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Atlus Actively Attempts To End Development Of PlayStation 3 Emulator Over Persona 5, UPDATE: Atlus replies

by Imran Khan on Sep 26, 2017 at 04:29 PM

UPDATE: We reached out to Atlus' senior PR manager Jacob Nahin for comment on the story. Their reply is below.

"It isn’t the emulator itself we object to, it is the use of Persona 5, including methods of circumvention, that we took issue with. That said, no further action is planned at the moment."

The original story follows:

Atlus have decided to declare war on a PlayStation 3 emulator, the open-source RPCS3, over its ability to play Persona 5.

Last night, the team working on the C++ emulator designed to let people play PlayStation 3 games on PC scrubbed all mentions of Persona 5 from their site and forums. This included any mention of getting the game to run, tweaks to have it run better, or anything that implied Persona 5 could be played anywhere other than its commercially released copies on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 hardware. To be clear, this did not necessarily limit itself to any mention of playing Persona 5 without purchasing, but rather all information on it in any way interacting with the emulator.

The RPCS3 team explained that, on September 23rd, they received a DMCA takedown notice for the project's Patreon from Atlus. The RPG publisher declared that the project was infringing on their copyrights by making Persona 5 playable on the PC, which they do not believe should be allowed, according to the RPCS3 team. Patreon declined their request.

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1992 copyright law that dramatically extended the rights and reach of copyright holders. In a modern era and a modern context, DMCA takedowns are a strong and commonly used tool for copyright holders to remove videos that infringe on their copyrights, or that they simply do not like, as was the case of Firewatch developer Campo Santo taking down videos made by youtuber Pewdiepie after he streamed himself uttering a racial slur. The DMCA takedown has been massively criticized in recent years as easily abusable and unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Patreon denied the initial request from Atlus, based on Atlus not making a cogent argument for how their copyright was being infringed upon by the PlayStation 3 emulator, and specifically that Patreon page. Atlus alleged that, in order to make Persona 5 work on the emulator, Atlus' digital rights management (DRM) just be circumvented, and that the page describes how to dump a disc into a file readable by the emulator. While not swayed by this argument, Patreon discussed the issue with the RPCS3 team, who scrubbed any mention of Persona 5 from Patreon and their website.

Today, Atlus confirmed the story with the following statement, titled "ATLUS and Emulation:"

"You might have heard earlier today that we issued a DMCA takedown notice involving emulation developer group RPCS3 and their Patreon page. Yes, it’s true. We settled upon this action for two reasons:

We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen. We understand that many Persona fans would love to see a PC version. And while we don’t have anything to announce today, we are listening! For now, the best way to experience Persona 5 is on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

We appreciate the awareness generated by the emulation community for Persona 5 and know that it is a fantastic example of how much people are loving our game. We want to keep bringing you titles like Persona 5. Unfortunately, when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences.

We want to continue having a dialogue about where and how you would like to play our games. Please let us know what you think."

Atlus more or less confirmed RPCS3's side of the story and added what they believe to be a justification for their actions in their statement. Their reasoning seems to run up against previous precedent set during the case of Sony vs. Bleem!, in which Sony sued the PlayStation emulator for running PlayStation games on non-approved hardware. However, it bears mentioning that although Bleem! won that case, their legal fees forced them to shut down shortly after.

It is unclear what Atlus hopes to accomplish with this move, or why the American branch seems to be spearheading this initiative.


Our Take
This is another curious brick in the wall Atlus has erected to protect their IPs. Persona 4 Arena is one of the only two region-locked PlayStation 3 games, despite Atlus being unwilling or unable to release the game in every region. Persona 5 also had fairly draconian streaming restrictions that still have not been lifted. Atlus' protection of their IP might be legally justified, but it feels needlessly aggressive, and seems to have little concern for collateral damage.Their reasoning that a game could be pirated on hardware justifying their attack on it falls flat when you consider how easily broken the PlayStation 3 and 3DS are.