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Opinion – Atlus’ Strict Streaming Guidelines For Persona 5 Are Bad For Consumers

by Javy Gwaltney on Apr 05, 2017 at 04:05 PM

I remember the first time I heard of Persona. Persona 4 Golden had just come out for the Vita and people I knew on Twitter were talking about it. I went to YouTube and loaded up an hour long clip of the original version of the game in action and was drawn in by its colorful aesthetic and focus on social simulation. This was not a video put up by any press outlet. It was just footage with commentary by someone with a deep fondness for JRPGs who did a pretty good job of explaining why the game was interesting even for people who don’t like the genre.

A month later I bought a Vita just so I could play Persona Golden. Nearly five years later, and I’ve dropped around $400 or so on the Persona franchise, buying all the games, some of them multiple times across different platforms. I adore Persona 3 and 4, both of them ranking among my favorite games of all time, and without that one YouTube video, I probably would have missed out on two great experiences.

After announcing that the PS4’s basic share functions for Persona 5 would be blocked, Atlus unveiled its streaming guidelines for the game, in an attempt to regulate what people who have bought the game can upload to the internet. The guidelines include limiting videos to 90 minutes, refusing to allow players to show off major story beats or the majority of boss battles. Atlus is threatening those who break these guidelines with content ID claims and account suspensions.

The company has said that the reason behind these stipulations is to prevent spoilers around the game from spreading. While that intent is certainly understandable, it’s also a lost cause. Persona 5 has been out in Japan since September 2016. A cursory search on YouTube already reveals multiple playthroughs of the game in both English and Japanese. As is always the case, Atlus has already lost the battle against spoilers on the internet, months ago in fact, and imposing this embargo on the public is equivalent of the company shooting itself in the foot.

Video games (just like movies, literature, music, and other art forms) are inherently shared experiences. Trying to limit what people can show and share strikes at the heart of one of the things that makes video games so great. People talk about games: the games they like, the games they hate, the games they think do noteworthy things. They’re going to talk about spoilers. They’re going to post videos with spoiler-filled content, one way or another. That’s the reality of the world in which we live, and the fact those videos are out there isn’t a bad thing.

There’s a huge potential consumer base that relies on watching video content to make purchasing decisions. They watch video reviews, they search for story-related videos that might draw them into the game’s premise, they watch video essays that tackle what makes a certain game so interesting. These guidelines severely limit what video content producers can do and even threatens them for stepping outside of those boundaries, with the net result being that Atlus is likely robbing themselves of customers, leaving money on the table for the sake of fighting a battle that has already been lost.

Another issue here is that people are going to get hit with content ID claims and account suspensions not because they’re willfully breaking the guidelines but because they aren’t aware of them in the first place. These guidelines don’t come packaged in every box. They’re not emailed to you when you buy a digital copy of the game. They’re just there on Atlus’ website. A year down the line, if these restrictions are still in place, someone could hypothetically get their streaming account suspended (especially since Twitch has implied it will uphold Atlus’ guidelines) simply because they didn’t go out and search for these streaming regulations.

As someone who fell in love with Persona because I found someone else’s video content of the game, I am deeply disappointed in Atlus’ choice to try and strictly regulate what content people can and cannot share from Persona 5. It’s a move that is anti-consumer and just doesn’t make any sense in the digital age, where people are constantly seeking out and creating information at unfathomable speeds.

It would be far better for the company to trust that players who don’t want their experience ‘spoiled’ to be sensible enough not to seek out spoilers and to wade into certain social media channels at their own peril until they’re done with the game. More than anything else, Atlus’ decision demonstrates a lack of faith in its players to use sound judgment as well as a failure to understand the monetary and cultural benefits of letting people create and share content about video games in the digital age. These guidelines are draconian and archaic, and it’s best for everyone — gamers, video content producers, and Atlus itself — if they’re done away with as soon as possible.

For more Persona 5, check out our review here and Kim Wallace's most recent column on the game here.