By now you may've heard the ruckus emanating from the console community. Zack Scott, prominent YouTube personality and uploader of Let's Play videos, revealed that Nintendo had "claimed ownership" of his Nintendo gameplay demonstrations—meaning, basically, that ad revenue from the videos would go to Nintendo rather than Scott himself. It wasn't an isolated incident; numerous other YouTubers found their videos had also been claimed by the heavyweight publisher.
Nintendo's started a possible movement among publishers; Markus "Notch" Persson of Minecraft fame has revealed that he, too, was approached by YouTube and offered a cut of all Minecraft videos' revenue.
"It was tempting," said Persson on Twitter. "We almost did it."
Had the Minecraft team gone through with the deal, what then? Well, not only would the income of Let's Play YouTubers be threatened, but there's an argument for the exposure that indie developers would lose as well if major YouTubers closed up shop.
Mike Bithell, developer of Thomas Was Alone, says that it was a Total Biscuit video that propelled his game to success.
" Thomas sold eight times more units than on launch day," he recounts frankly in a piece for Develop Online. "I was outselling Assassin's Creed 3 on Steam."
"Thomas Was Alone would not have been a hit without YouTube. Without the frequent infringement of my copyright, the astonishingly aggressive use of my intellectual property and oftentimes presumptuous use of work comprising years of my life, I wouldn't be sat right now, at home, taking a break from my work as a full time indie developer."
So it's not just about massive publishers who can probably live without the money earned by YouTubers—in the end, widespread adoption of YouTube claiming could hurt smaller developers as well. Let's Play videos often help us decide whether to buy a game or not, and they can introduce us to wonderful smaller projects and mods as well.
Zack Scott's suspended his playthroughs of Nintendo games, and many other YouTubers are following suit. In the meantime, indie developers continue to lobby for the positive effects that Let's Plays have on their success. One thing's for sure: game publishers can try as they like to take away our gameplay videos, but they'll never take away our enjoyment of cats with pineapples.