(The article reflects independent views of this author and not necessarily those of this publication)
It has recently come to light that Earth 2 founder and CEO, Shane Isaac, attempted to solicit paid reviews from a prominent YouTuber and one of Earth 2’s more vocal critics - SidAlpha.
A text exchange disclosed by SidAlpha in a recent video shows Mr. Isaac offering payment and early access to information in exchange for video reviews of upcoming releases. The offer was rejected by SidAlpha in a rather theatrical fashion which amounted to a declaration that his morals would never allow him to accept such an offer.
The fact that Mr. Isaac offered payment to an influencer in exchange for coverage of upcoming releases is not, in and of itself, morally objectionable. Influencers and content creators have been accepting payment for product placement since the advent of social media. It becomes much murkier when the financial relationship between the business and content creator is not expressly made clear.
Unfortunately, the digital asset space is rife with examples of this less than scrupulous behavior with influencers shilling projects in exchange for payment, or worse, when the influencer has an undisclosed stake in the project. It is not clear from the disclosed text exchange that Mr. Isaac was expecting the paid reviews to be positive or that he expected the financial relationship to remain confidential. In short, there is nothing wrong with contacting an influencer and offering payment for coverage of a project.
Where Mr. Isaac did fall short was in his choice of influencer to contact.
SidAlpha is a critic with the goal of serving the gaming community, not gaming companies. No critic should be offered payment, nor should they accept payment, in exchange for a review. As SidAlpha has pointed out himself, this would inevitably lead to a bias in their critique. It could also be perceived as payment in exchange for a good review. This was poor judgment on the part of Mr. Isaac and as the CEO of a company striving to be a leader in the metaverse space, he should have known better. There are plenty of celebrities willing to advertise or endorse products on social media - leave the gaming critics be.
It is also unclear whether paying a critic to review the Earth 2 project is even necessary.
The goal of paying an influencer is to get eyeballs on your project. Earth 2 already has several content creators with large subscriber bases making videos about it regularly. Therefore, the onus is on Earth 2 to deliver quality releases which change the narrative from negative to positive. Yes, there will surely continue to be critical takes on the Earth 2 project but positive reviews will come if deserved.
Finally, a word about SidAlpha -
The outrage displayed by him because he was offered payment in exchange for a review is perplexing. He is a content creator with 118,000 subscribers. It is doubtful this is the first time he has been offered payment and it likely won’t be the last. The fashion in which he declined the offer from Mr. Isaac was unnecessarily dramatic and reeked of being for the sole purpose of displaying it in a video.
While it is commendable that his moral compass is so strong that he was compelled to decline the offer with such force, it is unfortunate that the moral compass stopped working when it came time to decide whether to share a text conversation that Mr. Isaac clearly intended to be private. Yes, Mr. Isaac was naïve in communicating with SidAlpha in the fashion he did and by not clarifying that the conversation was off the record. SidAlpha was opportunistic in using that naivete to his own advantage and to his own benefit.
Unfortunately, nobody comes out of this looking good.
Update: SidAlpha posted another conversation with Shane. Find it here: