The Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines state that “if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.”
It appears as if this guideline has been overlooked recently with the Steam Early Access release of Dead Realm, a game by Section Studios. The game has been met with some great early success due to promotions from popular YouTubers who have turned out to have financial stakes in the company. Gamasutra reports that their failure to disclose their relationship to the game and the company could result in federal investigations.
Publisher of Dead Realm—3BlackDot—was founded by some ex-Machinima staffers as well as popular YouTubers Tom “Syndicate” Cassell and Adam “SeaNanners” Montoya. Those YouTubers have published multiple videos of them playing and promoting the game without citing their ties to it. The problem here is that while the game might be fun, the YouTubers are clearly pumping up a game that they have a substantial stake in to drive sales on Steam without properly informing the viewer that what they are watching is an advertisement instead of a typical objective Let’s Play.
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