Xbox One promotion offers financial return for positive coverage only – report

Monday, 20th January 2014 22:52 GMT By Brenna Hillier

YouTubers are abuzz today over a paid promotion permitting no negative coverage of Xbox One, Xbox One games, or host Machinima.

According to the leaks, YouTubers would be offered $3 CPM bonus for 30 second videos of Xbox One footage containing a verbal mention of the console.

Describing the promotion as “stealth marketing”, Ars Technica analysed the promotion’s leaked terms and condition and found the following clause:

“You may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One or any of its Games in your Campaign Video.”

This has raised hackles, as although users would have had to tag their video indicating it was part of the promotion, it could be argued that any such videos were essentially unflagged “advertorial” and therefore deceptive to viewers expecting honest assessments from their favourite YouTube personalities.

The promotion doesn’t seem to have gone live, and in the wake of today’s scandal may not do so, but was heavily leaked and apparently confirmed by a since-deleted tweet, which multiple sites have screenshots of.

The discussion comes hot on the heels of a major copyright kerfuffle that only highlighted how important YouTube creators are becoming to the wider games media landscape, which has in turn reignited conversations about the ethics and policies of games media, what counts as journalism, the meaning of life and whether we really should have studied marine biology after all.

Thanks, Kotaku.



  1. Luciferous

    Oh Microsoft, you so naughty!

    #1 11 months ago
  2. sebastien rivas

    If this true then who sell its soul, who will stay true to experience.

    Also what is next, shackles is onecsteo away.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Unknown_Gamer

    Comes from the company who makes billions of dollars yearly !?
    Sneaky dirty business M$ eh? , You still like this and you will never change .

    Inb4 anyone come and say ( SONY DOES THAT TOO Hurr hurr ) NOPE , TRY AGAIN xD

    #3 11 months ago
  4. daytripper

    Shitty ethics to say the least

    @3 No they have obnoxious loons do that for them for free, word of mouth is free marketing, they could do even better if half the “fan base” wasn’t so immature

    #4 11 months ago
  5. Panthro

    I am not really surprised, the Xbox is pretty shit so far and has done nothing new I wouldn’t be surprised if this was true.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. Hcw87

    Big ass corporation have lots of money and would like to earn more money. Welcome to 2001. Yes it’s shady as hell, but you’d be fooling yourself if you think MS is the only big bad wolf in the gaming industry doing this.

    And as @4 says, some corporations have shills running their mouths without even needing to pay them.

    The only people who seem to care more about the gamers themselves and not their money is CDProjektRed.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. SplatteredHouse

    The red hands. The cookie jar. That red face.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. Ireland Michael

    People act like this is surprising.

    Stealth marketing is the foundation on which the likes of IGN, GameSpot, and almost every video game magazine you enjoyed reading as a child were grown.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. SplatteredHouse

    Well, after your initial dismissal of the reaction, I was looking for a good justification. That wasn’t one.
    You’re completely ignoring the difference here, at least one of them being that Arstechnica obtained evidence of the shady business (several pieces.)
    That goes beyond any degree of caution one might usually apply reading any online source.

    This is proven, and also it states that the participants are not permitted to disclose that they’re under such an influence…
    “and must keep the details of the promotional agreement confidential” (that they’ve just offered up their viewership enmasse to the sponsor) They’re not acknowledging that they and their views have been influenced and employed to talk up another product.

    I don’t think I even want to consider what IGN view as acceptable practice. I don’t value their content at all. As for Gamespot, well, do I need to mention Gerstmanngate? The point of that being, that no-one is blind to the relationship between a publication and its facilitators (developer/publisher). But, they in the end assist the reader (just like those mags when I was young) It’s up to each reader to decide what to them is reliable advice. Because it’s up to them to decide which games they decide to buy.
    There’s a cost for breaking trust, particularly if your trade is based on other’s belief in your words and opinions.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. Mangoose

    What? Microsoft won’t pay cash for Youtube nerdrage and M$ XBONE LOL rants bad publicity? That is so unfair and illogical. I’m shocked! SHOCKED!

    #10 11 months ago
  11. Ireland Michael

    When you have to convince people to say something nice about your product, you know your attention is directed the wrong way…

    #11 11 months ago
  12. Mangoose

    Also, is $3 like a fortune to some people? Because the “Youtube personalities” who have a somewhat significant amount of “viewers expecting honest assessments” following their channel usually make thousands doing their thing (and promoting stuff they get for free). I would imagine making a 30 second video for mere $3 would be a waste of time to most of them. This is probably aimed at the everyday grassroot gamer who gets an incentive from a tiny spec of aknowledgement from their favorite console company.

    And to see the gaming press using this non-news as a means to publicly pat themselves on the back with stories of journalistic integrity and separation of ads and editorial (talking about Kotaku here), when their bread and butter by and large consists of being a glorified arm of the PR departments in the game industry, makes me sick.

    When 95% of your “editorial” content consists of paraphrasing news letters from the publishers, doing interviews offered to you during planned points in a marketing strategy formed months in advance, paraphrasing other medias coverage of said news letters and interviews, doing PREVIEWS of games with a PR rep hanging over your shoulder, and reviews of games handed over by major publishers with so many big titles on their release schedule that you can’t afford to piss them off (and thus losing thousands of clicks)- all timed to perfection by PR professionals to ensure a solid coverage throughout the development – don’t come to me complaining that a console company pays their fanboys three dollars for half a minute of praise in video form, claiming that the integrity of journalism is at stake. Unlike other parts of the press, people rarely create news in these parts, it’s all handed to you, either directly by the companies or first through a few links.

    That said, I don’t actually hate game journalism, only when it tries to make itself up to something it’s not.

    Sorry about the rant. I’m going to go and lie down.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. xxxGamesMasterxxx

    Once again Microsoft have been caught with their pants down doing shady business practices. Fuck Microsoft! 

    #13 11 months ago
  14. juggy


    #14 11 months ago
  15. Dragon

    #15 11 months ago
  16. deraj

    my brother’s penguin’s hyena has a giraffe that was out of a job for 23 years… but last month its paycheck was over 1 Million dollars just working on a laptop, perched high in a tree branch.

    #16 11 months ago
  17. Joe Musashi

    @17 Indeed. This is notable detail and something that sets Microsoft’s actions apart from the “other companies do this too” defense.

    It’s very interesting to see how committed certain people are to excusing this behaviour.

    @18 Second best post of this discussion. :)


    #17 11 months ago
  18. Ireland Michael

    @19 While I agree that the whole thing is bullshit and dishonest… Yeah, pretty much every single company does this.

    There’s absolutely nothing unlawful about this. It’s very specific in its wording to ensure it’s not essentially bribery. You are agreeing to do something for extra as revenue. It’s completely optional.

    Doesn’t make it any less duplicitous and dishonest, but this is why I’ll take my own personal assessment of something over the opinion of a person in the media any day. Especially if that person works for giant advertising run businesses like IGN.

    #18 11 months ago
  19. The_Red

    Do they realize that by doing so, they will make people question / suspect ANY impression or review from YouTubers that is even vaguely positive towards Xbox One?

    Before this, when we heard a YouTuber say nice things about XB1 we would say “maybe he likes this” or at worst, “maybe he is a Xbox fanboy”. Now any time they say something positive about XB1 we can’t help but to think “He is only doing so to get paid by MS!”.

    #19 11 months ago
  20. Ireland Michael

    @21 They are not the only company to do this. This is common business practice. Ars Technica is simply using the current consumer contempt (ooooh, alliteration) towards Microsoft to hype up and overblown the severity of the issue.

    #20 11 months ago
  21. mistermogul

    I’m sure MS are up to a lot more dirty tactics than this. If they are good at one thing it’s marketing (and throwing money around).

    Also have you noticed how sportsmanlike their executive comments have been recently, especially about the PS4 and Sony? Coming across as the good guy after trying to force shite policies down gamers throats.

    Doubt they will they pay me a $3 CPM bonus for this!

    #21 11 months ago
  22. The_Red

    True but this is a unique case. Afterall, it is Xbox One we’re talking about, a console many people are still hostile towards (Mostly Sony / PC fanboys but still).

    If it was Sony or Nintendo being mentioned, this wouldn’t have been too bad because the former is enjoying the super strong demand for its system while the latter is almost out of the race (Plus those who do have a Wii U are really liking it).

    At least if all 3 where mentioned, I could have agreed that my earlier comment is pointless but with only MS name being thrown around, they are kinda put under the spotlight (Fairly or not). This is not what Xbox One needs right now.

    #22 11 months ago
  23. The_Red

    Wow, it seems that this is NOT super common and maybe MS is the only one doing the whole thing LIKE this:

    It’s response from a rather popular YouTuber known as Boogie2988. He says that while the promotions are common from almost all gaming companies, the “EXTRA 3.00 per CPM for positive remarks about a fucking gaming system” is new and MS is the ONLY / FIRST one doing it (Or at least it seems so).

    Also with both IGN and GameSpot reporting it AND mentioning how sketchy it sounds, I’ll say this: Common or uncommon among gaming companies, they have FUCKED UP.

    #23 11 months ago
  24. mistermogul

    #24 11 months ago
  25. Unknown_Gamer

    LMFAO !

    #25 11 months ago
  26. ruckus

    Why doesn’t this article even mention microsoft or have any tags releated to microsoft or xbox one despite being linked to the source article entitled:
    “Stealth marketing: Microsoft paying YouTubers for Xbox One mentions” and the “campaign between Microsoft and Machinima”.

    Yet all you tag is journalism, machinima and youtube and no mention of microsoft?

    “Microsoft, partnered with Machinima, has put forth a promotion for YouTube personalities: make a video about the XBox One and get money for it. Problematically, they also require the reviewer not to disclose that they’re getting paid (or mention anything negative), which breaks FTC disclosure rules (PDF). Microsoft has a well-known history of astroturfing, but is this the first proof of them doing it illegally?”

    #26 11 months ago
  27. Joe Musashi

    Hmmm. Gaining traction.

    It’s increasingly clear that the “loads of other companies do this” defense is not entirely appropriate. The NDA is the key.


    #27 11 months ago
  28. The_Red

    Yeah. There is even a comparison shot of contracts that E3 and Comicon are using (for similar marketing) which HAS visible promotion / acknowledgement.

    The NDA / “Don’t say you’re being paid” part is new and was added by either MS or Machinima though in either case is terrible.

    #28 11 months ago

Comments are now closed on this article.