The Astronauts ask if YouTubers Help Sales

The Astronauts ask if YouTubers Help Sales

In a blog post published October 12th on The Astronauts Dev Blog, Adrian Chimielarz asked a question that I found very interesting: Do YouTubers and Streamers actually help game sales?

We’ve all watch gameplay footage and ridiculous videos of people playing games badly on Youtube.  When you get a group of people that have really good comedic timing and chemistry (or just enough crazy to make the insanity work), Let’s Plays and Gaming videos are great. But, I’ll admit, that I kind of took the idea that this helped developers for granted. I didn’t think it was a “be all end all”, but I figured that if a popular YouTuber started playing your game, with enough of a loyal fanbase, this would translate into an uptick in sales.

This is not the case:

Unlike being featured on the Steam’s front page, having your game exposed by the biggest YouTubers is not a magical ticket to sales heaven. I have confirmed this with a couple of developers, but here’s the kicker – you really don’t need any inside knowledge or access to secret sales data to realize the truth.

Chimielarz backs up his assertion with data and proof, all readily available for anyone wanting to fact check, and it is all pretty obvious; besides the odd outlier, YouTube coverage of a game does not translate into long term sales growth.

There’s another layer to this post that I really appreciate too: Chimielarz was a Game Designer on The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. If there was a game that I could name “Most Likely to Not Be Improved by Commentary”, Ethan Carter would be a heavy favorite to win the award. It’s a slow, mysterious game. There’s not a lot of options for humor, and I feel like it is trending towards a “Games as Art” status. It needs to be experienced, thought about, and dissected.

YouTube is not the means for someone to get this. YouTube is, generally I think, a place of comedy in gaming;

But at least in talk shows the hosts respect their guests, and when a guest band plays their song, no one is interrupting them. Not so much with games, where quite often they serve merely as a wall to bounce the joke balls off, as the punch bag for a comedian boxer. People watch the most popular YouTubers because they are entertaining to watch, and the game itself does not matter that much. It can be a triple A title, or a small obscure indie game – they all can be made fun of.

Fun and funny game play throughs have their place on YouTube, and everything should be able to be lampooned, but that tone doesn’t suit Ethan Carter. Treating the game that way, as it would undoubtedly be treated by the vast majority (but not all) of YouTubers,  is missing the point entirely. So, not only are YouTubers not a gold mine of potential sales, but I think a sub-text of this whole discussion is that YouTuber need to be approached cautiously as a marketing tool: Not every play through is going to treat a game in the right way, or even approach the game from the right direction.

I’ve just glossed over this discussion, and encourage you to read Adrian Chimielarz’s piece. It’s an interesting read, well sourced and backed up, and raises some great question about so-called “New-Media”.

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