"ON LET'S PLAYS" - DEV EXPRESSES PLIGHT OVER HOW LP'S HAVE IMPACTED HIS GAME'S SALES

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Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
So earlier in #slack today someone linked to a rather depressing blog posting regarding the developer(s) of "That Dragon, Cancer" claiming copyright infringement on a Let's Player's video:

http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/thatdragoncancer/2016/3/24/on-lets-plays

I suggest you give this a read, because it provides some insight as to how indie developers are particularly harmed from people essentially experiencing a game for free.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the presence of Let's Plays are great from both a consumer and developer standpoint. To a buyer, it's a way you can be informed about your purchasing decisions outside of the biases of pro gaming reviews, and for a developer it's kind of a godsend in that your game gets further exposure to wider audiences.

There is a caveat, however, as this article reveals. The game in question is one that focuses on a linear experience, and doing an LP will pretty much spoil a majority of the game has to offer. Because a majority of players pretty much count on LPs to deliver the entire experience without actually buying and playing the game, the developers who spent years working to make their dreams a reality wind up receiving no return on investment.

Then, of course, the copyright claims become the best weapon of choice for these guys, but as that LPer's response indicates, the LP and the gamer community doesn't take too kindly to being shut down. For a small studio or blossoming indie-dev, I really think the backlash would have a larger impact on their reputation than a major studio.

So... What can we do to make both parties satisfied? As much as I love LPs as much as the next guy, the potential disservice it can do to developers, especially indies, is hard to ignore.



This image is also on the blog. I feel like I want to throw up a little. Discuss.
Honestly, as an LPer, if I've bought a game that uses music in it, as long as I'm not giving away that music for free then I have no problem with them not making money on my damn video because ffs I BOUGHT the game. I BOUGHT the experience of that music and being able to play the goddamn thing. I BOUGHT it so why should my sharing of it be limited and monetised by the owner in any way?

I'm not claiming to own what is in the game. I'm not sharing the files for free - hell I link to the game so people who like it can fucking buy it and I almost always recommend buying a game when I play it because most of the time I play good games.

My voice is over the top of the music.. which I turn the fuck down anyway so it doesn't drown out my voice. That makes it transformative. Taking away my ability to monetise (in fairly limited ways - I usually pick only one option for the ads and that's the least intrusive version that can be easily removed by the viewer) how I want and then slapping a 'no these people cannot watch if they're from x country' on my content to boot is fucking ridiculous.

Sorry, but for example, I am currently fighting three claims (the limit you can fight at a time as a content creator. They can put in as many claims as they want, though, with NO repercussions, btw. If I get one strike my account is completely limited: no ability to livestream, no videos over 15 minutes, no extra options. Oh, that's if I get one strike by the way. If I get three my channel is deleted.)
The first and most ridiculous claim is by a music company on a Fallout 4 video... for a song that is used in Saints Row and is not used in fucking Fallout 4. They have pushed the bill on that one, btw, meaning that if my appeal fails now, strike one is on my doorstep.... they don't get in trouble but I do.

The second claim is for a song from the RMN Music Pack. Yeah. I'm trying to fight it but my appeal was denied last night and if I reappeal then that's another strike against me. (Hell, in that video I even did a shout-out to the pack and recommended it over all the other music packs out there! FFS)

The third claim is for another Fallout 4 video - namely because for 2 minutes of a 30+ minute video I had the radio on in the game. You can't hear it because I usually have the radio turned way the fuck down anyway - and my voice is all over that noise completely, making it transformative work that falls under fair use laws.




It's completely bullshit how it is currently set up. All the power is in the hands of 'companies' and they get NO REPERCUSSIONS when they do the wrong thing. You have to actively seek out representatives for those people in order to get in touch with them and argue your case because they will just ignore any notice through youtube's system completely. Oh, but there's no easy way to do that - most of them are music companies whose only thoughts are 'get more money by getting more musicians' and have no way to contact about copyright claims.

I actually used twitter for the first time in a long time to call one company out (they did the song for the end of Firewatch, and of course copyright claimed the song despite it being both transformative and there being no claim made on the song at all. It was a credit roll - I even pointed out the name of the song writer and whatnot during it because it was a pretty neat song.) When they saw it on twitter, they got in contact with me, we sorted it out, life was good.

BUT the issue is that I had to resort to calling someone out over social media in order to get any interaction of any kind.

The current set-up on youtube has it so that they can sit on a video for 30 days before they have to deal with the youtubers counter-claims. During that time they get all the money that is made on that video - even if that video is not actually monetised by the youtuber, the claimers monetise it so that they can make a fast grab for cash. It's fucking ridiculous. Oh, and then at the end of those 30 days they can just deny your counter claim, buying themselves either another 30 days before deciding to either deny the claim again (giving you a strike) or release it. Of course, the content creator has options... let the claimant take all the revenue they would have made on their video forever or take the video down or remove the song/whatever completely. Youtube has an auto-song-remover that just removes all sound from that section of the video. Fun.

It's completely bullshit.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
author=Liberty
It's completely bullshit.

It... Really isn't. I'd advise you take a step back for a moment, here, because you seem to be taking this a bit too personally?

Anyway, as an LPer, you need to bare in mind that the content you are displaying, fundamentally, is not yours. Because of that, companies can do whatever they want with their content. This is why just about any entitlement shouldn't really exist with LP'ers, because they are essentially making unsolicited streams of someone else's content.

author=Liberty
Honestly, as an LPer, if I've bought a game that uses music in it, as long as I'm not giving away that music for free then I have no problem with them not making money on my damn video because ffs I BOUGHT the game. I BOUGHT the experience of that music and being able to play the goddamn thing. I BOUGHT it so why should my sharing of it be limited and monetised by the owner in any way?

I'm not claiming to own what is in the game. I'm not sharing the files for free - hell I link to the game so people who like it can fucking buy it and I almost always recommend buying a game when I play it because most of the time I play good games.

That's great, honestly, but whether or not you bought the content yourself isn't the issue. The issue comes from the thousands of people who use LPs as a gateway for getting what they want for free, and it hurts developers in the end because people won't buy it.

Hell, outside of video game development, do you want to know why Sony Picture's recent take on "Annie" failed at the box office? Because the Sony cyber attack leaked the entire movie onto the internet for everyone to see free of charge, thus next to no one saw it in theatres.

Like, this kind of thing isn't about corporate greed or power abuse, it's about actually seeing a payoff for work that you intend to distribute commercially, and due to the lingering sense of entitlement that plagues gaming culture, it makes it hard for those trying to earn a living to actually profit form their work.
Except it is.


I'll paste this here since I did the usual "Add more to post oh dear people have posted welp" thing.


As for linear games? People will buy them if they like them, even if they saw how it ends. How many people on this site still played Dreaming Mary despite seeing LPs of it. Fuck that, how many people downloaded fucking Pom even after seeing a full LP of it?

The guy could just ask that people not LP the game at all (like an asshole) but frankly, his game is probably only getting as much attention as it has because of the free fucking advertising that LPers gave it. Otherwise it would have been a 10 second job.

I mean, look at all the other indie games out there that got a huge boost from people LPing. Gone Home got an enourmous boost - enough so that it became GOTY! It was practically unknown before it hit youtube.

And hello Stardew Valley which has blown up so much it's not funny.


The only way I heard about That Dragon, Cancer is through youtube. The only thing that made me even want to check it out was what an LPer had to say about it. Quite frankly, his attitude is pathetic. You should never sneeze at free fucking advertising and the word of mouth that comes from it.



On a personal note that I have seen actually shared around a LOT on youtube - watching an LP makes me more likely to buy a game even if it is a linear one... if I liked what I saw, of course. It's the only reason I bought Fallout 3 and Skyrim. It's the only reason I bought Blues and Bullets.
Here's a list of all the games I bought ONLY due to having seen an LP of them:

7 Days to Die
Child of Light
Don't Starve
Skyrim
Fallout 3
FFIV: After Years
Flame in the Flood
HuniePop
Legend of Grimrock
The Long Dark
Long Live the Queen
Oxenfree
Paper Sorcerer
Secrets of Grindeo
This War of Mine
Witcher 3
The Yawhg
Blues and Bullets
3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures Deluxe
60 Seconds!
The Banner Saga
Bastion
Black Closet
Blackwell Series (5 games)
Chantelise
Craft the World
Dead Light
Desktop Dungeons
Detective Grimoire
Duck Game
Evoland 2
Fallout New Vegas
Firewatch
Garry's Mod
Goat Simulator
Gods Will be Watching
Guild of Dungeoneering
Half Minute Hero (1 and 2)
Hand of Fate
Hero of the Kingdom (1 and 2)
How to Survive
Jackbox Party Pack
Knights of Pen and Paper
Legend of Heroes: Trails Across the Sky
Monster Loves You
Murdered: Soul Suspect
Never Alone
Nimble Quest
One Way Heroics
Ori and the Blind Forest
Papers, Please
Pixel Piracy
Rust
Scribblenauts
The Ship
Spacebase DF-9
Starbound
Stardew Valley
Starwhal
Stonehearth
Sunless Sea
Terraria
To the Moon
Two Brothers
Ys Origins
Zafehouse: Diaries


...oh and minecraft


A LOT of those are linear games. A lot of them are indie games too, small ones at that. If it's a good game people will buy it whether it's linear or not. Having seen it before doesn't have much to do with whether people will buy a game or not.


If it impacted his sales in any way, it was positively - by letting people know his game existed.
It seems to be pretty situational from game to game. Getting covered by a big-name LPer will certainly get you a boost. But just how much of a "conversion rate" you get of people watching the LP to downloading/buying the game is a pretty big grey area.

LPs and Streams themselves are also a pretty big grey area, since they are technically derivative works. That is, a work based off of another person's work. Which I can understand why people would take issue with someone monetizing them. And oftentimes, the ability to do so is non-consensual.

I've personally never had a problem with people covering my games. I love the exposure, and it means there could be better opportunities for my future projects as well.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
Just because something is well-received or popular doesn't mean it's actually making a profit. Considering the average Steam game tends to sell only around 32,000 copies and the the top games are generally skewed towards F2P games (but hey at least Stardew Valley is trending), to say any game is doing well because they're advertised on youtube is pretty subjective.
How can they not have "seen a single dollar from sales" if there were approximately 14,000 "owners" of the game by the time that article was written? I guess I just don't know how exactly to interpret SteamSpy.

Either way, the Steam page says it's only about 2 hours long, so, Let's Plays or not, these guys would probably just get shafted by Steam's refund policy anyways.
Sounds more like a problem with the system he was using to sell the game, not LPers. Very "I thought getting x people to buy would have me rolling in the dough but it doesn't because I overestimated how much I'd be making must be let's players faults!!!"
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
author=turkeyDawg
How can they not have "seen a single dollar from sales" if there were approximately 14,000 "owners" of the game by the time that article was written? I guess I just don't know how exactly to interpret SteamSpy.

Either way, the Steam page says it's only about 2 hours long, so, Let's Plays or not, these guys would probably just get shafted by Steam's refund policy anyways.

I probably should have looked harder for a better chart that actually displays sales statistics, but it's highly possible the dude is exaggerating, but still making a point in that the game currently isn't selling well, despite it's accolades.

As Metool stated, the information as to who is actually buying a commercial game vs. who is simply watching/pirating the game is ambiguous. Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised if the makers of "Stardew Valley" wind up broke despite the critical acclaim due to the numerous factors that come into play for profitability.
Eh, Concerned Ape has already said that he's made enough money to keep him happy for quite a while off of sales of the game, so...

Well, even a lot of retail-disc games, and other media like movies and such, can be well received, but still flop commercially. The critics, bloggers, forum-goers, etc that make up the majority of net chatter and such don't really make up the bulk of sales.

For the most part my reaction to this is "vg business is a cruel world", but when it comes to the guys uploading full playthroughs of the game with no commentary or links to the website/steam page... yeah, those guys are pricks. At least, for a "game" (we should really create a seperate category for these kinds of things) like this which, from what I can tell, is basically an over-programmed "kinetic novel", so watching and playing it are practically the same thing.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
author=Liberty
Eh, Concerned Ape has already said that he's made enough money to keep him happy for quite a while off of sales of the game, so...
So I stand corrected for his case.

@turkeyDawg: That's correct. Even AAA games made in the past suffer from this. Games like Megaman Legends, Conker's Bad Fur Day and Earhbound are looked upon as classics to this date, but both games actually sold terribly at their initial release dates.
Do keep in mind that Steam takes about 1/3rd of money made and publishers will expect their own cut. Just because he got sales doesn't mean that it was automatically going to make him a lot of money, especially with it not being so well known. Again, the only reason it got any notice is due to it being LP'd - it's not on the LPer's to ensure that people don't pirate a game or to ensure that they buy it, but they often give recommendations and even bad games get sales from being seen - if only for the novelty of trying it out. He got free advertising (which wasn't actually 100% free since those LPing it very likely had to purchase it to play - not discounting that some might have pirated, but most people who LP games and are known for it, pay for the games or get given copies for the express purpose of advertising the game to the populace).


EDIT: I'll admit that people who don't actually talk or anything when playing a game annoy me. If I want to see a game I'll play it, but LPs are about bloody reactions people, so react.
I'd like to see the stats on how many viewers non-talking Let's Players (Let's Show-ers?) get vs those who talk. If I had to guess - a hell of a lot less.
Problems with various internet services and copyright-bully companies aside. Streamers often use a bunch of sleazy arguments to justify their practices, included but not limited to "It's free publicity!" and "It's fair use!". Artists should be very familiar with the "logic" behind the first one, because we're often asked to work for either free or a pittance in exchange for "exposure" or "experience". And as for "fair use", fair use is a legal defense. Do you know what that means? It means that you have to stand in court in front of a judge and admit to have broken the law, before said judge can decide IF they let you go. You don't want to go there. So cut that out.

Long story short, get permission. I'm all for fostering an environment where we can create and share things freely and all that jazz, but respecting other people's boundaries is key for everything in this life. If someone, like in the case of 'That Dragon Cancer', doesn't want their game be to streamed, that's their right. I'm sure there's still lots of people out there who would like you to stream their games and who wouldn't even mind if you monetize your videos. Do that instead. Team up with other team players.

I would even say, be "professional" about it. Think of it as a contract. Go over every detail of the agreement, make sure the games you cover do not feature anything that could land you in hot water, etc. Get everything on paper to avoid any future misunderstandings... I know it's a hassle, specially if you're just one person with no experience. But it's the best way to go about it.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
This is some dumb outragism victimism bullshit, on top of also being completely wrong. Hey, I know what'll make my game better: being mad at my fans for telling their friends about my game.

author=Liberty
I'd like to see the stats on how many viewers non-talking Let's Players (Let's Show-ers?) get vs those who talk. If I had to guess - a hell of a lot less.
In my personal experience the ones who talk are literally hundreds of millions of times as popular.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
12986
author=LockeZ
This is some dumb outragism victimism bullshit, on top of also being completely wrong. Hey, I know what'll make my game better: being mad at my fans for telling their friends about my game.

Pretty sure you are completely misinterpreting the point, and here's proof of this:
author=Ryan Green
We feel the Let’s Play culture adds value to this medium. And for games with more expansive or replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers. Even knowing that some who streamed our entire game refuse to directly encourage people to support us, we’ve still sat on the streams and talked with streamers and viewers. We’ve watched the playthrough videos and we see the value that this community is adding to our work through sharing themselves. Let’s Play culture is vibrant and creative and really cool.

The creator just plainly stated he isn't against LPs, what he is against is people redistributing their work and leeching off it without their express permission. This bit in the blog nails it home, too:
author=Ryan Green
And so yes, Let's Play person, I agree with you, it does suck to have someone else making revenue off your work.



We paid Jon to create music for our game because we understand that he needs to be paid in order to spend time creating that music. If someone else uses his music without permission, we also believe he should have the right to determine the consequence. And if there is revenue being drawn from that use, we believe he should be compensated.

He is perfectly justified, imo.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
There is nobody on the planet who is avoiding buying games because they can watch LPs of them instead. It is an imaginary problem.

The reason people invent these types of imaginary problems is because they like to be able to feel like a victim. Perhaps if you tried to be a success instead of a victim you wouldn't be losing money?
author=Liberty
As for linear games? People will buy them if they like them, even if they saw how it ends. How many people on this site still played Dreaming Mary despite seeing LPs of it. Fuck that, how many people downloaded fucking Pom even after seeing a full LP of it?


I don't have a lot of Opinions on this one, since I'm neither and LPer nor a commercial developer, but this statement did stand out to me as a bit of a false equivalence. Dreaming Mary and Pom were both free games, and the one in question is not.

Later on you go to say games like Stardew Valley have blown up, but like... that kind of game, the point is that you should play it yourself.

*big shrug* idk I guess, if this guy is gonna release a hella linear game and put a price tag on it... IDK, MAN. tbh my gut reaction is "well maybe Don't make linear games if you're going to charge for them since of course this is going to happen and of course if it's not a powerful enough experience to warrant a player playing it themself, they'll watch someone else do it for free" but I'm not sure how fair of an assessment that is. As I said: not a commercial dev.

I'd be interested in hearing from a commercial dev on this one.
Then how about Gone Home as an example I also pointed out? Blew up completely even though it's completely linear with no deviances in the story what-so-ever. It's basically just 'walk through a story'.

Or Oxenfree? Or Blues and Bullets? Or Evoland? Or Ori and the Blind Forest? Or Papers, Please? Or To the Moon?
unity
You're magical to me.
12577
I think both sides have a point, though I'm finding it hard to side with the developer here. I'm in an odd position because, while I value people experiencing my games more than any monetary reward, I'm also supporting myself with a full time job so that isn't completely an issue.

Let me first clarify that my experience with That Dragon, Cancer is limited to a review I saw of it and I haven't actually played it (or watched a full LP, :P) but what is clear is that it's a powerful game and an experience that touches people. The message is very important and that message got out there, and that's great. There are many indies who are struggling to find even a small fraction of notice (or sales) that they've achieved.

There's no way to know how much sales have been lost (or gained!) from the Let's Plays. One can blame them all they want for a lack of monetary gain. But that grey area means there's no way to know what affect they have on your product. Just because someone may be willing to invest time in to watching an LP doesn't mean they would have spent money on the product if the LP wasn't available.

All I can really say on this one is what other people have been saying: If you want people to play your game and not just watch the Let's Play, give them reasons to do so. A linear game is fine in some regards, but more actual gameplay elements that makes playing and watching two completely unique experiences would surely lead to more sales. Heck, even optional content or choices that can't all be achieved in a single playthrough or something, anything that would lead people in that direction would be nice.

Games have limitless potential. Get creative and use some of that. You can have the best message in the world but if you're not using gameplay to its full potential then people won't want to play.

Making commercial games is a risky process. I have all of one game commercially available and the effort almost wasn't worth the (very small) monetary payoff. It's a rough, messy, cutthroat marketplace. But if you want sales, you have to plan ahead and build the game accordingly. It's the sad truth of the matter, and I don't think limiting LPs is going to help in any way, shape or form.