Earlier this morning YouTuber Gggmanlives caused a commotion when he announced he had to take down a video review of Anthem after his review was deemed too negative, something EA quickly denied. This created questions about how exactly EA's partnership program works, as well as the true nature of the fallout between the company and a content partner.
This morning Gggmanlives tweeted out his video review for Anthem. Commenters quickly noted that it was unavailable to which Gggmanlives replied, "I'm blacklisted by EA now and had to delete it." He later clarified that the video had "to be taken down because it was a sponsored video and I was too honest."
This caught the attention of Lee Williams, EA's manager of community engagement and manager of the Game Changer program, who responded this wasn't the case. "Game Changers are free to say what they like about our games and openly criticize us. Sounds weird but we [encourage] them, we need them to be honest for the community to trust them."
Game Changers refers to a program that got its start with EA's sports games and subsequently spread out to the rest of EA's lineup. It was originally intended to be a direct line of feedback between high-level community members and developers, but its scope has expanded considerably since then. As part of the program, Youtubers and streamers will not only interact directly with developers, but take part in special promotions with exclusive interviews and videos.
Ggmanlives' accusations exacerbated the questions that have arisen concerning the nature of the relationship between EA and reviewers. Concerning Ggmanlives' allegations, an EA representative told USG, "Our Game Changers program is not designed to pay for review content. We don't believe in that. In this case, the conditions for disclosure for this specific video were not met—which is something we adhere very strictly to—so we asked for it to be taken down and corrected. We've not asked for the content of the video to be changed, or "blacklisted" the creator."
EA also linked us to the disclosures page for its Game Changers program, which we read and confirmed matches the statement EA sent over. The page reads: "Game Changers have full editorial control over their content and storylines. EA does not approve Game Changer content, opinions, or creative choices."
Where it starts to get murky is the question of whether Ggmanlives' video was part of the Game Changers program, or whether it was a sponsored video by EA in which money changed hands. Another content creator told VG247, "In this case, I think the channel in question was sponsored to cover the game, go over the general jist and show gameplay. Think of the Apex Legends Twitch event, where Twitch paid big streamers to play Apex as soon as it went live. They paid them to play the game and I think this deal was that the channel got paid to make a video covering the game."
According to EA, sponsored videos are "paid content opportunities" commissioned by EA that the company "directly approves." Like Game Changers, EA Sponsored content must have the EA watermark and audible and written descriptions.
If Gggmanlives' video was indeed sponsored, then his review is well outside the bounds of a simple gameplay overview. Regardless he has since re-uploaded his Anthem video with added commentary echoing his sentiments from earlier this morning. He reiterated that the original video was taken down and that he's been blacklisted, despite EA and Williams' statement otherwise. He made no mention of the video being sponsored.
Ggmanlives told VG247 via Twitter DM, "I basically wasn't allowed to say anything negative about the game if I also had the watermark in because the watermark means EA endorses it and shares it through the Game Changers network or something. I really don't know what it all means. I was just told it was being pulled down and was basically a breach of contract or something along those lines."
Neither EA or Ggmanlives would comment on the terms of the video.
Without knowing the terms of the sponsorship deal between Gggmanlives and EA it's hard to say what the full nature of this situation is. It looks likely that EA and Gggmanlives' understanding of their relationship wasn't clear. What the controversy does highlight, however, is what happens when the veil blurring the lines between video influencers and advertisers is abruptly lifted.
In any case, Ggmanlives' negative review is just one of many. Anthem is now available to the broader public, and as our review notes, it has a lot of problems. You can find the rest of our Anthem coverage here.