Most of us love and enjoy video games by playing them hands-on, but for many people spectating is just as much fun. This form of digital entertainment has grown considerably and has a bright future ahead, but it also has some potential obstacles that could derail it.
Back in the olde tyme of gaming, watching someone play video games meant going to the local arcade and peering over somebody’s shoulder. Hanging with unsavory, maybe unclean characters was well worth the risk just to see people playing the latest and greatest video games on the market. Alas, gone are the days when life, limb, or virtue had to be chanced just to see these marvels of video game technology in action. In this modern age of on-demand entertainment, you need go no further than the safety and comfort of your own home.
We can now watch live or pre-recorded video game footage just as easily as any TV show or movie, if not easier. Everything from “Let’s Play”, “Quck Look”, “How To”, and ” Reaction” videos are available to us at whim. If you are stumped at any point in a game, chances are there is a video to help you through it. Internet stars like PewDiePie have made a living from entertaining us by combining video games with their personalized touch. Even live game play has become a spectacle with Valve’s DOTA 2 tournament, The International, bringing in a live arena audience of over 10,000–and countless others–watching on line.
Live game play is now becoming an even more sought after ground. Look no further for evidence of this than Amazon’s purchase of Twitch in 2014. It was long thought that Google would buy Twitch to enhance its fledgling live broadcast services, but Amazon swooped in and made the buy. Given Amazon’s long line of successful business decisions, one would surmise that this was a carefully calculated business decision and one that is intended to help grow the company’s bottom line. Google hasn’t conceded this ground yet, but its Livestreams and Hangouts haven’t taken hold or become a go to choice. Services like UStream are playing second fiddle to Twitch as best they can and in a recent announcement, the video service DailyMotion will be starting a beta of a game streaming system much like Twitch.
“The dark spectre of “fair use” stands looming over the genre…”
It would seem like the sky is the limit for this entertainment medium except for a few dark clouds lurking nearby. The dark spectre of “fair use” stands looming over the genre and there is the feeling that as soon as one company acts to stop creative persons from using their product, others will quickly follow suit. Many companies have allowed fans to release various video content based on their product because it was seen as a form of free promotion. Many companies, however, are now looking into the money said fans are making from those videos and want to take their share or all of it.
There has already been a few different takes on how this can play out. Nintendo has taken the stance that any video content from their games is their property, and as such they are due all of the revenue from them. The company has released a revenue sharing plan where creators can receive a portion of the generated revenue from the videos, but only if they register as a partner with Nintendo. Taking another angle, Activision sought to have Call of Duty videos pulled down by employing copyright claims to the videos. However, it was not the revenue they were after. Rather they wanted the videos removed because they displayed cheats, exploits, or glitches of the game that players could employ for their advantage, or they just made the game look bad and hurt its image.
The most unknown threat to this, and other Internet related genres, may be net neutrality. It has been an ongoing debate between consumers and providers as to what is fair when it comes to Internet service. Consumers, of course, want everything in the world for as small a price as possible. On the other hand, ISP’s would have you pay dearly for not only connecting to the Internet but also for every service that you access.
There has already been cases of conflict of interest and brute force when it comes to Internet service that may or may not be addressed by net neutrality. Comcast got themselves into hot water by releasing their Xfinity app for Xbox 360 and announcing that any content watched through it will not count against a customer’s data cap. This caused both Hulu (partly owned by Comcast) and Netflix to write letters to the FCC regarding the situation and resulting in the suspension of data caps in many markets. On the other side of the coin, Netflix had been forced to pay what is effectively a ransom to both Comcast and Verizon to not throttle traffic to users accessing their services. Netflix won’t directly admit it, but it is easy to see that the monthly increase from $8 to $10 was likely caused by this.
Since Twitch and YouTube revenue is mostly ad based, this could effect how they make money and how you get to view them. Right now you have to watch one, maybe two ads before your video or feed starts, but if Twitch or YouTube are forced to share revenue with your ISP that may likely change to three or four ads. Worst case scenario could be paying your ISP for the ability to watch Twitch just like you pay for watching ESPN in your cable package.
There is little we know for certain except that we enjoy video games, whether we are playing them or watching them. The creativity of the artist will have to struggle with the cold logic of the law and it won’t be won in a single battle. How we consume content is changing and how it is monetized will have to change as well, but there should be an avenue that will work for all parties involved. Look for this struggle to continue as net neutrality is debated and consumer demand for content increases.
Paul Novak is a self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing in the west side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet. Found here at What’s Your Tag? and on the Twitter @dudewantshisrug. Game on with Team XBRO!