A recent statement from the FTC, the American Federal Trade Commission, has revealed that Warner Bros. has paid popular YouTube channels and websites to publish positive gameplay videos for the game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
The FTC investigation started back in 2014 when Warner Bros. launched its advertising campaign for the game. The developer hired advertising agency Plaid Social Labs LLC to run the marketing campaign for the game. The company then proceeded to sign deals with popular YouTube channels and websites, including the YouTube channel "PewDiePie".
Warner Bros. paid each influencer from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, gave them a free advance-release version of the game, and told them how to promote it, according to the complaint. The FTC contends that Warner Bros. required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found.
"Consumers have the right to know if reviewers are providing their own opinions or paid sales pitches," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Companies like Warner Brothers need to be straight with consumers in their online ad campaigns." Rich added.
Under a proposed FTC order announced last Monday, July 11th, Warner Bros. is barred from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a fantasy role-playing game loosely based on The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was released in September 2014 for the PlayStation 3 and in November 2014 for the Xbox 360.