Even now, professional gamers the world over are headed to Las Vegas, grabbing planes and buses to their hotels. In two days, Evolution 2013, the world’s largest fighting game tournament, will commence. I’ve done my best to introduce you to the sometimes frighteningly deep world of fighting games- told you about the games that will be at Evo, and the players that compete in them. My original plan was to end this by filling you in on obscure fighting game terminology, and stream information. I still intend to provide you with all the info you need to find and watch an Evo stream in your home, and have a grand time, but matters have changed somewhat.
I am speaking, of course, of Nintendo’s pursuit of copyright infringement against Evolution for planning to stream Super Smash Brothers Melee. Nintendo backed down fairly quickly, but that they ever pushed the matter in the first place is a problem, and it’s indicative of a greater problem in the industry. From Let’s Plays to pro gaming streams to simple snippets of amusing gameplay, the ability to upload free video of a game to the internet has become core to our community. As we head to the next generation, with consoles that have the built-in ability to record and upload game footage, this is an issue that needs addressing. If you just want to know where and when you can stream, you should skip to the end of this article, where I will have that information.
As far as legal ground is considered, this seems pretty simple to me. Fair Use applies to small clips, of course, but multi-hour videos that show most if not all of a game’s content are pretty clearly the sort of thing that developers will be able to control. If- or perhaps I should say when- this goes to court, the developers (or more likely publishers) will win the right to control this video content. So it’s not a question of “Do they have the legal right?” It’s a question of “Should they?”
To that, I think the answer is a pretty resounding no. Games are not like movies- if you could watch all of the Avengers on YouTube, you’d basically have no reason to pay for a copy of it. But watching a game be played, even if it’s a full playthrough, is not the same as playing it yourself. You can get a lot out of it, but it’s not a true substitute. And many great games only become more appealing when you watch them in action. If I’d never seen what Street Fighter looked like when played by pros, I would have never gotten it myself. The pro scene fuels the amateur scene with their passion.
Essentially, it’s free advertising. Other people are paying for the equipment, the staff, the expertise, and the server hosting, and then convincing people (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands) to watch video dedicated to showing how cool a game can be. Why on earth would you shut that down? In what world is that smart business? For games like Heavy Rain, or The Last of Us, I kind of get it. Those games are so cinematic, you worry about ruining the game for people who haven’t played it. I personally don’t think it does ruin things, but I understand the concern. But for multiplayer games, or games based around skill and replay, it’s just baffling.
Nintendo has a history of taking down videos of their games on YouTube, and every time a public case of it happens, people say that it’s Nintendo not understanding how the internet works, and being scared of it. I think it’s something worse than that. I think Nintendo doesn’t understand how business works. Ever since the Wii came out they have shown a dramatic unwillingness to do what the people giving them money say they want. Nintendo’s issues with its customers run deeper than bad video policy. But with companies like Capcom talking about stream licenses, with Square Enix abusing the DMCA takedown rules to block clips of their products, and more, it’s important that we don’t take this problem lightly.
What would happen to the pro gaming scene- esports, the FGC, and more- if they weren’t allowed to broadcast video of tournaments? If you had to be there in person, or you couldn’t watch at all? I can tell you- they would die. They would die fast, and they would die young, with incredible amounts of untapped potential. This is a boon for you, developer and publishers. This is a way for your games to become huge. Don’t nip it in the bud because you’re so controlling that you won’t let anything happen on someone else’s terms.
Here’s an official schedule for Evo, provided by the tournament organizers themselves. At the top of each column is a URL for the stream, with times on the left side, and the event taking up the rest.
Maybe I’ll see you on stream chat this weekend. Enjoy the best that the FGC has to offer, and have a great time.