Warner Bros. is finding itself in a bit of trouble with the Federal Trade Commission today, based on how it handled YouTube reviews for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The game, which was launched back in 2014, drew the attention of many fans and critics, but today the FTC is saying that Warner Bros. misled consumers with the disclosure requirements it placed on YouTube partners who received money to play the game on camera.
Folks are paid to play games on YouTube all the time, but the disclosure requirements for sponsored deals like this are usually pretty strict. Of course, game companies and promoters will try to skirt these rules when they can, with Warner Bros. asking YouTubers to put the disclosure far enough down in the description box of their videos that it would be hidden behind the “show more” drop-down option. Warner Bros. also required that these YouTubers focused only on the positives of the game and said they weren’t allowed to show Shadow of Mordor‘s bugs in their videos.
Those are both pretty big no-nos when it comes to paying people to play your games. The FTC requires that sponsorship disclosures are “clear and conspicuous,” meaning that it probably shouldn’t be buried in the description box of a YouTube video. These YouTubers, which include the immensely famous PewDiePie, were paid thousands of dollars to upload gameplay videos, with the videos coming under scrutiny racking up a grand total of 5.5 million views.
With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see why the FTC takes exception to Warner’s behavior in the promotion of Shadow of Mordor. The funny thing is that the game didn’t even need to be deceptive in its sponsorship campaigns, as it was considered by most to be one of the best games of the year. We’ll see if Warner changes its disclosure policies with future sponsorships, but this just goes to show that you should look around for a disclosure if someone sounds a little too positive about a video game.
SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission