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Lord of the Rings’ Video Game Lands Warner Bros. in Hot Water

Mason Bird

Currently majoring in cyber security, Mason Bird enjoys The Lord of the Rings book series by J.R.R. Tolkien. Also a fan of video games, Mason Bird’s two interests came together in the 2014 Warner Bros. hit, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. While the game received high ratings on its own merit, the Federal Trade Commission recently settled a complaint against Warner Bros. for deceptively paying YouTube influencers for positive reviews.

During the game’s pre-release advertising campaign, the FTC alleged Warner Bros. paid popular YouTubers, including PewDiePie, and gave them advanced copies of the game. YouTubers were instructed to promote the game positively and refrain from highlighting any bugs or glitches in exchange for their advanced copy. According to the FTC, that counts as “sponsored advertising”.
While the complaint does acknowledge that reviewers were instructed to disclose that their video was sponsored, the announcement was often minimized or obscured. In one case, the reviewer’s idea of disclosing the nature of the deal was simply to write, “This has been one of my favorite sponsored games, so thanks that I could play it for free” in the video’s description.
While Warner Bros. neither admitted nor denied the allegations, the company has agreed to fix the issue in future advertising campaigns. It says it will take steps to educate influencers about properly disclosing sponsorship.
Regardless if the blame falls on Warner Bros. or its influencers, the gamers are the ultimate winners here, with one less method of deceptive advertising to worry about.

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