How Vimeo Lost Me

I used to prefer Vimeo over YouTube. Vimeo was always a bit better in quality, had a nicer looking player and website. Most importantly, it had a more mature and tasteful community. So when I released my game TRAUMA, it was a no-brainer to publish the trailer for it on Vimeo. It was an arty project that was made exactly for the kind of audience I would meet on Vimeo.

Today, I’m regretting that decision.

Vimeo GTFO

How about if I show some tits?

The first warning signs was a dispute I had back when I uploaded a gameplay preview of the game for the IGF. I used Vimeo back then for the same reasons. When the video was hit by the IGF traffic, I was contacted by the Vimeo staff. Unbeknown to me, uploading gameplay videos was a big no-no for Vimeo in general. My video was taken down immediately – exactly during the small window when having it online mattered. In a lengthy discussion, I had to explain myself that I was actually the author of the game and that the video was meant to show my work. The video got put back up eventually, but the damage was done.

I should have been wary of using Vimeo back then. A company so rigorous about game-related videos is hardly a safe haven for a game developer. But foolishly, I thought that just having each video properly credited would be enough. It seemed like the anti-game community guideline was only in place to outlaw “Let’s Play”-style videos, where people record playing games.

Fast-forward to a few days ago. I was lucky enough to get TRAUMA to be released as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, a pay-what-you-want charity/indie fundraiser with an extremely high traffic volume. My web site was hit with up to 30k views per day – three times as much as during launch. I was worrying that my web host would give up. It didn’t. But Vimeo did. Again.

I received the following E-Mail from

We see that you are using Vimeo for gameplay videos.

We’re sorry, but as stated in our Terms and Conditions of Use, on our Community Guidelines page, and on the upload page itself,
gameplay videos are not allowed on Vimeo Basic or Plus accounts. If you
wish to continue using Vimeo to upload this type of content, you *must*
use Vimeo PRO>

At this time, you can purchase Vimeo PRO and continue using Vimeo to
host your content, or take the next *72 hours* to back up your videos or
move them to another host more suitable to your needs.

*Purchase PRO*

If you take no action, your account will be removed in automatically in
72 hours.

That sounded like the same issue as the last time. So I tried to refer to the last E-Mail exchange. I received the follwing explanation:

… things have changed since your last exchange with *former contact on Vimeo*, as we now have Vimeo PRO:
Because your videos are commercial in nature, you must have a PRO account:
As far as gaming videos are concerned, you must have a PRO account if you wish to upload game trailers and gameplay videos. Videos showing the development of a game (before and after shots, explaining the creation process) are still ok with a Plus account.
Please let me know if/when you purchase PRO.

So it seems like the fact that I had a trailer on my account was a problem this time around. This is weird because there are plenty of movie and game trailers on Vimeo. And the PRO account is not a bagatelle. It costs 200$ per year, that’s actually more than I pay for my web host that hosts the ACTUAL GAME. But believing that this would the the bitter pill to swallow, I decided to get the PRO account to set things straight once for all. I mean, they mentioned it like 4 times in that one paragraph, right?

But it didn’t help. My videos were working again, but they couldn’t be accessed on the Vimeo website. You see, the PRO account is pretty much a pure hosting service, quite distinct from the actual Vimeo website. The PRO account allows to upload pretty much any content, but that content won’t be available on the Vimeo website. As a PRO user, you can request individual videos to be shown on the Vimeo website, which is called a “Community Pass”. But in oder to be eligible for one, the video in question needs to follow the community guidelines i.e. no gameplay videos, no game trailers. So when I asked for the Videos to be put up back again I got the following response:

I’m sorry, I was mistaken on the status of your videos. They have not been removed, they are simply hidden from, as you are a PRO user with the Community Pass off ( Because your videos are commercial in nature, you will be required for them to stay this way. Sorry for the confusion.

Keep mind that I had 3 videos and only one of them was a trailer. The others were the IGF gameplay preview that was cleared by Vimeo previously and a much older talk I gave on a different topic. ALL of the videos were removed from the Vimeo website.

But you don’t need to look for too long to see that there are plenty of game trailers on Vimeo. Why? Well, because the Vimeo guy I had to deal with was plainly wrong. The Community Guidelines say explicitly that indie developers are excluded from the “commercial use” clause:

But of course now, the Humble Indie Bundle promotion is over and the trailer was offline for over 3 days during the most crucial time. Again. I might eventually get to a person at Vimeo, who recognizes the mistake and puts the videos back up. But I lost time, nerves and money dealing with all this. Most importantly, Vimeo let me down again when I needed them most. I have no reason to believe they won’t let me down again.

And all this time I can’t help thinking that this was because I’m working with games. If I was a fimmaker, this is issue would never crop up. But games have to constantly defend their status as a way of creative expression. When creating games, you are by default suspected of either selling out or producing nothing of value what so ever. Or both.

For me this is a more serious issue than the Rogert Ebert debate. Roger Ebert was just one old guy stating an opinion about something he knows little about. This is an institutionalised disbelief in games as vessels of culture and meaning. It has real consequences for people, who want to make games. Ironically, especially games that challenge that very notion.

So if you are a game developer, I recommend you to consider this the next time when you chose a place to host your videos.


Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

49 responses to “How Vimeo Lost Me”

  1. George B

    I hope you are able to work it out with them because of the reasons you highlight in the first paragraph. Because this is a real shame…

  2. Lacrymology

    I’m sorry for you. I also don’t see why, while I agree with your reasons, you didn’t change hosting solution after the first problem.

    It is a *big* deal, and they have *no way* of retributing you, even if they accept they were wrong..

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Well, I thought it was a one-time fluke. But I did a YouTube backup ever since.

  3. Brendan

    Vimeo really lost me when they launched their PRO service. Instead of rewarding their already loyal and paying PLUS members with a few cool new features they made a pitiful cash-grab and created PRO account with a couple new things and charge a ridiculous price. As you said, Krystian $200 is more than I pay for my web hosting- it’s really sad they try to justify this price for what? A little bit of branding and a portfolio page?

    Beyond simply pricing, Vimeo in a lot of ways has compromised their integrity with their PRO accounts. While before Vimeo was a community for artists, creators (including the gaming community) and people interested in Video- now it’s totally open for commercial videos… so long as you can pay. It’s really disappointing.

  4. Yu-Chung Chen

    Bastards. Thanks for letting the world know!

  5. TheLogan

    Iirc Wolfire closed their vimeo account and joined youtube instead for the exact same reason.

  6. Daedalus

    As someone who purchased the bundle and received Trauma I would like to thank you for producing a very interesting experience.
    It is unfortunate that such a game did not get the attention it deserves and we can but hope that they will learn from their mistakes.
    Unfortunatly I am not so sure they will since they failed to do so previously on several occasions.

  7. primesuspect

    Absolutely agreed. Vimeo has proven time and again that they want nothing to do with gamers. We wrote about our horrid experience with them (as paying customers) back in 2009 when they ruined some important E3 coverage for us.

  8. Robert

    This post really freaked me out. I run a indie game studio and so far we pushed all our trailers/gameplay videos to Vimeo (having the Plus account). This story really made me think about some alternative way.

  9. producerism

    Thanks for the write-up, I had no idea this was even an issue. Mark one more indy game developer that won’t be using Vimeo. p.s. kudos on the game!

  10. zushiba

    Sorry but I would have dropped Vimeo the first time they screwed up and just gone with Youtube or at least come time to throw up a video on a website somewhere I’d have uploaded the video to multiple sources before launch just in case something like this happened.

    I think this demonstrates however that there is a need in world for an indie game video host and the first person to do it, and do it right might make some money.

  11. Kirkpad

    Thanks for the heads up! I had no idea that video hosting sites were so stingy.

    Really unfortunate the way that things were handled on their end.

  12. qptain Nemo

    Oh dear, that is unspeakable idiocy! Thanks for the info. Too bad we had to learn it through your misfortunes.

  13. allen

    Quite sad. Thanks for this write up, very enlightening and it sucks they would do this to you.

    I got Trauma thanks to the Humble Bundle and enjoyed it very much, I guess when I show the trailers to my friends I’ll be linking the YouTube ones :P

  14. Florian

    Bad story, good decision.

  15. Brian

    You may want to seriously consider talking to a lawyer. They broke their own rules, singled you out, and caused actual harm against your business. It wouldn’t hurt to at least look into whether you have grounds for legal action and if the payoff would be worth the effort.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      There probably is a hook in there or two. But I’m not interested in doing that. I don’t have a lawyer. I don’t have the money to pay one. Even if I had, I’d rather invest it in making games. I’m in Germany and doing legal action across the Atlantic is just insane.

      1. No One

        Your bank or credit card company should have no problem helping you dispute that charge, btw. You’ll have to wait for it to post to your account first, but once it does, give them a call to get that ball rolling.

  16. Sofox

    Ask for a refund for Vimeo Pro. Be polite, mention how you’ve had trouble with various parts of the service (and delicately mention how they contradicted their own terms and conditions) and while you respect their service (no reason burning bridges), you feel that that they misrepresented the service that you were signing up for (which is true)

    primesuspect mentioned above how he was able to get a Vimeo refund quite easily. However, according to primesuspect, if you rub them the wrong way they can prevent your website from embedding ANY Vimeo videos, so exercise caution. They probably don’t want your content on their site anyway, so if you mention how once you get a refund you’ll remove all content from the site, they may be encouraged to refund you.

    Remember, Vimeo may be a lost cause for hosting your videos now, but not for getting a refund.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Oh yeah, I got a refund meanwhile. So that’s good. But still, the damage is done. For example, most of the websites that wrote about the game embedded the Vimeo video in their post. Those embeds now ALL show an error message.

      And it still means that other game developers should expect the same to happen to them. Will post an update when the current discussion I have with them closes.

  17. kikko

    What a shame.. Good to know!

  18. Martin Doms

    Well for what it’s worth, I bought your game because I saw it on Steam a few weeks ago and the trailer seemed interesting. I would never, ever have bothered to watch a gameplay video on Vimeo. I use that site for photography and related videos, and if I want gameplay stuff I’ll go to Youtube or Steam. That’s just one data point, but I think I’m fairly typical.

  19. cosku

    what about indiedb? they host videos right? seems like the right place to me.
    shame on you vimeo.

  20. Christopher Carver

    Wow, and right when I was thinking about doing the same and hosting out games trailers with them. You just saved us alot of possible future troubles. We’re a small indie mobile developer, something like that would just kill us.

  21. vmur

    What about Fez ?

    they have Vimeo love. (no pro, no plus)

  22. vmur

    ( ignore this, It’s just to activate notifications by email )

  23. vmur

    There is even a group named “Indie Game Developers”

    Seems you had very bad luck with that vimeo guy.

    I write this because I am thinking to public my next game trailer to vimeo, and would be great to listen other developers experiences.

    And thanks to alert us about this.

  24. primesuspect

    I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention Viddler. They’ve always been extremely supportive of gaming culture.

  25. Mr Spoons

    Boo hoo. Vimeo is a community for film makers, not for gameplay videos or commercial adverts. They make this quite clear in the T+C’s. I’m glad they are active in clearing out stuff that violates the T+C’s so the rest of us get a better experience.

    If you want to freeload, try Youtube.

    1. Panzeh

      Poor filmmakers can’t possibly have their precious terrible shorts next to an indie developer’s trailer.

    2. Stormy

      Congratulations, you just got that “Biggest Jerk Online on October 16th” you always dreamt about.

    3. Simon

      “it had a more mature and tasteful community”

      Well, now that that’s been debunked, courtesy of Mr Spoons, indies may as well head elsewhere. Good thing we got that sorted.

  26. TheLogan

    Paying for a service and expecting said service is not freeloading

  27. The Sunday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

    [...] Majewski is not happy with Vimeo’s treatment of his indie games [...]

  28. charlie

    sorry to hear that if it’s any constelation the game was really good :P i was thinking of doing a let’s pay at some point.

  29. Krystian Majewski

    Thank you all for the heartwarming feedback! Here is an update on what happened since the initial post:

  30. Robert Reinhardt

    Video hosting, depending on the number of bytes streamed, can be expensive. What resolution are your videos? I’ve built an encoding and hosting service at, and I’d be willing to work with you to have adaptive streaming (if you need that) for your videos to work across mobile and desktop. AFAIK, Vimeo only offers progressive download for video storage, and if you want cost effective progressive download hosting, just use Amazon S3 for storing your videos.

  31. DevLinks: IGF Deadline Looming | DIYgamer

    [...] How Vimeo Lost Me (GameDesignReviews) “I used to prefer Vimeo over YouTube. Vimeo was always a bit better in quality, had a nicer looking player and website. Most importantly, it had a more mature and tasteful community. So when I released my game TRAUMA, it was a no-brainer to publish the trailer for it on Vimeo. It was an arty project that was made exactly for the kind of audience I would meet on Vimeo. Today, I’m regretting that decision.” [...]

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    [...] Permit A 38 in “The Place That Sends You Mad”, and has affected Indie game developers a number of [...]

  33. BronzeBeard

    Wow, thanks for posting this. I was going to upload my video game to vimeo sometime next week. Guess I’ll just load it up on youtube.

  34. Dave Holland

    Just to let you know that we have numerous video game developers using us – – an alternative, fully customizable video site platform with even more features than Vimeo Pro.
    Our Plus package is only $9.95 a month and includes unlimited video length uploads, no ads, 2GB storage space per month and unlimited downloads on your domain too if you want.

  35. Jamie Woodhouse

    I’ve also been having technical issues, with embedding Vimeo videos. Sometimes on iOS devices, the embedded video just doesn’t play (about 30% of the time for me, and this is on 2 devices). However, the actual video quality with Vimeo, is far superiour to that I’m getting with YouTube.

    I’m looking at DailyMotion, as a Vimeo replacement. Quality seems better than YouTube, just hoping they’re ‘indie friendly’!

  36. Making Entertaining and Engaging Video Game Trailers

    [...] you take a look at this article on Kotaku, and these tweets, yeah, I’d say they do. But the reality is a bit more grey than this. Vimeo states in their [...]

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    [...] Fuentes: Kotaku – GameDesingReviews [...]

  38. Flavio

    I can understand their point, even if it’s kinda silly in the first place, but if they want to persevere with this policy they should be coherent… isn’t this a “gameplay”? and it’s not even published by the owner, and it’s a commercial product talking about a commercial product.

    The “indie” exception cannot work by the way, when is a developer “indie”? You use it implying that “indie” is “poor – can’t pay a pro account” and “makes games for free”, while the Perssons, the Meat Boys, the Blows now have the means (and the intention to sell and be profitable was there since before) but are still to be considered indie.
    There’s no middle ground: making a for-profit product – you pay, otherwise you are relieved.

    I’m gonna e-mail the staff giving this feedback, and i think that everybody that is sensitive and takes the time to write a comment here, should find the time to express in a few lines to the Vimeo team what he/she thinks.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      The “indie” exception cannot work by the way, when is a developer “indie”?

      It is true that the term “indie” is ambiguous. But so is the term “artist” or “small scale production” they already use in their Community Guidelines.

      1. Flavio

        Well, i won’t go down the path of arguing if games are art or not, i think that in the context it’s quite clear. “Small scale production” covers indie games, sure.

        Seems to me the line is traced between profit and non-profit promotional videos, so in my opinion they should enforce this clause to every form of product, not just games, or find another mean of monetization :)

  39. Brian

    I know this is a really old thread, but between the time I signed up last year for plus and today, they *DOUBLED* the cost of the Plus account (from $59.99/year to $9.99/month). Hearing what kind of trouble you had with your indie game and the crap you had to deal with, I’m looking for an alternative now. Thanks for the post.

    1. Brian

      I stand corrected. $9.99/month or $59.99/year. Your article was still informative.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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