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Should Streamers Pay Game Developers? Google Responds After Stadia Dev Resurfaces The Debate

Gamespot logo Gamespot 10/23/2020 Alessandro Barbosa

The debate surrounding whether video game streamers should pay royalties to respective developers and publishers has been around for the better half of a decade. Comments made by a creative director at one of Google Stadia's in-house studios has reignited the argument, forcing Google to distance itself from the remarks.

Alex Hutchinson, creative director at the Montreal Studio of Stadia Games and Entertainment, posted a thread of tweets breaking down his views surrounding streamers and whether business licenses for games should be introduced. Hutchinson believes that streamers generate revenue from games they've either obtained for free or very little money, motivating his stance that content creators owe game developers a cut.

Hutchinson's views didn't go down well, with several critics taking shots at the Google Stadia employee. Google eventually released its own statement on the matter, distancing itself from Hutchinson's remarks.

"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," said the company in a statement to 9to5Google.

Outside of the jabs and damage control, another instance of constructive discussion on the matter emerged. Michael Hartman, a developer with 30 years of experience, shared a fascinating breakdown of how streamers are one part of marketing, but not as vital to sales success as they used to be.

Hartman explains that most stream viewers are now watching the content for entertainment rather than purchasing advice, which has resulted in fewer sales from streams outside of the obvious viral outliers (like Among Us and Phasmophobia this year). Despite that, Hartman still believes that it's a vital part of the industry but expects there to be a deal in the future that benefits both streamers and developers alike.

Hartman mentions that around six years ago, the landscape was different--streamers directly influenced many games' sales in a tangible way. But even then, the type of game mattered. The developer of the heartfelt narrative adventure That Dragon, Cancer wrote in 2016 that he felt streaming had negatively impacted sales of the game. Fez developer Phil Fish also had a similar view to Hutchinson back in 2014, stating that streamers should pay a portion of their let's play revenue to a game's developers.

With both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 featuring expanding suites of options for sharing your gaming content directly from your console, it's unlikely that stringent rules around what content can be shared will become common soon. But with all the recent DMCA strikes against music in thousands of Twitch VODs, it's not impossible that it could happen.

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