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Microsoft Paying Off YouTubers For Xbox One Hype: Dirty Pool?

Honestly, this sort of thing goes on all the time. The question is whether or not you see it as perfectly legitimate or something slightly shady.

As reported by Ars Technica, Microsoft recently launched a promotion that offered Machinima video partners payment for positive footage featuring the Xbox One.

Participants were required to post a video that included a minimum of 30 seconds of Xbox One goodness. The person must also mention the Xbox One name and the video had to be tagged with "XB1M13" to be eligible for payment. Thanks to a leaked copy of the agreement, those who agreed to the deal weren't allowed to say "anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its games." They also couldn't mention the promotional deal itself, for painfully obvious reasons.

Okay, so what do you think? Those in the advertising world probably just shrug their shoulders and go, "Yeah, so?" This is the sort of thing that big companies do, after all. Maybe Sony would be better off if they adopted such tactics...who knows, maybe they do. Perhaps paying random people just to hype up the Xbox One sounds somewhat cheap and shady but then again, this is the world of marketing. There's always a bit of underhandedness going on.

Tags: microsoft, xbox one, xbox one ads, youtube

1/20/2014 9:49:27 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (33 posts)

Knightzane
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 10:25:50 PM
Reply

Oh great, most likely I'm going to have to unsub to some people now because a few of them play games on xbox. One already did a video called "Killer Instinct Hype" but I figure it was because he's a big fighter game fan. Who could turn down extra money for making the bad console look better?

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Geobaldi
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 10:28:39 PM
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No big surprise there. There are a lot of Youtube gamers that have contracts that pay them for playing games anyway. I've been offered six to date so far Seeing as big Youtube gaming channels bring in tons of views, and ad revenue, it makes sense from a business standpoint to tap into that.

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Bonampak
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 4:16:29 PM

I don't think you realize what Microsoft is doing here, though.

Microsoft made a deal with Machinima where they would get paid for dishing out only POSITIVE reviews or news stories related to the Xbox One and its games. No negative reviews are allowed. And whenever they would cover something perceived as damaging to the Xbox brand, they have to remain neutral - that means, that they would either have to ignore it or make it seem like it wasn't that important, as of making it part of a headline.

What MS is doing has a name: astroturfing.

They were already caught last year doing something similar on Reddit, NeoGaf and several other sites.

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Kryten1029a
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 10:42:48 PM
Reply

I wouldn't have an issue with it if Microsoft, Machinima and the individual Youtubers were just upfront about it. Sponsorship of programming events, paid advertising sections in magazines and contests have a long history. There's nothing essentially wrong with them. The worst thing that Microsoft did was to try and hide it.
They should have been smart enough to realize that something like this would get out into the open eventually. Not only would it be exposed but when it did the paranoia of the age and the search for conspiracies would would generate more harm than good for them. Trying to hide it just makes them look stupid and desperate.

Last edited by Kryten1029a on 1/20/2014 10:43:01 PM

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akmdpc
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 10:56:56 PM

Yet another MS PR misstep. The entire department needs to be fired. Seriously, EVERY SINGLE PERSON and they should never work in public relations again. It's so beyond comical it's reached depressing.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 11:00:44 PM
Reply

It might be normal but it sucks, not because it's especially unfair in and of itself but because it begins to undermine fairness. It lays the groundwork for a culture of more and more underhanded stuff that misleads consumers.

So long as consumers rely on a source for fair reporting then that source is betraying the public trust by accepting these kinds of deals.
It's tough to make money though, everyone has to decide what kind of source they want to be.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:47:11 PM

You're exactly right!

To make matters worse, Youtube's new copyright policies are going to make this kind of thing 100x easier to pull off.

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Underdog15
Monday, January 20, 2014 @ 11:05:25 PM
Reply

I think this sort of thing is why there are more and more skeptics all the time. I bet most of us could say that most people we know would never believe something unless it came from someone they trusted or if they see for themselves.

What I don't like is how it feeds the beast.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 12:33:44 AM
Reply

Buying peoples opinions isn't exactly normal in advertising.

I mean, this goes beyond sponsorship's or advertising deals, they are literally buying peoples opinions. Telling them what they should be saying on their own Youtube channels. This kind of ruins the point of having a Youtube channel, you are just being censored by a major corporation. If people are really doing this then I would definitely unsub them immediately.

I mean, you see famous people in advertisements all the time, but you know that they are just there to support the product. These youtubers are 'real' people, that is the reason why Youtubers became big in the first place, people LOVE to watch real people do real things. Listening to a Youtubers opinion is completely different to a celebrities.

It would be similar to Ben being paid to promote the Xbox. A LOT of people on this website would be thinking "well if Ben likes the Xbox, maybe I should look into it as well" (I know for a fact many of you would), because you trust the opinion of this 'real life' person. If you seen a celebrity promoting the Xbox in a TV ad you may think "haha no way, the XBox is crap".

TL:DR It is shady as hell, very bad PR for MS if it is true, and is not really normal as far as I know from my experience in advertising.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 1/21/2014 12:35:34 AM

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Geobaldi
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 12:52:20 AM

Yes it's true that it happened. But it was a two day promotion that partnerships ran. It's a common thing that happens on Youtube with companies. They run the promotion with a money cap that once reached, ends the promotion. Or they hand out other perks to those that participate. It's been going on for years on Youtube, not something that has just started. It's one of the perks of being under a partnership program.

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Kryten1029a
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 1:45:59 AM

Youtube is personality driven. When a company makes a deal with one of those personalities they are tying into their success in order to reach the people who subscribe to those channels. Sony brought Boogie9288 up to New York for the PS4 launch where they gave him a console, some games and put him up in a rather nice hotel while he was there. He's a "real" person but there was nothing wrong with that arrangement because the truth was acknowledged. The worst part of this situation isn't that Microsoft did it but that they tried to hide it.
People are smart enough and media savvy enough to weigh what's being said against the knowledge that a company has paid for the promotion. They're smart enough but they need to be told the truth. Some might unsubscribe but most will simply take it for what it is and respond accordingly.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:31:50 PM

Well since this news broke, all of us non-informed people are finding out that this kind of thing is very common place in the Youtube community, and honestly, I have lost a lot of respect for that community.

I mean, Boogie2988 has posted a video detailing his knowledge and experience with the system, and it seems as though Youtube's new copyright policies are going to blow the doors wide open and allow every single game company to do this.

There is a post on NeoGaf showing the exact Xbox promotion. An extra $3 CPM (cost per thousand views) for promoting the Xbox. I am not sure what the standard CPM is on youtube but that seems significant.

This seems very similar to what we often hear about on game news websites. We often hear about a company who posted a good review for a game, and also 'coincidently' that site received a large amount of advertising dollars from that same game's publisher. Some sites have been outright busted being paid off, and they get crucified for it. SO why shouldn't we hold Youtubers to the same standards? I see it as the same thing.

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___________
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 2:49:26 AM
Reply

yea pretty much eh, so?
welcome to the world of advertisement!
hell the whole games industry is built on this with how reviews work.
hey come review our game and will pay for you to come fly half across the world and will put you up in a beautiful 5 star hotel............

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Underdog15
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:24:18 AM

Why would you want to fly half way across the world to review a video game? That sounds awful.

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___________
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:27:53 AM

paid holiday hows that awful?

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Underdog15
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 8:22:46 AM

To each his own.

Sounds like work, to me.

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___________
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 10:11:18 AM

it is, but id much rather do work in a 5 star hotel than in my drab dreary work office!
not to mention its not going to take you the whole time, and you gotta eat so you can explore some new nice restaurants.

i use to love having to go places for work, last year i was sent to china a place i would never of visited myself id rather spend that money on another place.
but now that i have gone i cant wait to go back!
work during the day, free partying and exploring at night!

Last edited by ___________ on 1/22/2014 10:12:46 AM

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Underdog15
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 1:59:15 PM

I don't want to be away from my family. Any day I'm with my kids is the vacation of my dreams. The best destination for me is my parents' cottage on the Northumberland Strait.

I can enjoy myself on business trips, sure. But I'd rather be home.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 1/22/2014 2:00:05 PM

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 3:28:33 AM
Reply

I see this as little more than new age advertising. The way that companies interact with their audience has changed with the advent of the internet and is only going to continue to evolve going forward. It is a little dodgy, I'll admit, but it feels as though it's being blown out of proportion.

Unlike some of the other commenters here, I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say that MS is buying people's opinions. All they're being asked to do is mention the X1. They may be told not to say anything negative, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they have to say anything positive, either. It's borderline censorship, sure, but they can make their money on pure gameplay videos and say what they want in other videos... I think that'd be possible, anyway.

Just a new form of advertising, not anything entirely evil.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:39:31 PM

How is that not buying someones opinion? When you can't give your honest opinion because a contract limits what you can say, then that is buying an opinion/censoring that person.

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 2:06:10 AM

It's censorship, yes. Those involved aren't allowed to say bad things about the X1 or its games. It isn't buying an opinion, as that would mean telling someone exactly what to say. The two aren't the same thing.

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slow and smart
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 4:01:42 AM
Reply

no problem with it, i and many others laugh about it when it come's out,and it will in these days of multimedia as now proven.i think they even pay people to be positive on site's as well,damage controooool

Last edited by slow and smart on 1/21/2014 4:02:16 AM

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xnonsuchx
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 4:26:15 AM
Reply

Not a shock! MS is KNOWN for buying support whenever they can (e.g. Windows Phone).

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Beamboom
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 4:46:15 AM
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Youtubers and bloggers are the big tools in the "guerilla marketing toolshed" these days. This goes on in ALL industries that has the end consumer as target.

The reasons are obvious: They are amateurs that can easily be swayed and don't have the professional backbone to see (or understand) the problem with this, neither from an ethical nor legal perspective.

A friend of mine runs a small photograph blog (really small, you won't believe it) and she receives FREE cameras aplenty just to blog about them. Thing is, if she writes positively about them (and she feels obliged to, after all she were given them for free!) and consumers find that blog post when they google the camera, they are more likely to buy it.
So the number of regular readers of the blog is next to irrelevant.

It really is a shady part of online advertising that should put *everyone* extremely critical about what they read on the web.

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Akuma07
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:43:35 PM

Well not all Youtubers do it. A lot do, but many do have the morals to not accept it.

But in regards to other industries, I used to work with a woman who ran a food blog, she used to receive TONNES of free food and recipes from people, more than her family can ever eat, but she never once felt obligated to review them positively based on that.

I believe if you have the backbone to say to the company "I will take your free stuff, but do NOT expect a free pass because of it, I will be 100% honest in my review". Most companies should accept that and have faith in their product.

Last edited by Akuma07 on 1/21/2014 7:44:47 PM

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Beamboom
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 7:18:01 AM

Well obviously, not ALL do it. Of course not.

But it's not hard to understand that some can find it hard to remain an unbiased mind - if only subconciously - especially when you're not used to this situation.

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JackC8
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 7:50:32 AM
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They're paying for positive reviews basically.

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Shatterday
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 8:23:12 AM
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I think it all depends on if you expect or accept your source to have bias. If you don't, then this is shady.

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Kiryu
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 9:38:24 AM
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Just saw the Difference video between Ryu Ga Gotoku(Yakuza) : ISHIN on PS3 and PS4 , holy shit mind blown.Defintiely buy the PS4 version, Better video difference shown than Ground Zeroes. Feb 22nd will be the Day PS4 launches.

Last edited by Kiryu on 1/21/2014 9:38:32 AM

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sobleck
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 9:55:44 AM
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I believe the issue is with the a clause in the agreement that is agains FTC gudilines.

An article on the same topic from the verge says:

"However, according to FTC guidelines, endorsers are liable under the law if they don't "clearly and conspicuously" disclose that they are being paid by an advertiser for their services."

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Vivi_Gamer
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 11:04:01 AM
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Does not surprise me at all, Youtube features the dawnfall of modern media. I dread to think the amount of Tera-bites it has uploaded overall, 95% of it being complete garbage.

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Brighat
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 2:11:20 PM
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Very sad that Microsoft has to hide this practice that many companies openly do. I guess they wanted more bad publicity because if they did this the proper way nobody would have cared.

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JROD0823
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 @ 3:57:59 PM
Reply

Color me surprised.

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