South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a game whose jokes are based around suggestive content and vulgar humor, making it a risky bet for YouTubers.
YouTube has been inundated this past week with gameplay videos and streams of Ubisoft’s sequel to 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole. The game, much like its predecessor, includes sexually suggestive humor, crude language and racist terminology. There are a number of cutscenes and dialogue options that violate YouTube’s strict advertising guidelines, leading to demonetization concerns for many creators.
For most YouTubers, they understand this means they won’t see any revenue from their The Fractured But Whole uploads. One YouTuber, Haedox, uploaded a review of both The Fractured But Whole and The Stick of Truth, exploring how the games deviate from the traditional RPG structure. After uploading the video, Haedox noted that his video was flagged for demonetization.
“So, the video got demonetized and a copyright claim when I showed some donguses and the footage from the show,” Haedox wrote in the video’s comments section. “Figured that it would be better to fox the footage or just censor everything. It sucks [that] I had to take it down and then reupload.”
Haedox told Polygon that he assumed “it was the nature of South Park being obscene” and “just censored everything I could and reuploaded to be safe.”
Another YouTuber, The Lone Few, whose real name is Austin Clark, told Polygon that his Let’s Play was also hit by demonetization.
“Before the stream even went live we were hit with the yellow ‘Not suitable for most advertisers’ sticker,” Clark said.
A couple of hours after the video went up, Polygon noticed that a couple of ads appeared on the video, which Clark said he was unaware of.
“Up until a few hours ago we did not have ads on it,” Clark said. “Are you seeing pop-up ads on the video? If so, that's very strange.”
It’s not too surprising that The Fractured But Whole is being hit by demonetization stamps. According to YouTube’s community guidelines:
Video content that contains frequent uses of strong profanity or vulgarity throughout the video may not be eligible for advertising. Occasional use of profanity won’t necessarily result in your video being ineligible for advertising, but context matters.
Demonetization has become a frequently discussed topic. Video creators, from Casey Neistat, Philip DeFranco, Marques Brownlee and Hank Green to hundreds of smaller channels, have talked about it at some point. Demonetization, and the “adpocalypse,” has been an issue for YouTubers since major advertisers threatened to pull their commercials from the platform after learning they were being associated with channels promoting hateful content.
In response, YouTube tightened rules for what type of content could be monetized. Animosity toward executives grew, with members from the gaming community complaining that a number of their streams and Let’s Plays were being targeted. Ryan Wyatt, head of gaming and content at YouTube, released a press release identifying the issues creators had brought up and addressing their concerns. In his statement, Wyatt specifically said that games from specific publishers or specific games wouldn’t be immediately demonetized.
“Our automated systems do not make video-specific decisions around what can or can’t be monetized based on the publisher or game,” Wyatt wrote. “On the contrary, not only do we want to see epic gameplays, we want you to have the opportunity to make money while doing it. As we said in our advertiser guidelines — violence in the normal course of video gameplay is generally OK for advertising, but gratuitous violence as the focal point is not.
“Excessive profanity as well as title, thumbnail or meta data can also impact a video’s monetization.”
Comments on video playthroughs of The Fractured But Whole joke about how long it will take for the video to become demonetized because of the vulgar content within the game. Still, not everyone is affected. YouTube’s biggest personality, and the most prominent member of the gaming community, PewDiePie, decided to label his entire series as the “demonetized edition” as a riff on what’s happening in the YouTube community — but there are plenty of ads on the actual video.
Other popular streamers and YouTube creators have been able to upload their videos without repercussion. Some of these YouTubers have partnered with Ubisoft, but for the most part, it appears that YouTube moderators are okaying the vulgar gameplay because of context. As the community guidelines specify, “occasional use of profanity won’t necessarily result in your video being ineligible for advertising, but context matters.”
Those who do find themselves being hit with demonetization can appeal. In Wyatt’s note to YouTubers, the YouTube executive admitted that the company’s algorithm wasn’t perfect. Those who feel like their videos operate within the guidelines should be able to get YouTube to monetize their upload.
“It means that if you see a yellow icon in your video dashboard and feel our automated systems got it wrong, please appeal,” Wyatt wrote. “With 400 hours of video uploaded every single minute, we rely on machine learning to evaluate content across the platform. But no system is perfect. When you appeal, our reviewers take a look and their decisions help our systems get smarter over time. Deleting the video and re-uploading won't help.”
Polygon has reached out to YouTube for comment and will update when more information becomes available.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is available to now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.