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Nintendo's YouTube Revenue-Sharing Policy Is Here -- With Lots of Strings Attached

Nintendo gets to approve the videos, and some popular games are off-limits.

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Nintendo wants to share YouTube ad revenue with the people who make videos about its games — and is already getting pecked to death over its rules and restrictions.

The Nintendo Creators Program was originally announced last May. YouTubers can apply for approval to the revenue-sharing program with either their whole channel or solo videos. Approved channels — which may include non-Nintendo videos — will receive 70 percent of the ad money their videos create, while individually approved videos will net their creators 60 percent of the dough.

Starting in 2013, Nintendo began claiming 100 percent of the ad revenue on videos with its content, which the new policy claims was “according to YouTube rules.” A Google spokesperson said this is in reference to the Content ID system that lets copyright holders take action against videos that use their content. Most game publishers, however, freely permit “let’s play” videos, a huge genre on YouTube, regarding them as free marketing for games.

The “approval” process appears to be something of a black box at the moment, and may take “up to three business days.” In an interview with Re/code at E3 last year, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said one possible concern is videos of the company’s family-friendly characters with a lot of swearing.

The biggest issue that the online peanut gallery seems to have with the Nintendo Creators Program, though, is this whitelist of games that may be monetized. Fewer than half of the Wii U’s Nintendo-published games are on the list, and a good chunk are missing from the 3DS category, as well. Two glaring omissions are 2014’s Super Smash Bros., on both platforms, and Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U.

The reason for this whitelist is probably a legal one: Some Nintendo games, Super Smash Bros. among them, feature third-party characters like Mega Man, whose copyright is owned by Capcom. Many others, like Hyrule Warriors, have been developed or co-published outside of Nintendo’s own studios, and that development contract may not have included video rights.

I’ve reached out to Nintendo for comment on the policy.

In the meantime, though, the upshot for existing video makers is unclear. What will Nintendo do when people inevitably continue to make videos of Super Smash Bros., a competitive fighting game with a big eSports following? And what happens to popular YouTubers like Zack Scott, who has already made dozens of videos based on “blacklisted” Nintendo titles?

“This program further drives a wedge between video creators and game developers,” Scott wrote in a public post on his Facebook page. “I’ve always felt our relationship was mutually beneficial, and most developers from large AAA studios to the smallest indies agree.”

Scott, who makes videos about a wide range of games, not just Nintendo titles, also raises an interesting point: “When comparing other developers’ policies, I see no appeal for established YouTubers.”

In other words: If video makers like Scott (who has nearly 1.4 million subscribers) can be more free and get more money from games made by other publishers, they now have an incentive to avoid Nintendo games altogether. So much for that free marketing.

This article originally appeared on

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