I've been sitting here this morning paralyzed at what to say in response to this...
The last few months since we launched That Dragon, Cancer have been pretty incredible. The mainstream culture, the gamer culture, and others have all embraced our story and been willing to listen to our heart as we released a project that we spent more than three years on. They’re talking about Joel and sharing their own stories of loss and bringing comfort to each other. In every regard, the reach of our work continues to confound us.
However, there is another side of this that I’ve been afraid to talk about in public. And that is this: our studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales. That Dragon, Cancer was created by a studio of eight, and for many of us it was a full-time effort that involved thousands of hours of work. This huge effort required taking on investment, and we decided to pay off all of our debt as soon as possible. But we underestimated how many people would be satisfied with only watching the game instead of playing it themselves.
And so yes, Let's Play person, I agree with you, it does suck to have someone else making revenue off your work.
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.
We feel the Let’s Play culture adds value to this medium. And for games with more expansive or replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers. Even knowing that some who streamed our entire game refuse to directly encourage people to support us, we’ve still sat on the streams and talked with streamers and viewers. We’ve watched the playthrough videos and we see the value that this community is adding to our work through sharing themselves. Let’s Play culture is vibrant and creative and really cool.
However, there is a flip side for the developers whose content you build your work on top of. Despite infringing on developers’ copyrights, it can especially benefit those who make competitive or sandbox games. However, for a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let’s Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced. If you compare the millions of views of the entirety of our game on YouTube to our sales as estimated on SteamSpy, you can hopefully see the disparity. We have seen many people post our entire game on YouTube with little to no commentary. We’ve seen people decompile our game and post our soundtrack on YouTube. We’ve also seen many, many Let’s Players post entire playthroughs of our game, posting links to all of their own social channels and all of their own merchandising and leaving out a link to our site.
All of this to say, we have removed all of our Content ID’s from Jon’s music. If anybody received flags for ad revenue share, you should be able to reupload in a few days without the flag. We did not intend to make copyright claims or to force anyone to take down their videos, we simply intended for Jon to be able to draw some income from the original soundtrack to our game that he poured his heart into.
All we are asking in return is that you honor our work, the work you build your livelihood on top of, and acknowledge that when you do it, there is a real cost to developers. For us, it costs us the ability to continue to share this game through translation into other languages and bringing it to new platforms, along with starting new projects.
If a fraction of those who viewed a let’s play or twitch stream of our game left us a $1 tip on our website (less than the cost of renting a movie), we would have the available funds to continue to work and create for the benefit of the gaming and the Let’s Play community.
We have allowed our content, the fruit of our sweat and our tears, to be used by Let’s Players and to your fans for free to create content with, and you are drawing a small amount of ad revenue from our content.
We are asking that you return that favor by creating Let’s Play videos that don’t just rebroadcast the entirety of our content with minimal commentary, but instead use portions of our content as a context to share your own stories and start conversations with your viewers. We would encourage you to link to our site and directly encourage viewers to support our work financially through buying the game, or donating a dollar or two to our studio if they believe that what we did has value. This small act will allow us to continue to work.
-Ryan and the Numinous Games team.