Alex Hutchinson is out of touch with reality

A lot of streamers on Twitch have been using music that they don’t own or that they weren’t explicitly allowed to use in their streams and now have to fear DMCA strikes and potential takedowns from clips and VODs that could be plenty of years old. Twitch is trying its best to mute those VODs and clips or potentially just remove it but has also handled the situation in an iffy way as it doesn’t communicate which content is problematic and what you’re getting struck for. Instead of saying that this VOD or this clip uses music by some artist who’s now claiming it, then you could delete that specific video and just not use that artist’s music, I guess…

But it’s all a rather difficult situation. Twitch doesn’t handle it well but should’ve stopped copyright infringements ages ago and should communicate it better right now… Meanwhile, labels, studios and artists are in the complete right as well to claim what they own, although the warner bros. bots are going a bit too far at times. 

But among all the chaos in regards to DMCAs and Music and Twitch, there is one man who’s completely out of touch with the world… Alex Hutchinson who’s known for working on Spore, The Sims 2, AC3, Far Cry 4 and Journey to the Savage Planet – who now is working on Google’s Stadia! 

Hutchinson’s hot take is that streamers should rather “worry about streaming the games they didn’t pay for as well” and that “streamers should pay developers and publishers of the games that they are streaming”. According to him, there should be a license “like in any real business” to pay for the content they use.

And naturally, this blew up and he’s responding to some of the comments and I’m not entirely sure if he’s not just baiting to get some attention going or if he’s completely serious about it… but it makes for a good prompt: Should streamers pay developers for the games that they make money with? Should bloggers do the same? Should I pay developers in order to acquire a license to be able to review their games, even when they sent me a copy or when I bought the copy myself? 

Well, short answer: No, that’s stupid. And here’s why:

The problem with this whole idea is that the gaming industry works in a wholly different way from the music industry. Let’s say you’re a solo developer without a publisher and you end up selling a game for 5 bucks on steam. Someone buys one copy of your game and you earn 3.5 bucks whilst Steam takes 1.5 bucks for every copy sold aka 30%. (We’ll just use the 30% cut for this instead of the actual numbers that scale with how many copies are being sold and stuff because it makes it a bit easier.)

If a hundred people buy that game, the developer will get 350 bucks while Steam gets 150 bucks and everyone is happy. Of course, there are other costs involved like advertisement and potential losses but generally, you can get “free” advertisement by giving copies to select streamers, bloggers, websites and certain people so that they can talk or write about it and potentially play it in front of a large audience. A great example for that would be SplattercatGaming on YouTube who’s doing First Impressions of games. Meanwhile, if FGSquared streams it in front of her audience, she’s showing gameplay for more than just half an hour and is able to show the gameplay quite well to her audience, encouraging them to buy it. And on another note, I do reviews as well whenever I get the time to do so – and there are developers that reach out via mail to me and that want me to review their game or at least write about it. 

Essentially, instead of investing a whole lot of money into Facebook, Instagram and YouTube ads, you can distribute review copies to people that will advertise your game for free. They earn money from YouTube ads and Subs/Donos on Twitch and uh… I don’t earn money at all apart from blogging but that doesn’t matter as you get the idea. It’s free advertisement, essentially, at the cost of not selling a copy to that one specific streamer, blogger or YouTuber. 

On the other hand, musicians earn $0.006 to $0.0084 per play on Spotify. If the streamer plays the song in front of a large audience, they earn that $0.006 from that one play. (I’ll stick to the lower number since I also used the highest cut in the example above.) If a hundred people decide to play that song one time, the musician earns $0.60 which is… not much compared to what a solo game developer would earn. And even then, I’m not sure if that musician is getting the whole 60 cents from Spotify or if it gets split up between the artist and the label/studio, etc. 

Obviously, developers will have publishers as well that may potentially take a cut as well but generally, I’d say that small developers earn more on Steam than small musicians do on Spotify. Of course, there are also sales from other music stores (like Bandcamp!) or if you buy the album somewhere else but the cut over there can be so different from artist to artist that I’m not sure if the comparison is fair.

So while the gaming industry and the music industry are completely different in that regard, at least in my uneducated and superficial opinion (prove me right if you wanna and if you know more about it), I actually do think that having licenses could be a good idea. Not for the games but rather for the music. 

In my streams, I use music by Bonaparte, Desmond Cheese and City Girl who I wrote E-Mails to in order to get permission to use their music. Whenever I play their music, it shows on screen and I tend to talk a bit more about the songs and what I like about them. I also tend to tell people to check out the links below to get to the social media pages for the different artists… and I’m also sure that Bonaparte at this point earned a lot from me alone on Spotify. 

What if there was a license that you could pay for that would support the artists that you used on Twitch? You’d essentially pay a fee every month or so and then you’re able to use select artists or playlists and the artists would get a better cut from the deal compared to Spotify… I’d like that idea personally but I’m not sure if that would ever work properly.

Btw, Twitch is now introducing “Soundtrack” now which is an app that not only allows you to use music by approved artists that gave permission to Twitch but that also separates the audio from the VOD, resulting in an easier time for you as a streamer. The overlay for it is also on the screen and doesn’t feel intrusive at all but I’ll write it about that eventually as well at another time.

As for gaming, I feel like it’s ridiculous to pay for a game again that you already bought just to be able to stream it. A revenue share is also a rather silly idea, in my opinion, as the streamers that earn money with their content don’t earn it because of the games… but rather because of the entertainment they provide. It’s transformative, in the sense that streamers add commentary and their personalities to the gameplay. It’s not about the game but rather about the streamer. 

A revenue split would not work in a way because the streamers that do it as a hobby and that don’t earn a cent from it would still have to pay to be able to stream the game they’re playing, for free…? The idea of review copies that the publishers are HANDING OUT to certain streamers would be idiotic as the streamers would suddenly have to make less money by streaming the games that they got given. 

If we take this proposal further (ad absurdum), then the pianist is going to have to pay the guy who made his piano for every single person that bought a ticket to his concert. The piano maker already got paid for the piano but suddenly, he’ll earn more and the pianist is going to have to deal with it. 

Let me go even further: The ASMR and Just Chatting streamers will have to pay money to the some state because they’re streaming and making money off words. They’ll also have to pay money to the company that made their mic, even though they already bought it. They’ll also have to pay additional money to their landlord since the rent only covers them living there but not them earning money in their flats.

On another note, a lot of athletes use certain brands as well and hence advertise those. My siblings used to play table tennis and when they followed the better players for a while on TV, they would constantly wish for a DONIC table tennis racket. The fact that the best of the best were using those, at the time, made these already worth buying in their eyes, even if they had to save up a lot for them. 

The pianist is playing his best music on a certain piano. The soccer player is using one specific brand of shoes whenever he wins a game. A member of a famous esports team is using a specific mouse in all of his games. 

The idea of marketing and free samples and review copies is something that works quite well. Streamers playing games for their audience and hence promoting it… it works and is nothing that should get changed to get even more money for Bigfish developers and publishers while small indie studios would probably not profit all that much from it. 

At last,… Hutchinson also mentioned, jokingly, that NFL and other sports organisations should maybe pay streamers to broadcast and comment on the full games… on Twitch… and that’s hilarious because while he’s mocking the idea, it’s actually a thing. Twitch does that. The NFL does that. It’s very successful actually. Hutchinson must be trolling. I don’t want to believe that someone who’s behind great titles like Spore and who’s working on Stadia is just really that out of touch with reality. Like, that can’t be…, right? 

So, uh, let’s summarise: As mentioned above, I think that the proposal of having streamers pay for games that they already paid for is stupid (I just noticed that that’s what WoW and FFOnline are doing… I’m still not a fan of paid subscription models in games that you already bought). I haven’t even gotten into tax stuff and all of that… in Germany, you’d have to pay taxes and your channel would get treated like a small business as well when you earn a specific amount of money per year. 

It’s also stupid to demand a revenue share when streamers add a lot of publicity to games, as you can see with Among Us (which was quite “dead” for two years and then blew up because of streamers) and Fall Guys (whose whole marketing campaign consisted of handing keys to streamers). It’s stupid to criticize streamers for earning money with their own content that is based around review copies handed out by publishers and developers. It’s like jumping in front of a car and then demanding that others pay for the hospital bills, not because of them running you over but rather because of them not being there for you and preventing you from jumping in front of the car. Doesn’t make sense? Yeah, exactly!

I hope you enjoyed this post. I kind of wanting to give my two cents on it and wanted to make a post while it’s still a “hot topic”. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it and see what you think of this whole ordeal. Is Hutchinson out of touch with reality or is he really just a genius that is too advanced for our current times?

Cheers!

Edit: I added “ad absurdum” to one of the paragraphs since that’s a word that I’ve been looking for while writing up the post but while it was lying on my tongue, it just didn’t come out. Now it’s there. The “to take it further” part was meant to be an “ad absurdum” mechanism to showcase how silly this idea would sound if we replace “games” and “streamers” with “pianos” and “pianists” or “microphones” and “ASMRtists/Just Chatting streamers” or “running shoes” and “athletes”. So that’s an edit I had to make to essentially just mention that it’s supposed to sound silly and absurd because it is silly and absurd in a way.