YouTube in 2007 was remarkably different to the YouTube of today. The ink was still yet to dry on the Google takeover contract, and the term ‘YouTube Celebrity’ was yet to be bandied about – the likes of PewDiePie, JonTron, Markiplier and others were still to make their debuts. Even Minecraft – a game synonymous with the site – remained a twinkle in Notch’s eye.
As for the current gaming scene, the Wii and Nintendo DS were flying off shelves, Activision had just hit the jackpot with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and both the PS2 and GameCube were still alive, albeit merely surviving on a diet of terrible movie/cartoon tie-ins.
It was around this time that publishers started investing more time and money in glitzy trailers for their big-budget current-gen releases, believing a lavishly produced trailer would have more of an impact on pre-orders than a playable demo. See also: the death of the humble magazine demo disc.
Soon, we noticed an increase in game trailers in our inbox, mixed in with the usual press releases and such. Sometimes these trailers would even be directly attached to the e-mail, despite weighing in at over 100MB. Usually, though, they’d be attached as a WinZip file – still common practice.
WordPress – Games Asylum’s backend – had a 99MB upload limit at the time, and so we set-up a YouTube channel to host trailers, development diaries, in-game footage, and other tidbits the PR companies were filling our inbox with. These were then embedded in previews and news pieces, with leftovers used for a weekly trailer round-up. The PR people we dealt with at the time didn’t seem to object to us uploading these assets to YouTube. In fact, they were thankful for the coverage.
Now seems a good time to point out that we never made a single penny from our YouTube venture. We did see a slight increase in traffic via links in descriptions, and publishers seemed to be more forthcoming with review code, but these were the only notable benefits. We should also note that we weren’t generating our own content, aside a couple of videos taken during a vacation to Tokyo.
Over the space of a year or so the channel amassed around 3k subscribers. The video count stood at around 300 trailers and gameplay clips, most of which had around ten thousand views. There were a few unexpected ‘big hitters’ too. The trailer for EA’s Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix tie-in had surpassed a million views, and a few others were fast approaching 500k.
EA often claimed ownership of trailers we uploaded. To elaborate, we’d simply receive an automated e-mail stating EA had claimed copyright and that we had permission to use their trailer on our channel. ‘Status: allowed’ was the term used. Any video claimed by EA would now feature adverts from EA games, however. YouTube was primarily viewed on desktops at the time, as opposed to mobile devices – the iPhone 3G was still a year away – and so these adverts took the form of banners for the likes of the then-upcoming Mass Effect 2, MySims, et al.
We were fine with this, of course. These videos belonged to their respective publishers. Then one day something happened that made us question as to whether we were indeed infringing copyright.
Warner Bros. had successfully managed to have the trailer for the 2005 movie tie-in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pulled from our channel. This was due to copyright violation, and the automated e-mail from YouTube stated that if we continue to upload copyrighted material, then our channel will be evaluated and possibly taken down.