Warner Bros. Fined for Paying for Positive Game Reviews

Tuesday, 12 July 2016 - 3:55PM
DC Comics
Tuesday, 12 July 2016 - 3:55PM
The Federal Trade Commission has a bone to pick with Warner Bros. They have just reached a settlement with the corporation, dishing out a heavy fine for paying several prominent YouTube personalities to positively review their games, primarily Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

According to the complaint, Warner Bros. was deceptive when they paid YouTube creators, including immensely popular gamer PewDiePie, to positively review their games in their videos without disclosing that it was sponsored content (PewDiePie disclosed that the video was sponsored by WB in the description, but not in the video itself). The creators were required to make at least one social media post about the game, review the game without saying anything negative about it or showing any glitches in their videos, and include a "strong call-to-action" to visit the game's website and learn more about it.

YouTube has increasingly been viewed as a source of independent game reviewing over the last few years, with creators like PewDiePie reaching many millions of viewers and serving as a direct conduit between games and audiences. But the newness of the technology and culture surrounding YouTube led to ambiguous legalities surrounding paid content and disclosure.
Opening quote
"Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches," director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich said in a statement. "Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns."
Closing quote

Ironically, Middle Earth probably didn't even need the paid reviews, as it went on to win several awards and was highly acclaimed by (presumably unpaid) fans. But still, it's a little funny that this is becoming an issue for Warner Bros., considering how much talk there's been of "Marvel shills" from DC fans. Most likely, every big company is equally guilty of paid reviews, but hopefully this verdict will discourage them from deceiving consumers.

Via The Verge

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