The Problem with Patreon

I recently launched a Patreon specifically for my YouTube channel. I’m a huge fan of Patreon. I think that people making money for their work (even if talking about games is a hobby, it’s still a lot of work) is a good thing. I currently support a dozen creators who I particularly enjoy – video makers, podcasters, writers. For me, it’s a way to say thank you for providing me with hours of entertainment, keep up the good work.

Of course, not everyone feels this way. There’s a lot of backlash against Patreon, specifically (at least that I’ve noticed) in the gaming sphere. Some people consider it begging, some people think “well you’ve been doing this for free for this long, why ask for money now?” and some people, as far as I can tell, are just dicks who are offended at the very idea of people making money off a hobby. I’ve seen this come up in forums, on Twitter, on YouTube videos and in comments.

I had debated starting a Patreon for a while. I wanted to do it, but I was also aware of how it is perceived among some people and didn’t really want to deal with the extra negativity. Eventually, I decided to just go ahead with it (thanks in part due to the push provided by this excellent breakdown of the gender imbalance in games Patreon and its followup over on Go Make Me a Sandwich). I posted the link on Twitter once or twice, and people were really supportive and RT’d it a bunch. That was nice. I again hesitated about posting about it on my YouTube channel even though it’s specifically for my videos so that’s where an announcement should go.

On Saturday I posted a 2 minute video on announcing the Patreon along with some details about it. It was the first (and only) time I mentioned it on YouTube. This happened.

YouTube Subs

The first time I’ve ever lost more subs than I’ve gained in a day. I actually lost 17 subs the day I published the video (and gained 5 new ones), and 10 the following day.

I posted two videos within a couple hours of each other because I wanted to give people real content as opposed to just a Patreon ad for the day. Here’s how they were received.

Video dislikes

In 2 days my Patreon video is 1 dislike away from being my most disliked video ever (that’s honor still belongs to my Fallout 4 video from November – people are just as mad about Fallout no longer being a CRPG as they are about people making money on their videos).

And then there are comments like this.

Patreon comment

Also comments that bash other people’s crowdfunding efforts. Sigh.

Now, it’s not all bad, obviously. 11 people have supported me and many people have boosted it or wished me luck. Those people are awesome.

Still, the negative reception makes me wonder – what exactly is the problem? I really don’t understand the backlash for a service that is completely optional. It’s really no different than a Twitch streamer having a subscription button (except on Patreon you can choose the amount you want to give). I’m not really into the streaming scene, but is there as much pushback against the existence of Twitch subscriptions? How about people having a PayPal donation link on their sites?

People run their Patreons in many different ways. Some give exclusive content to patrons, some send out physical rewards or spend time on Skype with patrons at certain levels. Some treat Patreon more as a tip jar, where there are no different reward levels or ‘goals’. I have my preferences for certain practices over others. If someone runs their Patreon in a way I don’t like, then I just don’t support them. If I don’t think their content is worth any of my money, then I just don’t support them. If I find they spend more time promoting their Patreon then making content… getting the picture?

What is it about the idea of people giving their viewers the option of tossing them a few bucks that offends people so?

21 responses to “The Problem with Patreon

  1. It’s actually really hard to parse. I want to say it’s a capitalism problem but I can’t articulate it. I think maybe it’s something like “Making money devalues this thing i really really care about” – like some form of viewing people as “sell outs”? Nah, that sounds wrong. Maybe the reverse – labour about video games is worth nothing to them and they are offended that you are trying to wrest the value of your labor from (factory owner analogy – youtube?) I really just can’t put my finger on it. Also, I hate to ask, but do men who announce Patreons get the same downvotes/unfollows as you’ve evidenced here?

    • My thinking is partially along your first point – like people are co-opting video games for their personal gain? Which completely ignores the fact that the video games industry exists to make money. Also, I think there’s at least some jealousy in there that some people can make money from a fun thing.

      I’ve tried to look for more videos announcing Patreons but I haven’t found many. The two other videos from women I’ve found had a much lower ratio of dislikes than I did. The couple I’ve found from men also have much less of a negative response.

      • I went and checked the two male youtubers that I was aware of that announced their patreon on youtube (preach and nobbel). Relatively speaking, one had the same number of dislikes but 10x the number of likes, and the other had twice the number of dislikes but 20x the number of likes. I suppose it would have been more informative to look at the ratio relative to the total number of views?
        In any case, I fully support the idea of monetarily supporting content creators that you enjoy if you can/have the inclination. Good for you! 🙂

        • Thanks for pointing those out. I think it is best to look at the ratios. Their videos have around 30-40x the views mine does but have only 1.5-3x the amount of dislikes. That’s quite a difference.

      • Nah, making money off games isn’t the problem. After all they love to buy reproductions and craft bead sprites.

  2. I don’t have an issue with it, but like Twitch, it can become too much. I automatically stop watching streams where the focus is on new followers and earning money. I am watching for gameplay/personality, not the bells to go off when someone clicks follow or donates a few shekels to the cause.

    I think your current setup is perfect as it doesn’t get in the way of your content.

    • I agree that it can become a bit much. I’ve seen streams where the whole thing seems to be the streamers doing a little dance or something every time they get a donation – I don’t get it. But, I just turn it off as opposed to leaving nasty comments or starting forum threads about it.

      As someone who is very easily annoyed by a whole host of social media behaviour, I try to limit repetitive annoying behviours myself – I don’t even do the standard “don’t forget to like, share and subscribe” thing more than once every 3 or 4 videos. But I feel like one short video announcing a Patreon (that supports videos) is pretty unobtrusive.

  3. You’re right, it is amazing that so many people actually find it harder to move on with their lives without comment than go to the trouble of writing their nasty thoughts that obviously MUST be made known else how will people feel bad about themselves?

    I can’t even figure out how much is lack of impulse control, general dickishness, trolling, boredom, or simple immaturity. It’s pretty sad, though. The worst you should ever expect from such a video is crickets. But no, there is always someone who has to go the extra mile to ruin things.
    Dahakha recently posted..Spiritual Gaming

    • Yep, that guy whose comment I included in this came back to reply 5 or 6 times. He subscribes to me, checks and comments on the video multiple times because my content is so shit and he doesn’t care about it. Yup.

  4. overall, people are just envious. They see you doing something and possibly getting paid while they do it for free and call it “pure” or being “true” to whatever cause.

    On a cultural level, it’s sheer snobbery. We love to ignore in this community what a LUXURY it is to have *free time* to play games …but people with things like Subbable/Patreon? They are a reminder that we aren’t as luxurious as we think we are most of the time. So offering your content as a service is seen as beggardly or needing to be Riot Games quality to be “deserving”. It’s just snobs with opinions. Who generally do not matter in the end. People like me and your other followers are happy to pay a fee for content we like on the internet (and are able to afford to do it).

    I’m glad you’re getting more involved with this!!!! More people need to see that bookcase with my favorite games on it. Please keep it up!!
    doone recently posted..NBI 2016: Coming in June

    • That’s true, these people’s opinions don’t matter a whole lot in the end. I should be much more concerned with my actual audience, not the jerks who drop in to say something jerky every once in a while.

  5. People have been telling me this a lot lately: Those who will unsub you for setting up a Patreon aren’t the kinds of people you probably want watching your content anyway.

    I’ve had VERY little if any backlash from starting my own Patreon, but I attribute that to both having a smaller audience and the fact that I am a dude. I don’t care what people say, women are unfairly targeted by shitty people more often than men are.

    I also really think that the people who are mostly upset about people starting Patreon are honestly just salty that they aren’t able to do the same OR they have absolutely no idea how much time goes into quality content. It’s hard to justify continuing to do something that takes up so much of your free time when you aren’t getting paid for it. As much as I love seeing my numbers grow and interacting with new and interesting people, at some point I have to put it all down and do housework or start working at advancing my day job or something. If people are willing to pay me for my content, than I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to supplement my income one day, which validates my usage of time working on videos and articles all the time.

    I’m rambling. lol

    • That’s a good reminder – when people unsub over something like this, or leave nasty comments, I don’t want them as viewers anyway.

  6. I’m a new viewer/reader, and think you do great work. I don’t have any problems with Patreon, but I did notice something that might bother people. You mentioned it should be viewed as a “tip jar” and nothing more…but as soon as you listed the special “perks” for becoming a Patreon, it stopped being a tip jar at that point. I know the perks are small/infrequent…but a perk is a perk, and it does create a divide between those who tip and those who choose not to or can’t. That’s a bit off-putting to some people. It’s really not a tip jar at that point, is it? Maybe some of us interpret it wrong, so I figured I’d throw that thought out there. Also, there’s something genuine about people who refuse tips/purely do something for fun…they’re rare and a breath of fresh air when encountered. Perhaps that’s what people liked about you; especially since seemingly everyone else streaming and/or creating content is all about the money. Idk. I could be wrong. But I do like your work and really don’t blame you for trying to earn something from it. -Ali

    • I guess that’s true. Since the Patreon is specifically for my YouTube channel, I didn’t really consider any non-video content as creating a divide. I think it would be weird to have people giving me money and not write the occasional communication to say thank you and talk about what I’m up to.

  7. I don’t consume videos/podcasts often about gaming (I prefer the written word still!) Which dates me as a gamer for sure. I enthusiastically and emphatically support people trying to make a living off of things they love. If everyone did, the world would be a far better place. Most internet naysayers on these things are just stuck in a rut and instead of working hard to elevate themselves to do what THEY love, they take the easy route of verbally bashing others who are making the attempt.

    I see this in the videos I do watch (sailing) and both men and women producers get snippy comments from the people that “wish” they would sail the Caribbean and make videos about it, and get Patreon to help support that lifestyle.

    Thing is, they could too, if they only had the guts to try. It’s far easier to make excuses in life that live it.

    • That’s a good point. Those kind of people have a completely different mindset that I don’t understand. If someone is putting time and effort into creating content that I feel is worthwhile, I want them to make money on it. Whether it’s subscribing to a site, giving a few bucks on Patreon or just never ever using ad blockers. I don’t want to do anything to discourage them from making money.

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  9. Sometimes I simply just state that people are stupid. There are often not much more to explain it, sadly.

    Oh, and I nominated you for the Liebster Award. 🙂