Let's Talk Social Media and Gaming
There are many theories within the world regarding how social media has an impact on games, their developers, and how people perceive the gaming community. It's pretty strange actually to think that game developers try and boost their sales through paid promotions, yet this happens all around us - just in a different form.
Advertising, the art of gaining buyer attraction, happens all the time, and it's occurring more and more on places like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It's becoming more and more common for people to watch gameplay videos, or a "Lets Play", on YouTube before they purchase a game. Sure, most of these videos are for your entertainment, but sometimes people are just paid by game developers to create content on a their game(s), in order to hopefully attract the audience's attention into buying their game. For years, this has become general practice within game companies, but is it actually harmful?
Let's ask the obvious question: does it actually help boost sales and have a positive impact? Well yes, it does. Let's take The Yogscast, also known by their username BlueXephos, who have accepted a few deals for paid promotions - most recently a deal from Ubisoft for Trials Fusion. They are one of the most viewed YouTube channels in the world, and on the first part of their "Trials Fusion Challenge" videos, they have over 600,000 views (at the time of writing). If we put that into perspective, that is 600,000 people asking the question, "What is Trials Fusion?"
Expanding further, that is about half of those people visiting Ubisoft's sites and the trailer for the game itself. A quarter of those people might like the look of the game and want to purchase it, which means great profits for the game developers. Everyone viewing their videos are a potential buyer, which makes these specific promotions successful, and it's definitely a good thing for all parties.
Paid promotions are obviously not the only thing that helps boost game sales.
Sales are even boosted through critique, and with more and more critique channels on YouTube with a big following, it's easy to see why. Totalbiscuit runs one of the biggest critique channels on the website. His videos average a few hundred thousand views, and this is because of the valuable un-biased critique that he provides in his videos. One Finger Death Punch, a game by indie developers Silver Dollar Games, was running into financial failure (according to a post on Reddit) until Totalbiscuit had uploaded a critique video about it, citing mainly positive aspects of the game. This is a brilliant example of how critique can help small indie developers, and big game companies too.
...(it) was enough to keep the lights on and my brother and I are able to continue to make games into next year.
Silver Dollar Games
But with critique, there's going to be a lot of game developers that disagree.
In fact, some take it upon themselves to, essentially, censor the critique. This has happened with a game called Day One: Garry's Incident, when owner of the Totalbiscuit channel, John Bain, received a copyright strike on YouTube from the game's developers.
For those not familiar with YouTube's copyright system, it is possible for anyone to file a copyright claim against a video if they feel it infringes their copyright. Critique videos of games are allowed under the "Fair Use" policy, and developers of Wild Games Studio had illegally taken down the video, damaging their reputation and causing an uproar from people around the world.
A video about the subject, created by Bain, has received 3.5 million views.
Because of this social media backlash, noted as a brilliant example of the 'streisand effect', Day One: Garry's Incident obtained the lowest Metacritic score of any PC game ever.
Twitter has become one of our most favoured social networks in the current generation, and that's why it has a massive impact on sales of games and recognition of independent game companies.
Some indie developers are discovered on Twitter and bought out by bigger companies, and some indie games go viral and 'trending'. When Call of Duty: Ghosts was displayed at Microsoft's E3 Conference last year, many people were talking about it on Twitter, though comments were mainly negative. While there is no evidence that this impacted the game's sales upon launch, social posts and comments have a knock-on effect, with people telling their friends about their opinion on the game and what everyone else thinks of it.
Then, those friends tell their friends, and it significantly lowers the amount of potential buyers. Call of Duty: Ghosts's sales were in decline compared to its predecessors after launch, possibly due to people changing their attention to another game.
All in all, social media greatly impacts how we, and many other people, see games.
It changes our perspective entirely on what we thought we would like or what we thought we wouldn't like. Companies are transitioning to these social campaigns, and even in some cases spending more money on them rather than television advertisements. The way we see the community is that if other people like or dislike something, we'll generally like or dislike it too.
Something else that can greatly impact game developers in a negative way is the uprising of walkthroughs and Let's Plays on YouTube. Many people aren't actually bothering to buy the game - even if they like it. They simply watch the videos that people upload on YouTube to experience the game, rather than play it themselves.
I'll have to admit, I've done this myself. Sometimes, it can be more enjoyable to watch a person with an extremely bubbly personality play a game rather than play the game yourself in a quiet room with a pair of headphones on. This lowers game sales, amounting to a loss and decline in money. Let's just hope that false copyright notices won't be sent to these content creators, who I'd like to add earn money from their videos, like the incident described earlier.
It's up to you what your opinion on this topic is, but I hope this article has offered some insight into the impacts of gameplay videos, social campaigns and the knock-on effect of social media.