I am somewhat of a social person. Even though I greatly appreciate isolation, partnered with a cozy blanket and a video game on a cold winter day, I still yearn for some sort of communication with the outside world. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it is that people are typically watching out for themselves. Sure, you have a lot of people who will bend over backwards for you, but that is long after a relationship has been established. Take note, I am not expressing a mere opinion, but a universal truth. The same truth that Alex Hutchinson, a Stadia creative director clearly holds dear.
No matter what we do, or how we do it, we are always wondering how we manage to communicate with people on a regular basis. There is an art to conversation, one that most people on Twitter seem to deliberately circumvent on a daily basis. There is a way to approach a scenario and display your own views without seeming like a dubious miscreant, asshole, or the trendy edgelord that has done nothing to break out of the immature mold despite being in their thirties. Luckily for me, several years ago I came across a book that changed my entire perspective on communication. Titled: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by the late Dale Carnegie is nefariously titled, yet doesn’t hold any bit of malice within it’s pages. Instead it takes the discourse of socializing and provides ways to understand each other. It has been vital in my professional and personal life, and someone should give a copy to Alex Hutchinson, unless it is already sitting on his shelf, as ignored as the Stadia.
I’m not here to poke fun at the man, albeit it’s a bit too easy. We already dragged him through the dirt for his past mistake claiming it costs too much to make female assassins in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Seeing how we have traveled down that road once before, and despite not wanting to revisit that long forgotten path, I like to point on the map and remind people why we don’t use the darkened road anymore. The fact is, this man is rife with bad ideas and hot takes that could replace the sun in case it ever burned out.
This time he spoke out about his belief that streamers and influencers should pay licensing fees to play and stream games on sites like Twitch and Youtube. He equates this to the rules that govern creators, using ideals that fuel DCMA takedowns to prevent music or other media from being played without proper permission. After all, we need to really think of the corporations here. They apparently have feelings too.
Here is where I pull out a concept that has always stuck with me from Carnegie’s book, and that idea is that there is always a compromise or middle-ground. See, nothing is ever and should never be one-sided. There is a way to obtain goals and maintain happiness from both parties, it sometimes involves giving up something, perhaps a little piece of the bigger picture. A minor sacrifice is sometimes a necessity, and we need to be happier with what we have instead of what is missing.
In most cases, the goal for every company is to make as much money as possible. When applied, if they start to pull licensing and prevent others from playing their games, well they better have the popularity of Nintendo behind them. Anything short of that would be a juicy steak for the headline hounds. While I am at it, Nintendo was smart enough to disband their atrocious idea, learning that they cannot be the arbiter of game streamers and content creators.
There is a relationship between content creators (journalists included here), and companies that wish to bring attention to their product while also saving money. By giving popular creators a free game, they produce the ultimate quid-pro-quo, and alleviate themselves of several issues. When you have more people streaming and watching your game, then it provides a sense of equity in your platform. Without anyone streaming your game or giving it any attention, it is dead in the water. It is already a proven fact that people tend to buy items when someone else can give a positive recommendation, and when no one is there to give that notion, what do you do?
I can see larger publishers already pondering the risk and reward for forcing people to pay a licensing fee. Take-Two has inserted gambling and forced ads in the NBA 2k series, only to roll back the advertisements and “apologize.” The truth of the matter is, they knew what they were doing. If you are a writer, you should understand how to set a tone; and if you are a developer then you should know how to not make a fanbase angry. At the very least, you should understand that line of respect for the dedicated fans that buy your game year after year. Alas, here we are, buying games from companies that clearly have no respect for the players and instead use the streamers and influencers to assert dominance over that part of your brain that decides how badly you need something. If Take-Two were to ever create a licensing fee for their games, you can bet that anyone openly shilling for them wouldn’t have to pay it.
I doubt the industry as a whole would require fans to pay for licensing fees, but in a really obnoxious way I can see it packaged behind a more ridiculous idea. It will never be called a “licensing fee” up front. As we have learned that EA, lootboxes are called “surprise mechanics!” In the same vein, Activision could attempt to market the “Streamer Bundle” for Call of Duty that provides you with some sick new weapon skins, with fine print stating how it doesn’t get you a DCMA takedown when you try to stream it. I am aware that I can easily be seen as the devil for just airing this concept out, and for that I apologize with the same vigor as any other ounce of regret Take-Two doles out.
I don’t see this happening on a grand scale though. There are plenty of developers and publishers that believe in the essence of gaming and the freedom of having others explore their title. In all honesty, I would have never picked up Hades (my current GOTY choice) if it wasn’t for content creators. Among Us would have never been purchased from me, and I wouldn’t be this hyped up for Godfall if it wasn’t for the awesome YouTuber, Arekkz. The fact that people cover games in a way that other, more traditional news sites cannot, is important. Does it seem scary to developers and publishers who may have titles that may not sell well because of problems behind the veil? Absolutely, and if anything, they should be worried and scared if they are making a bad game. Releasing a janky, glitch filled mess should never be met with applause. As I said before, these people should know, as it is their job to know. Trying to make up for it after the launch doesn’t help build trust back up either. That takes literal years, as Bungie can attest to.
Streamers and content creators are some of the most important people in this industry outside the development studios. These are people who are willing to make games into something bigger than the game itself, and most of the time it is done for free. These dedicated fans make communities that huddle around titles and create bonds with other people. They breathe literal life into games that may otherwise never get the chance to really see a huge level of success. Streamers helped build Fall Guys and Among Us into titles so widely recognized now, even my cousins who wanted nothing to do with video games are actually playing them now. Yes, I am tired of walking around family parties, being told I look “sus.”