That Dragon, Cancer, the emotionally charged narrative adventure by Numinous Games, has yet to see a cent of profit. The game took a team of eight people three years to develop, but despite critical acclaim, has only sold around 14 thousand copies since its release on January 12, 2016. Studio head Ryan Green believes this is largely due to the high volume of Let’s Play coverage the game has seen on Twitch and YouTube.
“We feel the Let’s Play culture adds value to this medium,” Green said in a blog post. “And for games with more expansive and replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers.” But all games don’t fit that mold, Green said. For cinematic and story-driven games like That Dragon, Cancer, playthrough videos can have an effect akin to illegal downloads.
“For a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let’s Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced,” Green said. “If you compare the millions of views of the entirety of our game on YouTube to our sales as estimated on SteamSpy, you can hopefully see the disparity. We have seen many people post our entire game on YouTube with little to no commentary.
“We’ve seen people decompile our game and post our soundtrack on YouTube. We’ve also seen many, 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,” he added.
The bitter irony of the situation is what prompted Green and Numinous Games to fire on Let’s Plays: a tweet from an annoyed Let’s Play video creator who decried the music copyright claims which have hit some That Dragon, Cancer videos, and said “it sucks having someone else making revenue off [my content]”.
The Numinous staff agrees.
“If a fraction of those who viewed a let’s play or Twitch stream of our game left us a $1 tip on our website (less than the cost of renting a movie), we would have the available funds to continue to work and create for the benefit of the gaming and the Let’s Play community,” he said.
“We have allowed our content, the fruit of our sweat and our tears, to be used by Let’s Players and to your fans for free to create content with, and you are drawing a small amount of ad revenue from our content.”
To help even the scales between coverage and sales, Numinous requests that Let’s Players “don’t just rebroadcast the entirety of our content with minimal commentary,” but use it as a conversation piece for original content. Additionally, they recommend all YouTubers and Twitch streamers link to the Numinous Games website to allow viewers to more easily buy the game themselves.
“This small act will allow us to continue to work,” Green concluded.
Source: Numinous Games