Game Licensing for Streamers?!

by Brandon Pham
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Game developers are biting the dust again…

It was months ago where Alex Hutchinson, a Senior Creative Director at Google Stadia, sent out a tweet in response to Twitch’s DMCA takedown of all music used in streamer’s video. The Twitch team, overnight, deleted countless amounts of content without warning after thousands of requests from music labels. While most were shocked, Alex had another angle that proved to be polarizing as to why game developer’s content isn’t the main point of conversation when this happened. Reminding people how the whole business of Twitch relies on games being streamed without needing game developer’s permission.

Even though the question about this feels legitimate to some, others felt differently.

The public’s reaction to all this was to immediately pick sides, however, I feel this is a conversation that deserves more exploration and attention. As a game developer, it was surprising to see how taboo this was to even consider the stance of game licensing for streamers. One can be labeled as being greedy, when data shows that most indie games fail as well as commercial ones. Licensing is a common practice for every medium in the entertainment business as well as any other brands for all industries, but for the game industry, through public opinion, this is ‘unacceptable.’

To be fair, at the beginning and not so long ago, streaming exploded in popularity and the business of streaming was an organic process. Now streamers are treated like rockstars and have endorsement deals, appearing on late night television shows and are bonified brands. While it’s easy for developers to be shoved to the sidelines and be accused of ‘pocket-watching,’ when others are benefitting from their content. I have to remind all readers that no other content-creator in any other industries would be treated this way. Licensing is to help original creators to finance their work, and it can be a strength for developers to use for marketing, increasing brand awareness, and at the very least be a source of income to an already volatile industry.

Streaming is a subculture that is here to stay, and would have been different if it remained to be a symbiotic relationship between streamers and game developers. But the business have changed with third parties like Amazon, Facebook, and Google entering into this space and leaving developers out of the negotiating room by talking only to streamers. If music is being treated as a serious offense for  playing a three to five minute sound track, why is it okay to stream eight hours of gameplay without repercussions?

Leaving the rights to stream to a content-creator, will allow the creator to have a say to how this business could work better for everyone. As these big tech companies are snatching their exclusive streamer, so too they should be approaching game developers for a timed-exclusive to stream their content. Just like, how any streaming companies, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, on a quarterly-basis are searching and sealing deals for popular content to consumers to consume. As a whole, game developers shouldn’t be bypassed from these lucrative deals and it is only happening because we aren’t raising any alarms about it. Game developers have gotten comfortable sitting in the backseat of our own creation, while watching others benefit from our work. This needs to change, and it starts with inviting developers to the negotiating table. What are your thoughts? Let me know where you side in the comment section below.

Topics discussed in this episode:

0:00 About the main topic
1:23 Twitch Streamers DMCA takedown for music
3:15 Alex Hutchinson sets off the alarm about game developers content rights
4:25 Ray’s intial reaction to the news
6:17 Brandon’s initial reaction to the news
9:15 Developers are designing games to make it streamable
11:00 Why is this taboo to support game developer’s choice
17:51 Taking back control for game developers
25:15 Esports versus Streamers
28:40 How would the monetization work if game developers retain owner’s rights
31:07 the hypocrisy of twitch doing DMCA takedown for music but ignores game’s rights
39:45 The important role of exclusivity
45:45 The argument for smaller streamers, doesn’t matter
53:37 Genre’s that streamers are killing
1:00:43 Why Netflixing streaming would be beneficial
1:05:00 The indie game problem and why streaming takes part

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

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