Persona 5 and Streaming

Streaming… get it? via Wikimedia Commons

I saw that the makers of Persona 5 made the odd choice of limiting streaming of their game. (I use the word “streaming” here to include Twitch and YouTube Let’s Play videos.) Liore and Eri also weighed in on this with contrasting viewpoints.

I’d never heard of Persona 5 before this, and never heard of or played Persona 1 through 4, either. (I think it’s a console game from The East.) I don’t even know what kind of game it is. The point is I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m only interested in the intellectual property angle.

These days, we take it for granted that game developers allow streamers to play their games on their channels. But this is a great reminder that legally speaking, the developer (or publisher, probably) owns all of that game content. (Presumably the same way that record companies own the recordings of music we listen to.) So whether we like it or not, it is certainly within their legal rights to prevent people from streaming it (at least in the U.S., I have no idea about other countries). From that perspective, I don’t have any issue with Atlus’s choice.

But… it’s certainly a head-scratching choice in this day and age.

I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but I would guess that publishers get some measureable revenue out of what is effectively the free advertising they receive from streamers (or nearly free, wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It’s true that streaming probably helps smaller studios proportionately more, but I don’t think it hurts bigger studios, simply because there have been no efforts to shut down streamers. If big studios were quantifiably losing money because of streaming, I am confident that Twitch would have been sued into oblivion years ago. Either that or we’d be seeing a lot more streamer rules like we see with Persona 5.

I can only guess that the bean counters at Atlus don’t think they will get any benefit from streamers. Perhaps they even think that, as Eri suggested, every stream viewer represents the loss of a sale. I don’t personally believe in the loss of sales theory, despite Liore admitting she never buys the games she watches on YouTube. Maybe she can comment on this, but I suspect that people who watch games instead of buying them probably never would have bought them in the first place, because they either aren’t interested in the gameplay or don’t have the time to play it.

In any case I don’t believe that Atlus is really worried about spoilers getting out. That’s just amazingly clueless.*

I think Atlus is making a big deal about nothing. Developers talk to each other at conferences and stuff, so if there was a problem in the industry with streaming, there’s no way that Atlus is the only one who noticed it and took a stand. I don’t necessarily think it’s an evil conspiracy like Eri thinks (beyond the baseline conspiracy that all corporations try to make a profit), but you have to admit that the controversy sure generated a lot of press for their game.

On the predictably overblown reaction from streamers, I don’t know that I would have put it quite the way she did, but Liore is exactly correct that streamers are at the mercy of game developers, and not the other way around. When you build your career around showing somebody else’s intellectual property, you have to expect there might be some bumps in the road. Streamers might be able to exert some pressure over smaller games, but I have a feeling big game studios could bring substantially more legal firepower into that fight.

Liore’s right: Streamers should just deal with it and move on. A week from now nobody is going to care about Atlus or Persona 5 or whatever lifetime ban streamers have in the works.

In a related story, I just saw an article on Kotaku which implored “content creators” to “organize.” I mean, I get that it’s hard as hell to make a living as a streamer, but really? A streamer union? Nobody is forced to choose streaming as their profession. It’s a huge risk with very little chance of a payoff.

* However, to be fair, a recent MassivelyOP podcast interview of Shards Online-turned-Legends of Aria developer Derek Brinkmann gave me newfound insight into how unaware a developer can be of current gaming trends. My jaw dropped when I heard the guy admit he hasn’t really played an MMORPG since Everquest.