Earlier today, prominent Youtuber, Totalbiscuit, detailed on Twitter the possible bargain many other Youtubers may have had to take in order to get early review copies of the game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on PC. Supposedly, Totalbiscuit says, Youtubers could only get early copies of Shadow of Mordor for review if they agreed to a brand deal.
A brand deal is essentially an agreement between the reviewer and the game publisher to advertise the game in exchange for early access. For Youtube, that means a few videos (certain playthroughs, maybe certain game modes depending on the game) about the game in some fashion. Because of that, Totalbiscuit says on Twitter that we should all expect to see a big wave of Shadow of Mordor content.
The real problem arises due to the implication that the reviewers are expected to give positive reviews. Why would a Youtuber waste time with a bad game on their channel (other than to joke or make fun of really bad, broken games)?
Of course, this hurts the overall objectivity of a review. Even more than just the content of their channel, a Youtuber might feel an obligation, subconsciously even, that they should give a positive review because they would be getting paid on top of getting exclusive early content to a big name game, Shadow of Mordor. Obviously, this presents a conflict of interest and brings up a moral dilemma.
Overall, this is a poor business practice and something no industry person should accept if they want to keep integrity with their viewers. All aspects of this should be discouraged at all costs as this is really only one step removed from "buying off" reviewers - something that gets thrown around a lot in the industry by the community.
However, all of this may be a case of poor communication Totalbiscuit says, which may indicate that he himself is not entirely certain of the nature of the deal. That is something to keep in mind before too much finger pointing is going on. Though, this still needs to be spoken about to get an official response from Warner Bros, the publishers of Shadow of Mordor.
Here is a link to Totalbiscuit's twitter where you can read other tweets he sent as well.