Update 2: EA got back to VG247 with the following statement.
“Our Game Changers program is not designed to pay for review content. We don’t believe in that," said an EA spokesperson. "In this case, the conditions for disclosure for this specific video were not met – which is something we adhere very strictly to – so we asked for it to be taken down and corrected. We’ve not asked for the content of the video to be changed, or 'blacklisted' the creator. Our full disclosure rules can be found here.”
While this explains that disclosure rules weren't adhered to, it doesn't explain why the new video - which removed the watermarks - now fits the disclosure rules. After all, if the creator isn't blacklisted, they're still a Game Changer. However, EA declined to clarify why that was. EA did say that the creator was never asked to create a different video or change his position, however.
Update: Since publishing this news post, we've reached out to some EA Game Changers to attempt to clarify some points.
Speaking to one content creator, they told me the following: "As far as understand it (when EA has asked me to work with them on paid content) they simply want coverage of the game. They've never had issues with me giving my full and honest opinion.
"In this case, I think the channel in question was sponsored to cover the game, go over the general jist and show gameplay. Think of the Apex Legends Twitch event, where Twitch paid big streamers to play Apex as soon as it went live. They paid them to play the game and I think this deal was that the channel got paid to make a video covering the game."
According to the same source, these sponsorship deals often give the content creator a larger sum of money that what would be generated via Google AdSense, the traditional monetisation method used on YouTube.
We also contacted EA to attempt to get more details about these sponsorship deals as well as the specific circumstances around the video being taken down. At the time of writing, we've been directed to the tweet from Lee Williams below.
Original story: YouTuber Gggmanlives says he was sponsored by EA to review Anthem as part of the Game Changers initiative.
He put up a review and gave his honest, negative impressions despite money changing hands. EA says this is something it encourages as part of Game Changers, and that it wants its audience to be able to trust these paid reviews.
We encourage the Game Changers to be honest in their content, it’s one of the most important parts of the programme and the community trusts them because of that honesty. Feel free to ask me or any of the game changers about how it works. More info here https://t.co/U6S8ZAyJ7q
— Lee Williams (@justbiglee) February 22, 2019
However, shortly after the review went live, the YouTuber was asked to remove EA watermarks, he claims. These watermarks are what show the audience that someone is a member of Game Changers.
In a Twitter DM conversation with Gggmanlives, he told me, “I basically wasn’t allowed to say anything negative about the game if I also had the watermark in because the watermark means EA endorses it and shares it through the Game Changers network or something. I really don’t know what it all means. I was just told it was to be pulled down and was basically a breach of contract or something along those lines.”
The review has since been reuploaded without the watermarks:
The Game Changers create a variety of content for EA, working with them to create guide videos, previews, and more. I asked Gggmanslives if he’d been sponsored to specifically create a review for Anthem, to which he replied, “Yep”.
In traditional games media, there’s a layer between advertising and site content. There’s an ad team at Gamer Network, for example, and they sort out ad deals. We have no say in what they do and they can’t influence the editorial side. The writers at traditional media sites also don’t directly profit from any ad deals that do take place, removing another potential conflict of interest.
While I think it’s good that Gggmanlives was honest with his coverage, it’s concerning to see how different the standards are for solo content creators on YouTube. It reminds me of the recent Apex Legends event where video presenters had agreed to help announce the game with the hashtag #ApexPartner before even playing the thing.