When Persona 5 was released in Japan last year, Atlus was extremely aggressive in taking down Let's Play-style videos. It was unclear at the time if Atlus would carry that tradition outside Japan, but we have our answer. A blog published by Atlus today warns that unless specific guidelines are followed, you're at risk at getting hit with a content ID claim, channel strike, or account suspension on YouTube. In light of today's streaming culture, it's a bold move in the other direction.
"Simply put, we don't want the experience to be spoiled for people who haven't played the game," the company explained in the post. "Our fans have waited years for the game to come out and we really want to make sure they can experience it fully as a totally new adventure."
Atlus' pitch is that it wants to protect people from spoilers, a claim that's hard to give weight when people watching Let's Play videos are probably there to watch the game in question. Nonetheless, that's the explanation Atlus is sticking with.
"This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it."
The post reads like bullet point documentation that's handed over to press before a game is released. It's a way of controlling the flow of information, one usually more heavy handed with Japanese games. (Nintendo famously wouldn't allow reviewers to talk about Super Mario 3D Land's second world in reviews, despite the second world being the best part of the game!) In fact, after personally checking it myself, the language used in the document handed to press for Persona 5 is often the same, exact language they've used here. You're press now, folks!
They're asking people speak in "broad strokes" about the plot, and to not record or stream any content beyond July 7. (That's more than 20 hours into the game.)
It gets more specific, though:
- You can post however many additional videos you'd like, but please limit each to be at most 90 minutes long.
- No major story spoilers, and I'll leave that up to your good judgment. If you need some guidelines, avoid showing/spoiling the ending segments of the first three palaces. While you can show initial interactions with Yusuke, avoid his awakening scene, and that whole deal about THE painting. Also, don't post anything about a certain student investigator.
- I know I mentioned not showing the end of each palace, but you can grab footage from the Kamoshida boss fight. However, don't capture video from the other major boss fights.
- Must not focus solely on cutscenes/animated scenes, should prominently feature dungeon crawling/spending time in Tokyo.
- You can post straight gameplay or have commentary.
If you're streaming, there's no cap on length. Why? Great question. (It probably has to do with Atlus having more control over content on YouTube vs. Twitch.)
It's impossible to capture the game—period—using the recording software built into the PlayStation 4. If you use an external card to get around this, Atlus's most explicit warning comes for anyone who breaks the July 7 rule: "you do so at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension."
"This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it," said the company, a statement clearly not written with someone looking over their shoulder.
Atlus does say that Persona 5 is a "super special case" and they're having discussions "about how our policies may evolve in the future."
Given how much Persona fandom revolves around sharing individual experiences, though, this decision is strikingly behind the times.
Here's what I wrote in my story about Persona 5 Let's Play videos last year:
What's happening here is central to a contentious, unresolved debate about ownership on the internet. If you make a video of you playing Persona 5, do you own that? Is the act of play and commentary enough to override the fact that you're engaging with a product that Atlus made? The rise of Let's Plays has helped fuel the rise of YouTube, even if it remains unclear if most companies are even onboard with the concept of people making money off their games. Some publishers have decided to either look the other way or embrace these videos, figuring it fosters a sense of community and may even spread word of the game to a wider audience. Others, like Atlus, turn to the various copyright measures YouTube provides to enact control.
The concept of Japanese publishers pushing back on streaming and video culture is nothing new, but the situation with Atlus is particularly unique. At Kotaku, I discovered that fans were getting hit by copyright strikes through Atlus Japan, but after appealing to Atlus USA, some of the strikes were lifted. It was clearly happening on a case-by-case basis, but it suggested an internal disconnect over the way the company behind Persona views and deals with fan videos.
Clearly, Atlus USA didn't win this round.