The Game Industry

Streaming Persona 5 is a privilege, not a right

The hotly-anticipated Persona 5 launched this week! Along with launch news, publisher Atlus shared some unusually stringent streaming and “let’s play” rules. Streamers can’t show certain plot-heavy scenes, they can only put 90 minutes of the game on YouTube, and they can’t currently show anything from the latter part of the game. These rules extend to everyone, from Polygon to a Twitch channel with 6 followers.

There are some cogent reasons why this decision has thrown Atlus some bad press. These rules weren’t communicated particularly well, and the company says they’ll take pretty extreme measures — perhaps too extreme — against anyone who is caught breaking them. But man, there is also a whole lot of whining and stomping of feet from the general streaming community. There are threats to boycott future Atlus games, and vague promises that this decision will cause poor sales of P5.

There’s this idea in the streaming and LP community, from both creators and viewers, that these mediums help the sales of games. Period. End of story. And while that is certainly the case in some circumstances, for example if your wee indie title gets extra notice, or if you have the opportunity to play a multi-player game with a big streamer, or if you’re aiming to become a speed-running title, I don’t think it’s necessarily the default.

In fact, here’s some anec-data: I have watched hundreds of hours of LPs on YouTube at this point, and never, ever, even once, has it prompted me to go out and buy a game. Not ever. Why would I — I’ve seen the game and I know what happens. (Once after watching a few classic Binding of Isaac videos by NorthernLion I was encouraged to try the game for myself, but I already owned it as part of a bundle.) Although I’m not a regular viewer of Twitch streams, I can only imagine that the odds are even worse: people watch streams for the streamers and interacting with them and the community, as I understand it, and not as much for the actual game itself.

I’m not saying that all streams and LPs should be stopped or banned or whatever, and I do actually believe that there is some transitive property imbued on this form of content that makes it something more than just the game. But let’s face it — you don’t need more than 1.5 hours of game footage to make a buying decision, particularly for a title that is part of a known franchise with a lot of buzz in RPG circles. If you watch 75 hours of Persona 5, including major plot twists, you’re almost certainly not also planning on running out and picking up the game that weekend. It’s reasonable for a producer to want to protect their sales.

I can kind of understand being irritated with Atlus over this decision with Persona 5, I guess, but declaring that they NEED Twitch streams to successfully sell games is ludicrous. The fact is, professional streamers and LPers are dependent on the good will of game publishers for their careers, and this is the kind of problem you can encounter when your revenue stream is entirely built on the backs of content from other companies. The whining is gauche. Put up your 90 minutes of Persona 5 video, and then go stream Overwatch like everyone else.

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