When it comes to the idea of members of the public live-streaming video game gameplay, the world is an unpredictable place. Some developers and publishers are happy to allow such a display of their products, understanding a concept that is apparently difficult for others to grasp: playing a game is a very different thing than watching someone else play it. Those that are less permissive in streaming gameplay are typically the larger corporate interests that tend to believe in control above all else, with the attitude being that unveiling gameplay will make it less likely for viewers to buy a game, rather than more likely. In between is a truly broad spectrum, where some publishers lay out rules on websites and others say little to nothing on the topic that isn’t vomited up by their legal teams.
Leave it to Disney, then, to put its stamp on the latest iteration of the Kingdom Hearts series, with a message to anyone that would consider streaming the game right there on the title screen.
People who start playing Kingdom Hearts 3 will find a message notifying them that the companies behind the game are applying some limitations. The game’s title screen includes an unusual button prompt labeled “before you stream.” Pressing the button produces the following message:
This game is a copyrighted work. The copyright is held by The Walt Disney Company and a collaboration of authors representing The Walt Disney Company. Additionally, the copyright of certain characters is held by Square Enix Co, Ltd.
You are free to stream the game in non-commercial contexts. However, using the streams of the game to primarily provide or listen to the music is prohibited even in such non-commercial contexts.
While this is a somewhat permissive stance on streaming, essentially allowing for some streaming under certain conditions, it’s still a very Disney way to go about it. First is the company’s acknowledgement that streaming is so very much a thing at this point so as to warrant the inclusion of a message on game’s title screen. That may seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a fairly stark admission on the part of Disney as to what the ecosystem for streaming games is today. And, then, comes the muddled parameters under which streaming is kosher, with restrictions on “commercial contexts”, without bothering to provide any context for that phrase itself. And, of course, there is the requirement that game streams aren’t done as a method for simply broadcasting the game’s original score, which is downright perplexing. I’m not aware of that sort of practice even being a thing and I’m fairly steeped in this world of game streaming.
And I’m not the only one scratching his head at all of this.
The streaming message isn’t exactly crystal clear. One part of it is easily understood: Square and Disney don’t want people making streams of the game’s music. But the statement is more confusing about what the rights-holders consider to be a “non-commercial” stream. The message concludes by directing players to Kingdom Hearts website, which doesn’t yet include any information about this, though it presumably will by the time the game launches in the West on Tuesday (it came out in Japan on Friday).
We asked Square Enix PR yesterday what “non-commercial” streaming would be and if it’s something that average gamers who just want to stream on Twitch or YouTube would have to worry about. They were unable to clarify that terminology yet.
And, so, Disney attempts on the title screen to take the mystery out of what it will allow in streaming the game, but apparently there is still a conversation the company needs to have within itself, as the PR folks can’t articulate what it all means themselves. The end result is Disney attempting to assert control over the sharing of parts of its product in the least clear manner possible. It’s a very Disney thing to do, in other words.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear to be keeping the now-normal practice of game streaming from happening overseas.
Whatever the restrictions actually mean, they don’t appear to be stopping people from streaming the game. People have been streaming Kingdom Hearts 3 on Twitch since yesterday, when the game went on sale in Japan and when the the streaming embargo lifted for reviewers and gaming influencers who’d been provided advance access to the English language version of the game. At the time of this writing, there are more than a thousand people watching 88 streams of the game on Twitch.
So, for now, this appears to be a title screen message without much of an audience.
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