I recently decided to investigate the whole idea of sponsored lets-plays on youtube. I’m lucky with Production Line, in that its a fairly popular game that already has a lot of lets play content, but because I’m always interested in ways to promote the game more, and because I already spend some money on facebook ads, I thought it made sense to investigate what the costs/benefits etc would be to have some sponsored lets plays.

There are  basically two potential strategies for something like this. The first one would be to find a whole bunch on smaller youtubers who cover strategy games, but have not covered Production Line (or only covered it a bit), and sponsor them to create a few dozen new lets plays videos between them, paying maybe $100 to them to each do a video,

The second strategy would involve finding some ‘relatively big name’ youtubers with many thousands of subscribers and paying them a big lump sum to cover the game, in maybe just one video. These strategies are different, and TBH I am not sure which one makes most sense. As it happens, I find both strategies are futile.

I’ve tried both strategies, and got nowhere, because the market here is BROKEN. I emailed a whole bunch of smaller youtubers, effectively saying “please let me pay you”, and got one reply, from a great youtuber who said he didnt want money but would cover the game again. Thats nice, but what is wrong with the rest? Not even a reply to say no?

I then contacted an agency for ‘influencers’, which is even more useless. Like all middle-men, they wanted to ‘hop on a call’ (no thanks, my time is money and I read faster than you can talk. Plus phone calls are not recorded, searchable, or contractually binding). They also wanted a $15k/month commitment (haha), and didnt hve a public list of youtubers they represent. Eventually it turns out they have no list, and represent nobody. So middle-men with no contacts. Amazing.

What I *want* is google adwords for youtube lets plays. I like free markets and open competition. lets not hide behind all this ‘hop on a call’ or ‘phone or ask’ or ‘enquire for prices’ bullshit. That just means you want to size up the other party, haggle and exploit them as much as you think you can get away with. Lets all be open about what we charge, and what for. Like adults. Give me a list of game genres you cover, and your subscriber / average video views, and your prices, and I can decide. No bullshit, no wasting everyone’s time.

A lot of the time that means no deal happens, and thats fine. Everybody is still happy. For example if you want to have me give a talk at your games conference, you need to fly me (business class), put me up in a decent hotel overnight, and pay me $1,000 for each day I’ll be away from work. Virtually nobody will do that, so I don’t give talks any more, but also nobody wastes their time haggling.

I guess I should go back to the facebook ad manager.


6 Responses to “The (broken) market for sponsored lets play videos on youtube.”

  1. CdrJameson says:

    For the record, phone calls are contractually binding but it’s just a nightmare to prove what was agreed/said.

    This kind of ‘hop on a call’ fishing seems to be rife with recruiters too.
    ‘Hey, I’ve got an *unspecified job* that you’d be perfect for. When can we meet up for coffee/have a call and discuss it!’
    Um, never?
    I don’t know you from Adam. It’ll cost me time and effort to do either of those things, in exchange for a chance to talk about something you’re being exceptionally vague about.
    No.
    You show you think it’s worth some effort on your part, tell me some clear benefit and make it easy for me (how about email?) and I might be interested.

  2. Bernard says:

    You made a recent post about using third-party platform as a side course to sell games on your very own website.
    Why not doing the same for promotion videos?

    You are also mentoning YouTube for “Let’s Play”, but I trust the future holds its best bets on livestreams. YouTube (Google) does that, but Twitch (Amazon) is historically dedicated to game livesteams, although less exclusively each day.

    There are tons of streamers, some regular, some not, some professional, some not, some generic, some sticking to specific genres.
    I guess you need those who like the management+simulation mix. Might be a tiny bit hardier than other categories, but the benefit would be getting in touch with a matching target audience, being all ears for your product all stream long.

    Again, I’d suggest you’d promote the live stream (and/or host recorded videos from them) on your website. Well you’d have to check either you can host videos from YouTube or Twitch in your place… Copyrights fighters are always creative in order to restrict what you can do with content…

    Basically make your website a single, self-sufficient point of entry for any kind of relevant information about your product, whatever type it is.

    Heck, you could even to ‘chit-chat’ livestreams to get in touch with your audience. People follow you, have asynchronous communication with you (comments, emails, messages through X or Y platform, etc.), but what about getting in touch with them without *having* to go to conference or alike?
    That depends on several parameters (the time you’d like to allocate to it, internet line speed, timezones, etc.), but that would make you get your foot in that door, and maybe start nurturing your community differently.

    If you think you were shy, shy people would never make YouTube videos or go to games conferences anyway, thus you are already way past this kind of excuses. :o)

    If not doing that yourself, maybe could you partner with a *specific* streamer for a *specific* event being a one-shot or lasting a *specific* amount of times, letting him/her to his/her traditional promotion/let’s play stream while you’d be backseating as develper in the chat? or on some kind of audio (P2P like Skype, self-hosted like Mumble/Teamspeak or centralized like Discord)? Or maybe meet one on a specific location and *be there* while letting him handle the test and gameplay questions while you’d handle tech talks and directed-to-the-maker questions?

    My 2¢

    • cliffski says:

      The only drawback for me is time. I am hugely time constrained due to doing so much stuff at once. Its a miracle I am able to do 15 minute weekly videos (and I just skipped one of those!).

  3. Jim says:

    It could also be that most people won’t do Sponsored Let’s Plays as most subscribers won’t watch that content. It’s not sincere and often feels fake. Why would people bother watching that?