The developers of the cult hit That Dragon, Cancer have been the source of another internet rumbling this week after they released a statement, found here (which I recommend you read before continuing with this article so that you understand what I'm here saying for context n’ that) explaining that they've been receiving tweets from Let’s players on YouTube in regards to copyright strikes levelled against their videos.
The studio, Numinous games, is a small 8 man outfit which released That Dragon, Cancer on January 12th 2016. The game is an emotional autobiographical point and click type based on the real life experience of creators Ryan and Amy Green as they raised their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at a year old (link to their website here). As you can imagine this game touches on very serious issues and has drawn a lot of attention from the online community and as a result many popular YouTubers picked this game up and played it on their channels, Jacksepticeye and RabidRetrospectGames being a few that I’ve seen. All seemed to be going well until some let’s players noticed that their videos on the game were being hit with copyright strikes meaning that the revenue form their videos was being diverted to a third party (in this case Numinous games and the composer of the music in That Dragon, Cancer, Jon Hillman) and when questioned about this move on Twitter, Numinous games released the statement mentioned above.
In the post they state that “our studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales.” And that the decision to allow copyright strikes to be imposed on videos was because “We paid Jon to create music for our game because we understand that he needs to be paid in order to spend time creating that music. If someone else uses his music without permission, we also believe he should have the right to determine the consequence. And if there is revenue being drawn from that use, we believe he should be compensated.”
It should be noted that the developers seem to empathise with the Let’s Play community “And so yes, Let's Play person, I agree with you, it does suck to have someone else making revenue off your work.” However as an objective consumer it is also understandable that they’d like the game that they poured their hearts into to do well and would do whatever it took to maximise sales and pay all involved parties.
The issue in general creates an interesting discussion. Do Let’s Plays and full streams of games have an effect on sales? Is it harmful to developers or is it one of their greatest advertising assets? The answer is yes to all but in some cases (such as this) it would appear that the exposure online has either not at all affected the sales of this game or negatively impacted sales as, of this moment, That Dragon, Cancer has only sold 14,000 copies on steam (figures courtesy of Steam Spy). As someone who occasionally delves into YouTube content creation himself from time to time it is sad to imagine that the hobby we love is negatively affecting others but it is important to acknowledge a clear issue outlined by YouTuber TotalBiscuit in his recent video on this matter. Many content creators fail to link the developers’ website in their descriptions and many more fail to even mention where the game is available which is potentially dampening interest in this game and discouraging viewers from even checking it out for themselves.
Time will tell in regards to the impact this will have on the YouTube community as well as Numinous Games. Regardless of the current issues and tribulations facing them and the surrounding dialogue this is creating I can only wish the staff at Numinous well as they continue to support their creation. There is no denying That Dragon, Cancer is all at once a heart-breaking, emotional and beautiful monument to a child whose time was cut tragically short and I hope THAT is the real message we can all take away from this in the end.
Do you think that the developer is right to be taking the revenue from YouTubers? Or does this content fall under fair use? Let us know in the comments below or by our Facebook or Twitter page and check back with Alt:Mag for any major developments. Also don't forget to check out the game here!