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After a three day event to show off new games for Stadia, along with three special demos now live you would think Google was having a good time. Unfortunately, one developer derailed it all.

For a quick recap of the Stadia event you can see day 1 here with a PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle demo, day 2 here with the HUMANKIND demo and as for day 3: you can now play a free demo of the upcoming Immortals Fenyx Rising free, a new exclusive 'First on Stadia' title Young Souls was announced and the strategy game Phoenix Point is coming to Stadia in 2021. Additionally, Stadia's invite system is expanding so that if you do invite a friend to Stadia, that friend will get two months of Stadia Pro free and if continued after the free months you then get a month free too. See the Stadia community post for all the info on that.

So that all sounds pretty reasonable, some nice games coming to Google's Linux-powered streaming service Stadia. Where did it go wrong then? Well, Google are currently enjoying a serious round of bad press and Stadia ended up trending all across Twitter, and not for positive reasons.

The problem was Alex Hutchinson, who according to their Twitter bio was the "Creative Director for Google Stadia" that tweeted out these thoughts:

Streamers worried about getting their content pulled because they used music they didn't pay for should be more worried by the fact that they're streaming games they didn't pay for as well. It's all gone as soon as publishers decide to enforce it.

As a bit of context here, Twitch has caused a lot of issues lately due to DMCA take-downs due to copyrighted music. You can see an overview on The Verge.

Hutchinson followed that tweet with:

The real truth is the streamers should be paying the developers and publishers of the games they stream. They should be buying a license like any real business and paying for the content they use. 

Hutchinson doubled down on these thoughts in another follow up tweet:

Amazing to me that people are upset at someone saying that the creators of content should be allowed to make some of the money from other people using their content for profit.

Not exactly a good look, coming from a person who works for a currently not exactly popular service streaming games. Even worse to post these up with a Twitter bio written like it was, doing more damage than intended to Stadia. However, Hutchinson is not the Creative Director of Stadia as their profile originally said. They actually worked for Typhoon Studios, which Google acquired and then became part of Stadia Games and Entertainment. So Hutchinson works for a smaller game studio that Google happens to now own to make games for Stadia. Hutchinson has since changed their Twitter bio to reflect that more clearly.

The problem though, is that Hutchinson's comments have been widely ridiculed and it caused Stadia to enjoy thousands of angry gamers, developers and publishers all calling out the comments. The original Twitter post has been quote-tweeted (where people quote it and make a direct comment above it) over four thousand times.

It's an easy argument to deconstruct for how ridiculous it is too. Showing off a game is nothing like playing music, or a movie. It's not static content, it's transformed by the person playing it and it's free advertising for the developer and publisher. You need only look at some of the most popular PC games around to see how livestreaming has caused massive surges in people buying those games like Among Us (source):

Care to guess when livestreamers picked it up? As another very quick example, here's what happened to Freehold Games with their roguelike Caves of Qud when a single video was done on it, to be clear this is their "whole sales history" (source):

There's plenty of other examples of this but you get the idea. There's a reason why so many developers have blanket statements up approving the use of their games in videos. Most understand it's important, and plenty directly pay streamers to take a look at their game. When talking about huge games from big publishers, most developers involved likely never see a penny from the games doing well anyway - only the people at the top do, which makes it even more ridiculous to want to see more money from people showing it off.

What Hutchinson said doesn't even match up with how Google are working with Stadia either. Google are building in streaming features to Stadia, gave out early access to livestreamers to show off Stadia and more. Google aren't dumb and they've distanced themselves very clearly from Hutchinson in a statement to 9to5Google:

The recent tweets by Alex Hutchinson, creative director at the Montreal Studio of Stadia Games and Entertainment, do not reflect those of Stadia, YouTube or Google.

As someone who personally purchased the Stadia Founders Edition, I have been watching in horror.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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50 comments
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einherjar 23 Oct
And there the typical Internet Drama of these days is seen again (Twitter "outrage" etc.)

Calm down, he has an opinion and it is different from what the most people think about that topic. So what?
Wait, what? That Phoenix Point that dropped Linux because it "requires a large amount of specialised graphics programming" is now coming to Stadia? I'm guessing they still won't release for Linux. This makes me even more salty!
Kithop 23 Oct
Considering how many games have lengthy cutscenes (i.e. movies), I'm tempted to say that in some ways, this guy's not wrong. For certain games, the 'stream' is basically just the streamer watching and commenting on these lengthy cutscenes. Probably stuff like the interactive storybook stuff Telltale was known for, or extremely linear RPGs where the main gameplay is a ton of repetitive grinding.

Some games, when streamed, are closer to an MST3K deal. Others are not - this argument doesn't hold for sports games, racing, most FPSes, party games, etc. Sports games are interesting, too, with the whole licensing of actual, real players and teams. Music is, of course, a whole other thing on top.

All that said, the technical / legal arguments and the actual realities of streamers helping boost a game's popularity collide in a way that really just needs clarity. Devs now have to account for streamers playing their games, and publishers need to make it clear what is, and isn't OK with the content they're licensing to you, because in many cases *their* hands are tied on e.g. music and likenesses. Bonus points for those who put in a 'streamer mode' toggle that does things like mute or swap out said music or content.

Then you have companies like Nintendo who can be quite aggressive in taking down content that isn't transformative.

As long as the rules are clear before you purchase a game with the intent of streaming it, or the game at least offers a streamer-friendly mode, that should be fine. But by the same token, some games that rely heavily on, say, licensed music (think Rock Band/Guitar Hero/etc)... as a musician I can totally see the argument that y'know, you're not really any different than Spotify or another music streaming service, even if there's a game going on over top, and legally you're likely responsible to ASCAP/BMI/SOCAN/etc. to pay the artist their (tiny, fraction of a penny, sadly) cut.

That said, I could see bigger streamers and services wanting to move to that kind of model around music - paying the artist guilds the appropriate licensing fee that e.g. a bar or whatever pays to have music, and then they're covered to stream whatever copyright music they want because they're paying the monthly/annual license.

Not everything a game dev or publisher puts out is 100% their own IP and content. Going after streamers for extra money is counter productive. But legally, someone likely has to get paid for streaming use of that content, if it can't be avoided.
melkemind 23 Oct
The DMCA is a gross abuse of copyright. It always has been, and that includes the music industry's greedy exploitation of it. Copyright was never meant to be used this way. I say this as a librarian who remembers all the harm it did when it was first passed.
scaine 23 Oct
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Quoting: melkemindThe DMCA is a gross abuse of copyright. It always has been, and that includes the music industry's greedy exploitation of it. Copyright was never meant to be used this way. I say this as a librarian who remembers all the harm it did when it was first passed.

I think so too, but there needs to be some kind of mechanism for reporting abuse of copyright. I just don't know what a better solution looks like.
scaine 23 Oct
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Quoting: einherjarAnd there the typical Internet Drama of these days is seen again (Twitter "outrage" etc.)

Calm down, he has an opinion and it is different from what the most people think about that topic. So what?

Before the internet and Twitter and its peers, most people fumed ineffectively in private at publicly voiced, but terrible, sometimes even abusive opinions. Even large social circles opposing that public voice rarely got media attention. What you're seeing here, in these modern times is simply a reflection of the voice of the masses.

Finally! We don't need that big media attention to oppose an uninformed, or abusive take.

So I don't get your "calm down". Is your "calm down" simply that you don't care about those opinions? Fine. Ignore them. You cared enough to comment here though - ironically feeding into the discussion you appear to despise.
wvstolzing 23 Oct
Quoting: ajgpThe way he was tweeting was from as if it was a giant grey area that hadnt been addressed, yet as I Tweeted to him companies have already granted streamers the permission to do this without any license.

That's what I've been thinking as well. This 'debate' has already been settled a couple of years ago.
Vax 23 Oct
Haha get rekt, Hutchinson!
minfaer 23 Oct
While the streamer's input is certainly a substantial part of the stream, I would still say that it is a derivative work (in a layman sense, not sure if that is a legally applicable term here). So the points Hutchinson raises are not completely amiss.
But in the end, it is in the interest of the publishers to grant the license to streamers as the article points out.

Btw, the article confuses me. It sounds like Hutchinson tweeted this by himself, but then keeps using 'they' as if it was his studio's (or some groups) stance. Which is it?
Liam Dawe 23 Oct
Quoting: minfaerBtw, the article confuses me. It sounds like Hutchinson tweeted this by himself, but then keeps using 'they' as if it was his studio's (or some groups) stance. Which is it?
Hutchinson did tweet directly, not from a studio account. Perhaps you're tripping up on singular they? Don't know, hard to tell, as you didn't point out the parts confusing you. When talking about a person, using "they" is just pretty normal here.


Last edited by Liam Dawe on 23 October 2020 at 2:10 pm UTC
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