The McMaster Files

The Spoiler Game

A repository for games and ennui.

———

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #90. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

———

Most people hate spoilers. I have a friend who doesn’t and he is reviled by my other friends for that reason. He’ll just be talking and drop a giant spoiler. He did this to me with Game of Thrones, the books. He spoiled something I was a full two books away from reading. He is the exception to the rule, though. Most people enjoy experiencing things as a surprise and, most of the time, it’s not hard to avoid spoilers. That’s what makes the Atlus stance on Persona 5 streaming so very confusing.

If you missed it, with the release of Persona 5 outside of the Japan, Atlus has requested players not stream the game. I say requested, but it was more of a threat. They disabled the streaming features on the PS4, but you can still stream it via remote play on the PC. If you do, Atlus has alluded to the fact they will be happy to use copyright strikes or channel take-downs to deter would-be streamers.

Why, you may ask? Spoilers! Apparently, Atlus is so worried about spoilers that they’ve gone to extreme lengths to make sure none escape. While this may sound like a company caring about its fans, it’s an outrageous decision and course of action. The full post is available here, but the I’d like to focus on one part of their statement:

This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it. Sharing is currently blocked through the native PS4 UI. However, if you do plan on streaming, video guidelines above apply except length. If you decide to stream past 7/7 (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NOT DOING THIS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED), you do so at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension.”

First and foremost, think about the fact that this game is out. It’s not coming out in a few months, or being released soon. In fact, it has been out in Japan for some time. I’m not referring to press copies. For those who have dealt with gaming PR, this isn’t that outside of the norm – you receive game code with a sheet of paper or booklet that lets you know what the company wants and doesn’t want displayed. Not wanting anyone to stream your game, including the fans and end users? That’s a new one on me.

Sports scores, or what happened on Game of Thrones, spoil easily because of the sheer volume of people talking about them.  How hard is it really to avoid spoilers in a videogame? With the exception of the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you actively have to seek out a stream, video or message board and watch or read through long enough to discover the spoiler. It is unlikely that your boss or your grandma is familiar with the inner-workings of the high school turmoil presented in Persona 5.

While the two earlier points I make on the subject are irritating to me, this is what really drives it home – Atlus is threatening their fanbase with YouTube account suspensions and content strikes. In the United States and much of the Western World, Atlus isn’t as big a deal as it is in Japan. Most people would know them as the publishers who put out quirky games like Catherine or Demon’s Souls. A threatening request from a somewhat fringe publisher isn’t going to be received well by the game purchasing market. At what point is it a good idea to threaten people that love you?

How did they get to this point? I could be wrong, but it appears to me that Atlus has missed the shift in gaming culture. When I started writing about games, you could support yourself with your work. Then the giant companies came in and found enthusiasts who would write about a game just to get it early. Now those companies must leverage their video departments against a handful of popular end users that stream all day to giant audiences.

Who knows what it will be in a few years, but at this point, the streamer is the hot commodity in videogames. That is a fact that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Now, if you want your game to sell, you have to send it to Angry Joe, TotalBiscuit or some other combination of adjective and noun.

Atlus is a smart company and I’m sure the response to their mandate will change the way they handle future titles. I doubt they want to get passed by, but if they do, they can always come stay with me. We’ll go bowling.

———

Jason McMaster is a writer and editor with a lifelong passion for games. When he isn’t working on Unwinnable, he’s either on his PC or playing a board game. Follow him on Twitter @mcmaster

Subscribe
Categories
Ad Free, Commentary, Games, The McMaster Files
Social