Level 55: DMCA Strikes Back

This week copyright laws come for Twitch, Zynga makes a triumphant return, and gamers are finding love in a hopeless place

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📜 This Week’s Notable News

DMCA Takedown Outta Nowhere: If you’re not a content creator, odds are you haven’t heard of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA for short. To keep it brief, DMCA exists to protect creators from others using their content without their consent or compensation. Imagine if you were a music producer and one of YouTube’s biggest creators used your music without credit, and the video went viral. That’s not fair, right? Thanks to DMCA — that doesn't happen.

But the DMCA cuts both ways. Where it protects creators and their IP, it's also a point of friction for online creators. Many massive content companies (i.e. record labels) are notorious for mass-reporting online creators for using their artists’ music without a specific form of attribution. The reports often result in creators having to take down or edit massive amounts of content, losing tons of money in the process.

With the advent of live-streaming and platforms like Twitch, it was only a matter of time before DMCA became a problem. Over the weekend, disaster finally struck, with hundreds of streamers getting hit with copyright strikes for unlawful use of music and other content.  Link

The effects this is having on the live-streaming community are wide-reaching:

  • Three Strikes: On Twitch, you’re allowed three copyright strikes before your account is permanently deleted. For creators whose entire livelihood is built on the platform, even a single slip up here could be a huge problem

  • VOD Takedown: Twitch archives past streams, known as Video on Demand (or VOD) for viewers to go back and watch at a later date. These VODs are just as liable for copyright strikes as live content. As a result, streamers are moving en masse to delete their entire VOD library to avoid strikes. How many hours of classic content are now gone forever because of DMCA?

  • Outdated Laws: What happens to streamers who’s whole shtick is DJing, or making music? What do people listen to while playing games on stream? Tons of creators are calling out how this is just another example of antiquated copyright law. They have a point — being governed by a law that was written nearly 20 years ago (before YouTube, Twitch, and all the other platforms), feels a little wonky.

💡 Industry Content

Zynga, Back on Top: Freemium/Mobile gaming is a fickle industry. One day, you could find yourself creating some of the world’s most played titles, the next, you could be losing users by the thousands. That’s why mobile-giant Zynga’s recent return to prominence is so impressive. This article breaks down how they were able to stay afloat despite near failure, After their most recent acquisition of a Turkish company (a $1.8B purchase last week), there are few questions that Zynga has executed one of gaming’s best ever corporate comebacks. Link

Riot Games’ 10 million fund: Riot Games announced they would commit 10 million dollars to businesses and founders from a diverse array of backgrounds (for a nuanced reading of minority-focused funds, read this). Note that they have always been intentional with how and who they fund, but this is a more intentional effort. Link

TikTok + Gaming: TikTok has captured public attention throughout shelter-in-place thanks to its easy to consume content. To date, the platform’s most popular videos are centered around interactive content: dances, POVs, skits, and so on. But with highly engaged communities and an already booming live-streaming feature, it won’t be long until gaming is at the forefront of the product’s strategy. Recently appointed CEO Kevin Mayer and has already stated that expanding the gaming footprint on the platform is one of their top priorities. He already hired ason FungJ as his new head og gaming As a new generation of influencers are born by way of TikTok, it’s interesting to consider if we could see the next PewDiePie or Ninja rise to fame. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Bundle for Racial Injustice and Equality: Itch.io reached out to their creator community and have bundled over 1000 projects (worth $8000!!) to raise money and awareness for racial injustice. It’s a pay-what-you-want model with a minimum donation amount of $5. We’ve been playing Arigatou, Ningen-san! Link

A Hostile (Space) Takeover: Imagine if one night the head of your company’s biggest financial backer sent you a message telling you that not only were they no longer funding your work..but that they also wanted to hire you themselves. In his first piece for Bloomberg, gaming journalism vet Jason Schreier outlines the story of Kerbel Space Program 2 — and how the studio producing it went from securing funding to out of business in the span of three months.  Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

The Dating Game: Dating through gaming is such a unique perspective on romantic relationships. Games are by nature social and inclusive. There really isn’t any risk to socially connecting via games because gamer IDs are transient identities, where becoming an online friend is much less awkward than meeting someone in person for the first time. Link

Most dating and social apps abandon users’ virtual selves, failing to recognize the benefits of bonding over a digital activity like gaming and its value in getting to know someone

Fresh Squeezed Juice:  A little bit of game research lingo for you— “juiciness” is the measure of player feedback in regards to audio and visual cues. Ever execute a combo or use a special move that just feels so satisfying to complete? That's juiciness. This study found that the two extremes of juiciness reception — none and extremely high — actually contribute to a more negative playing experience. If you’re a game researcher, designer, or developer you should take note — being too juicy can actually turn players away from your game. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I recently connected with Chris Bandrick, a fellow video game newsletter writer who writes Switch Weekly. Chris is an OG to the scene and has been covering Nintendo news for over three years. If you have a Switch and like Nintendo news, please check out his newsletter. Well worth it.

Max (@maxlowenthal)
One of my favorite parts about games are the services/communities that sprout up around them. If you’ve been following PC Gaming closely, you’ll know about Riot’s recent release, Valorant. A fellow gaming creator, Jake Perlman-Garr, reached out and shared his recent project with me, Operator.gg. It’s the first Riot-backed content hub for Valorant that helps you find streams for your favorite in-game character. Something tells me this is just the tip of the iceberg for Valorant-focused services.

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