Vimeo Burns Bridge with Indie Game Developer Because of Video Content Policy

[ Alec Holowka's trailer for "Alone" hosted on YouTube. ]

Award-winning indie game developer Alec Holowka is switching from Vimeo to YouTube after the New York-based artsy YouTube alternative wouldn't let him host a trailer for his video game "Alone."  

Alec tells LAUNCH that the trailer remained on Vimeo only for about one week before he received an email informing him that Vimeo would not host the video. Alec says, "This is strange, because I've released other trailers and gameplay videos on Vimeo before with no issues." Some of Alec's videos are still on Vimeo, but says Vimeo made them all private without notification nor consent.

The email told Alec that in order to share gameplay videos, he would need to purchase a Vimeo Pro account for $199 a year. 

"There's no way I'd upgrade my account, as the 'pro' Vimeo account is missing some key features and costs way too much for what you're getting," Alec says. "Moreover, the anti-gameplay video policy is solely based on prejudice against the medium. There's no rational explanation for why there is an exception against gameplay from creators of the game themselves, whereas small, independent creators of every other medium can get away with posting 'commercials' for their works."

Yet upgrading to Pro wont solve the issue of hosting gameplay content on Vimeo. Alec referenced the experience of another game developer who did the upgrade but still couldn't successfully share his video on Vimeo.

Vimeo Pro exists outside of the Vimeo community, meaning that users who pay for the Pro account still cannot host trailers or promos within the site. 

Vimeo's content rules state, "You may NOT upload videos that: … Are gameplay videos. However, game developers may post videos showing development. Machinima videos are acceptable so long as there is a story."

Alec notes that ironically, Vimeo does allow users to post videos about how video gaming is a valid artistic medium, yet doesn't allow video game creators to share their work with the Vimeo community. 

"Vimeo's mission has always been to empower and inspire people to create their own videos," VP of Creative Development Blake Whitman tells LAUNCH via email. "We have had the same rules regarding video gameplay since 2008. Vimeo completely respects and supports indie game developers and what they are trying to do."

On Sept. 1, 2008, Vimeo enacted its current upload policy of not allowing video game walk-throughs, game strategy videos and other gaming videos that show someone playing a game. The rationale: Vimeo does not believe that "videos which are direct captures of video game play truly constitute 'creative expression,'" and gaming videos overwhelm its transcoder, which contributes to longer wait times. 

The decision prompted a long debate on the Vimeo blog, in which gamers said that Vimeo is discriminating against those videos.

"When the gaming community found out Vimeo would not allow Alec to share his gameplay video, many of them expressed frustration over Vimeo's video policy.

"It's true that the commercial and gaming guidelines are clear -- but the gaming guidelines have until now been interpreted (and applied by Vimeo) as relating to fan-made playthroughs of games, not videos uploaded by independent game makers of what they're working on," reissbaker writes on Hacker News. "Applying those rules to the game creators is the recent decision."

Another HN user speculates that Vimeo has those policies enforced to differentiate the service from YouTube. 

"The focus at Vimeo on creator-contributed content and community are what has likely kept it from becoming the YouTube comment and content cesspool that is mocked the world over," wnight writes.

In a recent editorial by Independent Games Festival Chairman Brandon Boyer, he says that there are a number of "maddening things" about Vimeo's video policy.

"At a very basic, basic level, it's a deliberate and prejudicial exclusion of an entire mode of creative and artistic expression that apparently doesn't fit their very, very outmoded approach to culture (B-but—they all look so young & hip & "positive & encouraging"!)," Brandon writes. "This policy denies that branch of culture access to the supportive community of users who don't at all share their prejudices."

Brandon also says that Vimeo's policy is not consistent and if people complain loudly enough, they might reverse the video removal. 

"I obviously don't want to list out by name the number of indie game developers that they've apparently overlooked or chosen to ignore because it doesn't, what, feel as videogame-y as the rest?" Brandon says. "But, by taking a quick stroll through their staff picks, you can spot just how ridiculous their singling-out is."

Vimeo, founded in 2004 by Zach Klein and Jake Lodwick, had 8M unique monthly visitors in the U.S. compared to YouTube's 142M in September 2011. In July 2011, Vimeo reached 50M unique users worldwide. Investors include the Founder Collective and IAC. 


Twitter: @vimeo

Alec Holowka

Zach Klein, co-founder
Twitter: @zachklein  

Jake Lodwick, co-founder
Twitter: @jakelodwick  

Blake Whitman, VP of Creative Development
Twitter: @blakewhitman