21 per cent of popular video game YouTubers have admitted to being paid by developers to cover their titles.
Gamasutra surveyed 141 YouTube Let’s Play stars and found that of those with 5,000 or more subscribers 21 per cent admitted to receiving payments with a further five per cent saying they did only when a dev offers money.
Five per cent preferred not to answer the question and 69 per cent claimed to have not received payment.
For those with fewer than 5,000 subscribers 98 per cent said they had never received payment.
"Considering YouTube is mostly being advertised as a PR platform and not as a platform for legitimate critique, I would not be surprised if bigger YouTubers would charge money for coverage," one respondent commented. "In that regard they would provide a service to the game developers."
Another added: "It is expected from our work to be free. Copyright holders don’t want us to monetize, no one likes ads, no one likes paid content – but we invest our free time into covering the games we love and want to share, basically giving free PR for the game itself. If a YouTuber asks for money for delivering great content, it’s not wrong – it’s compensation."
There are some on the record comments, too.
"There’s no set of rules for how PR and YouTubers should interact," Ryan ‘NorthernLion’ Letourneau said. "There’s kinda an implied standard based on the way that PR and publishers and journalists interact.
"For people that exclusively do Let’s Plays, they don’t really criticize games or make editorials, they just play games and they have fun with them… I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to be paid by publishers for what they do."
Elsewhere on the site famed YouTuber TotalBiscuit, who was revealed as having worked with Icarus Online designer Howard Tsao, argued that this lack of formal assessment clears both him and his peers, adding: I have never made a formal assessment of Guns of Icarus at any point, nor am I a reviewer in the first place.”
None of which would arguably matter were all YouTubers completely transparent about any payments they receive. And therein lies the problem.
Subsequent to the article’s publication the author has revealed he has been approached by publishers saying that YouTubers have asked for a share in a game’s revenue in exchange for coverage – an accusation that has been bubbling away behind the scenes for some time.
I've received a few emails from devs this morning who have been asked for rev share from YouTubers. Email me if it's also happened to you!
— Mike Rose is finally home (@RaveofRavendale) July 14, 2014