Let's Play (video gaming)
A Let's Play (often abbreviated to "LP") is a series of screenshots or a recorded video documenting a playthrough of a video game, usually including commentary by the gamer. An LP differs from a walkthrough or strategy guide by focusing on an individual's subjective experience with the game, often with humorous, irreverent, or even critical commentary from the gamer, rather than being an objective source of information on how to progress through the game.
This original process is known as a "Screenshot LP", and first appeared on the Something Awful website in 2006 with a screenshot playthrough of The Oregon Trail. A year later, another Something Awful user, Slowbeef, created the earliest video LP's on the video game The Immortal and then Super Metroid.
A "Video LP" involves recording "playthroughs" of games with a video capture device or screen recording software while offering an audio commentary and uploading the result to a video-sharing website, the most popular being YouTube. Most Let's Play videos are presented with minimal editing, providing the raw response to the game as it is played.
Some of the more popular gamers that create these videos have become Internet celebrities and seen as a type of "professional fan", according to Maker Studios' Dar Nothaft; other gamers turn in to these videos as to get a different perspective on games than professional review sources. Felix Kjellberg, known by his online handle PewDiePie, has monetized his "Let's Play" videos which reach over 27 million subscribers as of June 2014, the most subscribed channel on YouTube. Some other people or groups include Rooster Teeth, The Yogscast, Smosh Games, Game Grumps, NerdCubed and Machinima.com.
Such Let's Plays are monetized by ad revenue from the video hosting site. For example, standard Google affiliate programs pay approximately 55% of the price paid by advertisers to the content provider, while Google retains the rest; as such, revenue from Let's Play channel are based on the number of viewers they obtain. Providers can also join various content networks like Maker Studios, which offer promotion and advertizing for content providers in exchange for a share of the ad revenue. PewDiePie's monthly revenue from his Let's Plays are estimated between $140,000 and $1.4 million, while smaller channels can still earn between $500 and $1000 a month; the Wall Street Journal reported that PewDiePie made over $4 million in 2013. Several of these individual Let's Play people have transformed this into a full-time career while learning skills such as communications and video editing that can be used for future jobs.
Let's Play videos have been considered a favorable way to market game titles, in particularly for smaller developers. In one case for Thomas Was Alone, Mike Bithell, its developer, attributed the success of the game to a Let's Play video by Dan Hardcastle. Similarly, Davey Wreden, the developer of The Stanley Parable developed a relationship with various Let's Play channels prior to the release to assure they could play and record his game; his team further created specialized demos for two popular channels that jokingly teased the specific players. Wreden believes this helped lead to the over 100,000 sales of the full game within the first three days of release. Some developers have designed their games to be favorable for Let's Play videos. The developers of Octodad: Dadliest Catch aimed to have the game covered by Let's Play videos by "creat[ing] a lot of room where there are a lot of different options for a player to create their own comedy and put their own personality into that".
The popularity of Let's Play and similar video commentaries have also led to changes in how some video games have been developed. The Let's Play approach favors games that are quirky and idiosyncratic that draw viewer attention, making some developers aim for these qualities in their games. It also helps for games in early access or beta release cycles as developers from such games can use these videos for feedback to improve their games prior to full release. The Let's Play videos also can bring in more attention to a niche title than traditional gaming press.
The copyright nature of "Let's Play" videos remains in question; while the developer and/or publisher of games typically possess the copyright and granted exclusive distribution rights on the media assets of the game, others cite fair use claims for these works as their nature is to provide commentary on the video game. In one case, Nintendo claimed that they retain the copyright and have registered the content through YouTube's Content ID system such that they can generate ad revenue from user videos, though Nintendo would later back off of such claims, and later created its own affiliate program between themselves, Google, and proactive uploaders to split profits. Smaller developers have been more open to allowing Let's Play videos. Ubisoft has stated that it allows its games to be used in Let's Play videos and allows for those making them to monetize from any ad revenue as long they stay within certain content-appropriateness guidelines.
In early December 2013, a change in YouTube's ContentID policy caused many existing Let's Play and other video-game related material to be blocked. In response, many developers and publishers issued statements and worked with YouTube to assure such videos were not meant to be blocked, helping those whose videos were affected, and encouraging users to continue to show these; these companies included Blizzard, Ubisoft, Capcom, Paradox Interactive, and Valve. YouTube later clarified that the change in the ContentID system that caused videos to be flagged was likely a result of new tools it made available for multi-channel networks, which can cover separate video and audio copyrights. At least two known music multi-channel networks, TuneCore and INDmusic, who represent many video game music composers and artists, had automatically enabled the copyright protection for all of its clients without seeking their input, and as such, many of the Let's Play videos as well as the game developers' own promotional videos were blocked due to these actions. YouTube states they do not plan to change this system despite complaints from the original music composers.
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