Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fish, Piracy and Streaming - By Eli English

     Philippe Poisson, better known as Phil Fish, was a video game designer best known for his work on the platform game "Fez." I have yet to play Fez, but it has tons of great reviews and is considered by many to be becoming (or already is, for some) a cult classic. In 2013, Phil made a very public exit out of game development, after an online argument, with a post from the Polytron (his company) twitter feed and his own Twitter account.  "Fez 2 is cancelled. I am done. I take the money and I run. This is as much as I can stomach. This isn't the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. You win." (Source)

     On June 18th, 2014, Phil made multiple posts on his Twitter account about Lets Plays of Fez. These posts indicated that YouTube users or video game broadcasters who made money off of Fez (he never directly stated broadcasters, but I'm assuming he meant them too) owe him cash and that a system in which ad revenue, which is normally split between YouTube and the user who displays the ad, should be shared with the developers and that "anything else is basically piracy." Phil continued with more posts on his Twitter account. "If you buy a movie, are you then allowed to stream the entirety of it publicly for people to watch for free? No, because that's illegal. Systems are in place to prevent that. But buy Fez, put ALL of it on YouTube, turn on ads, make money from it and that's TOTALLY FINE. And the developer should in NO WAY be compensated for their work being freely distributed to the world. Right. Makes sense." (Source) After these posts on his Twitter feed, Fish finished his rant with a "Nevermind." and made his account private so only followers he allowed could view his posts.

     Now, let's count down some of the reasons why putting in a system like he suggested is a terrible idea.

Can a picture be catchy? -Ed
1) -- Fair use

     Fair use is always a tricky subject. Streaming or recording a game is almost always okay and it's free marketing. It allows someone to get a chance to see your game before they lay down the asking price. Reviewers are also almost always allowed to post their honest thoughts on your game. When you tell these reviewers that they have to choose between giving you money or possibly being sentenced with piracy charges, chances are pretty good they won't take that lightly. Other YouTubers will proceed to rip you apart for making claims like that.

Phill Fish wants to kick you down the $tairs -Ed
2) -- Where's it going?

     Lets say that Phil's idea goes through and people who do Lets Plays or streams of games must pay the creators (in this case, all of the money would be going directly to Phil). Chances are pretty good that if this happens, other big developers will also push for the same thing. Then we have to ask ourselves where that money is going. In the case of an indie studio, the studio usually doesn't have a huge team so the money would probably be split in a way where everyone gets a bit of the ad revenue. But, in the case of a big studio (EA, Ubisoft, or Activision for examples), where will the ad revenue from YouTube users and video game casters be going? Lets face it. It's not uncommon for developers to get shafted in their paychecks. Between Crytek UK developers not getting paid on time and multiple cases where developers are kicked off of projects right before or right after the games are finished, so I'm gonna stay a little skeptical that every penny will be going back to the developers (or the sound designers, marketing, PR, managers, artists, testers, publishers and so on).

3) -- Legal suits

     Again, lets assume that Phil has his way and people who want to stream or record themselves playing games requires you, the broadcaster, to hand over some of your hard earned cash. Lets say you refuse to. Great, now you risk being made an example of. Piracy claims are a big deal if you ever get caught -- it could be anything as mild as a Cease and Desist letter to being sent off to jail for a couple of years with some pretty massive fines. And since you're putting videos on YouTube or streaming, they can find you and most companies will nickle and dime you for anything. Now, to be fair, I don't think most major gaming companies will adopt this. It's a bad PR move, it risks losing free advertising and it will slowly kill off jobs for the YouTubers or Twitch users who focus on Twitch or YouTube to put a roof over their heads and to put food on the table.
This could get you sued -Ed

4) -- Loss of features

     Xbox One, PS4 and a huge amount of games provide the ability to stream freely and it seems like it's just a matter of time before more games catch up to this. Now, games that allow streaming will be okay as the developers have already given you a green light to stream it as much as you want. So they more than likely won't jump on Phil's ideas, but the Xbox One and Playstation 4 would suffer if other companies (sadly) decided to jump on this bandwagon. Games would need to be updated to either feature some sort of code that turns off the on-console streaming services or Microsoft and Sony would have to remove the features off the console. Either way, money is being wasted, jobs are being lost and free marketing is being killed off.

Gamers ANGRY! -Ed

5) -- Boycotts

     If this has a chance of ever happening, companies will be boycotted. I don't know if this will be successful, but as soon as YouTubers and Twitch players have a risk of losing a large amount of their income or losing their jobs, there will be a storm of fans who will defend their commentators. Twitch, YouTube, uStream, all these sites have BIG fan followings. The second you threaten (as Phil did) to remove those fans from the people they follow, hell will come. We've seen boycotts before. Some of them caught on and got a lot of attention, others failed horribly. But if big YouTubers, broadcasters and fan groups got together, it would get attention and companies would think twice before stabbing their fans in the back.

     Overall, game companies need streamers. Modern day marketing alone isn't gonna cut it anymore for most companies. If it wasn't for YouTubers, Amnesia, Outlast and free to play games such as Smite or League of Legends would have a significantly smaller fan following and people would be jobless, as I've stated above. So, with that in mind, I wonder if Phil still wants broadcasters and YouTubers to lose a large cut of their income or if the vocal outcry he got made this idea drift away.

     Do you think Phil had a good idea? Are you worried companies may decide to give his idea a try? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think!

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