Numinous Games developer Ryan Green has spoken out on the damaging effect Let’s Plays have had on sales for That Dragon, Cancer in a blog post on the game’s official website. He claims that the studio hasn’t seen one dollar from sales so far.
Green goes on to explain:
“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.”
That Dragon, Cancer was a deeply personal creation for Green and his wife Amy, also a member of the development team. It chronicles the tragic death of their own child, who succumbed to cancer at just five years of age after being diagnosed with the illness at 12 months old. I can imagine that adds further pain to the fact that despite amassing millions of views on sites like YouTube, this hasn’t translated into sales.
The perhaps now ironically titled Thank You For Playing, a documentary following the family through the 2 year creation process for the game, is due to see a release on digital platforms on March 29.
Later on in the post, Green clarifies his stance on Let’s Plays, stating:
“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.”
But he points out how this can have the opposite effect on shorter, more story-driven experiences like That Dragon, Cancer. When you’ve watched someone play through an emotionally intensive, yet narratively linear experience that’s over after 90 minutes, is there really much incentive for viewers to go out and buy that game to play it for themselves? Especially when, as Green points out:
“…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.”
Some have criticized Green’s argument, however, stating that it comes with the territory of the genre, and that it is a consequence of charging $14.99 for a game that only lasts an hour and a half. The studio drew further criticism when, in error, copyright claims brought down a number of YouTube videos featuring the game for using Jon Hillman‘s soundtrack.
Green explained that the intention there wasn’t to make copyright claims or force content creators to take down their video, but they wanted Hillman to be able to “draw some income the original soundtrack to our game that he poured his heart into.”
Still, some Let’s Players reacted badly at the time, and took to Twitter to question the decision, like the fellow below:
But really, who is profiting off of who here?
What are you thoughts on the situation and on Let’s Plays in general? Let us know in the comments.