge for others, LP is usually the player’s first-time play-through; as such it is subjective and contains genuine feelings, opinions and criticisms at the time of playing.In most cases, a small screen within the screen is shown of the player themselves as they play. It also seems a ‘tradition’ that the commentary provided is usually a humorous, profanity-laden play-through, depending on the personality of the player.

These types of videos can easily get a large following. If we factor in how big the market is for videogames, we can safely say that there is an audience out there for people to watch others play.  To put things in perceptive, as of March 2014, ‘the top five Let’s Players collectively have more YouTube subscribers than Peru has people. A user-generated Wikia page tracking current Let’s Players, their subscriber totals, and their videographies lists about 950 players with active YouTube channels, collectively followed by more than 60 million subscribers. And the Wikia page acknowledges that this isn’t a comprehensive list.’ (Zoia, 2014).

Zoia (2014) adds: ‘the chance to earn money, let alone a living, by playing video games was an adolescent fantasy until YouTube launched its Partner Program in 2007. It allows eligible YouTube users to make money through Google AdSense, which runs targeted commercials alongside user-generated video. Users who join the partner program get 55 percent of advertising revenues – the amount determined by the type of ad, its price, and how often the video is viewed – while YouTube keeps the remaining 45 percent. A few hundred views per month hardly generates pocket change; tens of thousands might pay the rent…As an alternative to YouTube’s Partner Program, users may seek membership in multi-channel networks (MCNs), like Maker Studios or Fullscreen, companies that manage YouTube channels and offer members such benefits as cross-promotion, product merchandising, tech support and perhaps a more desirable revenue split. Details are hammered out in individual contracts.’


A typical Let’s Play video (featuring Pewdiepie playing The Last of Us)

The influx of LP channels can be contributed to various software and hardware that aid in recording, compiling and uploading. A popular choice of video recording is a software called Fraps. In most cases, footage of LP would normally be unedited so as to contain the genuine feelings and emotions expressed at the time of playing. Of course, video-sharing websites such as YouTube and Twitch have made sharing and uploading LP videos easy. With Twitch, people can stream their footage live, giving a real-time experience of playing which suddenly becomes like an online cinema. It also helps to have the actual player with a sense of quirky humour.

Let’s Play and the Social Impact

With the rising popularity of Let’s Play channels, there has inevitably been some implications, particularly among on the videogame industry side of things.

Firstly, there has been praise on the fact that Let’s Play channels can indirectly promote a videogame, especially if that game would have trouble finding an audience on its own right. In other words, if a popular YouTuber such as Pewdiepie posts a video of him playing an independently-made game, this would inadvertently give exposure and coverage for that game. ‘Let’s Play videos are considered good advertising – what better way of saying people are playing a game and having fun than videos showing people doing just that?’ (White, 2013). The critically-acclaimed Thomas Was Alone has benefited from this form of marketing, with the game being covered as a Let’s Play by another popular player, Total Biscuit (John Bain). Other examples include Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Outlast and Plants vs. Zombies.

This has in turn led to different perceptions to the way in which developers now design their titles. Having a title covered in a popular Let’s Play channel now seems like a glowing endorsement considering that hundreds to thousands of people will have watched it. ‘Getting covered by a big-name YouTuber is now essentially the dream of many game developers. The publicity someone like TotalBiscuit, NerdCubed or Northernlion can bring you compared to mainstay consumer websites like IGN, GameSpot and Game Informer is becoming increasingly significant’ (Rose, 2014).

Big personalities means big views. Pewdiepie himself has been largely successful in bringing independently-made games into the forefront. As Zoia (2014) notes, ‘in one November video, he plays the Xbox Indie game ‘Techno Kitten Adventure,’ helping a feline avatar navigate dangerous terrain filled with unicorns and narwhals, and shrieking in frustration each time his cat crashes into an obstacle.’ This video is into the millions, although you suspect a large majority of the viewers are watching Pewdiepie goof about rather than the game itself.

Still, the impact cannot be understated. Getting a title covered on YouTube can created more sales and revenue than in the written press or major gaming websites like IGN for many developers. Aaron San Filippo, creator of Race the Sun, explained the positive coverage his game received as a consequence of being covered in a Let’s Play: ‘For sure, the biggest Youtubers have had a much bigger impact on our traffic and sales compared to the biggest sites we’ve been covered on. When DanNerdCubed played Race The Sun and linked our Greenlight page, it had a bigger impact than all of the website coverage we’d had up to that point, combined. I’m also pretty sure that TotalBiscuit’s coverage on our Steam launch day helped increase our week one sales a lot, which probably helped keep us on the Steam front-page longer. If we’re smart, we’ll try to arrange this type of event more intentionally next time!’ (Filippo cited in Rose, 2014).

While the impact of Let’s Play coverage can be an significant factor in how titles are developed, this is much more noticeable in smaller developers as opposed to the bigger companies. Let’s Plays tend to favour quirky, fresh and original independent games. Partly this is to draw in more viewers to the channel but also increasingly changed the mindset of game development in that developers release titles early in a playable format. Steam, Valve’s online gaming platform, has a feature called ‘Greenlight’ which is dedicated to community made games. Many developers are using this to get out an early access form of their titles well before the final form. This gives a chance for the game to be covered, providing the developers with feedback and commentary but also exposure.

A recent example of this is the horror game Five Nights at Freddy’s. It was one of the success stories after it was covered by a multitude of YouTubers like Pewdiepie, but also others such as Markiplier (Mark Fishbach), Yamimash (Aaron Ashe) and LDShadowLady (Lizzie Dwyer). Scott Cawthon, the game’s sole creator, designed a simple game where the player has limit control over a set of camera banks and door controls and must last the night against a series of rogue animatronics. He later stated ‘as far as simplicity, I wanted to keep the game simple enough so that anyone from any country (without needing to read or speak English) could pick up the game and learn to play it within a few minutes. I wanted it to be about the experience, not endless tutorials on how to play’ (Cawthon cited in Couture, 2014). The game’s simplistic, but unique interface, seemed to have a resonance with many people and before long millions where watching Let’s Plays of people frantically battling with these scary monstrosities. The success of this coverage generated enough substantial interest that a sequel, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, was released not long after.


Five Nights at Freddy’s simplistic interface and horror theme was a success

However, Let’s Plays finds itself entangled in the net of copyright laws. As Zoia (2014) explains: ‘Let’s Play videos exist in a gray area of the law. On the one hand, players appropriate footage – sometimes wholesale – from copyrighted video games and run ads on them. Game developers argue that this amounts to intellectual property theft, and is illegal without a license from the games’ publishers. On the other had, a Let’s Play video isn’t simply a recording of a game; the player adds his narration and changes the experience for viewers. In legal language this is called ‘transformative fair use,’ and players believe that because they re-purpose an original work, they should be allowed to continue. Let’s Plays also provide free advertising for the games developers wish to sell.’

This is an issue that not only affects videogames, but also music, film and sport. It is also one that will not have an easy resolution. Many independent developers see Let’s Play as a marketing opportunity to showcase their work, but equally others feel that these videos infringe on their intellectual copyrights. Nintendo was notorious for coming down hard on fan fiction and content. ‘Nintendo took a different approach, registering its intellectual property (IP) rights with YouTube in February and then beginning to push copyright claims against Let’s Play creators. The claims didn’t block the videos but, rather, removed Let’s Play creators’ ability to run ads on them’ (Totilo, 2013). Gera (2013) adds that ‘Nintendo is now claiming ad revenue on user-generated ‘Let’s Play’ videos that feature the game company’s content…As a result, Let’s Play videos using Nintendo content will be bookended by ads while content-creators will not receive any revenue for the videos.’

Many people were angered with this as it meant Nintendo could effectively put adverts relating to their titles and that the person who uploaded the video would receive nothing in return. Although Nintendo may appeared to have ‘softened’ its stance since, this issue is ongoing. This relates back to Zoia (2014), who effectively explains both sides of the argument. Nintendo felt it needed to uphold its intellectual property rights, but are people who record themselves playing games infringing on these rights? White (2013) perhaps offers some clarity: ‘I do concede that if a YouTube user posts a work that is not theirs…that violates copyright. However, the law also says that commentary and parody are protected forms of content. While the original creator deserves his dues, going after fans for expressing their appreciation is detrimental to the original creator’s success.’

Legal issues aside, Let’s Play forms a fundamental complement to videogame development and reception. The power and opportunity they can carry is valuable to developers in getting their games out there. The capabilities of video-sharing websites like YouTubes offers the ultimate platform for these things to happen. People who simple play and film themselves playing games can find an audience and created a steady, growing channel. Likewise, getting a popular YouTuber to cover a title potentially is a gateway to having thousands and millions watch it too. With those numbers, it’s too irresistible for smaller developers to ignore, and that is why Let’s Plays are a big deal.


Patrick White’s article ‘Fan fiction more creative than most people think’

Christopher Zoia’s article ‘This Guy Makes Millions Playing Video Games on YouTube’

Let’s Play Archive

Mike Rose’s article ‘Is YouTube killing the traditional press?’

Emily Gera’s article ‘Nintendo claims ad revenue on user-generated YouTube videos’

Stephan Tolito’s article ‘Nintendo’s Turn For a 180? ‘Let’s Play’ Drama Might Have Happy Ending’

Interview between Joel Coulture/IGM and Scott Cawthon