Warner Bros. found guilty of paying YouTubers for positive video game reviews

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Jul 12, 2016, 5:03 PM EDT

If you thought the reviews were a bit too rosy for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it turns out there might be a good reason. 

The Verge reports the Federal Trade Commission has reportedly reached a settlement agreement with Warner Bros. over allegations the video game publisher did not disclose payments for positive coverage and reviews of the hit video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Put simply: Warner Bros. got caught paying prominent video YouTubers, including the hugely successful PewDiePie, to provide positive coverage while keeping it secret that they were paid. Put even more simply: They basically paid for positive coverage.

Per the settlement, Warner Bros. is banned from doing this again (without making it known the coverage has been paid for). The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich said “consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches,” a sentiment that pretty much everyone on the planet who isn’t trying to shadily promote a video game can agree with. A game that, ironically enough, is actually pretty good anyway.

The tainted videos earned more than 5.5 million views (with PewDiePie understandably carrying the majority of that), and the reviewers were not allowed to show the game in a “negative light,” per the paid-coverage deal. They could also reportedly not express negative opinions of the game or show glitches in the game. Last, but certainly not least, they were required to make a “strong verbal call-to-action” for viewers to click the game’s info box to register/purchase the title.

It doesn’t take a journalism veteran or someone with a law degree to see this is very, very shady. This is wrong at the very core and foundation of what journalism stands for, be it a clip about hacking and slashing orcs or bringing down a political regime. It’s been a tough year for the video game journalism industry anyway, and news of this ruling certainly won’t help restore the trust.


(Via The Verge)