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"Nintendo's killing Let's Play!" isn't entirely true.

To catch you up: Nintendo is now sending out copyright claimant forms for anybody posting footage of their games on Youtube. This does not mean Nintendo is issuing takedown notices, Nintendo is just acknowledging that they, in fact, own the game footage that people are uploading to the site. What this means to you is that you’ll get a notice under your copyright section where Youtube will tell you that you have “matched third party content” and ask you to acknowledge this fact. If you are making money from that video via advertising, that money will no longer go to you and will instead go to Nintendo.

A lot of people are flipping out that this is WRONG, and that Nintendo is STEALING from a lot of Youtubers who are making money from Let’s Play videos. I co-run an infrequently updated Let’s Play channel, and we had hoped to one day make enough money from it to… I dunno, have around for a rainy day or whatever. So this effects me. But here’s the thing nobody wants to hear:

Nintendo should be doing this.

If something seems like it is too good to be true, it probably is. And you know what is really, absolutely, completely too good to be true? Making money just for recording yourself playing a videogame. Let’s Play has exploded in the last three years thanks to people putting ads over their videos and making a living off of it, to the point where its reaching over-saturation. Everybody, even me, has a Let’s Play channel. Well, guess what, kids? That gravy train’s over. The bubble is bursting.

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This image shows a Google Trends report for Game Grumps (borrowed from here). Grumps popularity peaked in December 2012 and has been in a downward slump in the nearly six months following. Game Grumps has been what I consider the poster child for “Monetized Let’s Play on Youtube”. They update frequently and consistently, and are generally speaking pretty entertaining… in a sense (how I feel about Game Grumps’ humor is for another post). Point is, by my estimates, at the peak of their popularity, Egoraptor and Jontron were probably pulling in thousands of not tens of thousands of dollars a month. If you figure Grumps made a penny on every view to their channel, that’s $1,783,791. That’s not realistic, of course, because you have to consider adblocking software and so on. But even if you cut that estimate by a fifth, they still made nearly $30,000 a month. So, Game Grumps is a pretty big deal in the “talking over video games” market, and all signs point to the fact that Game Grumps is on its way out. Enjoy that F-Zero AX Cabinet while it lasts, I guess.

Okay, yes: Game Grumps is a single point of data. Doing a Google Trends search for “Two Best Friends Play” suggests those guys are having one of their best months on record. The notorious Pewdiepie is also having his best month on record.

But none of this changes the fact that Nintendo’s getting in while the gettin’ is good, and they have every legal right to be taking this money. These are THEIR games. Think of Rifftrax - Rifftrax sells funny commentary tracks for movies, but they do it entirely separate of the movies themselves. That’s because the Rifftrax guys do not have the rights to the movies they commentate over, and they probably never will, either. It’s the same here: If you talk over video of you playing Super Mario 64, you do not own that footage. You own your commentary, sure, but that’s an entirely separate thing. And guess what? You can’t sell no pre-recorded Rifftrax for something that requires variable user interaction. Get used to this, because this is the future of Let’s Play - Sega, Capcom, Konami, and Bandai have already started putting out similar claims to soundtracks used in videos. Playing Sonic Generations? You get flagged for having the Sonic Generations soundtrack in your video, thereby forwarding any advertising revenue to Sega. Castlevania games contain Castlevania music, which forwards advertising revenue to Konami. So on and so forth.

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It’s important to note that these are not traditional copyright claims. No negative strikes are placed upon your channel, no videos get removed, you just simply cannot make money from these videos anymore. Which brings it down to one single question:

Are you doing Let’s Play because you enjoy it, or are you doing Let’s Play because you think it’s an income source?

There were people producing Let’s Play videos before Youtube let you make money off of it, and after this change, those same people will probably still be producing Let’s Play videos. Nothing will change except for the fact that “Let’s Play is my job” guys like Pewdiepie might go away.

And you know what? Maybe that’s okay.

Do it for the love of the game, not the love of the money.