‘We underestimated how many people would be satisfied with only watching the game instead of playing it themselves’

‘Let’s Play videos stopped us earning any money,’ says That Dragon, Cancer creator

The developers of emotional semi-biographical title That Dragon, Cancer have revealed that the popularity of gameplay videos on YouTube and Twitch massively impacted sales of the game.

In a lengthy blog post, Ryan Green, upon whose late son, Joel, the title is based, pointed out the contrast between the millions of views Let’s Play and other playthrough videos of the title had received and the 14,000 copies it has sold on Steam, according to Steam Spy.

“Our studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales,” Green revealed. “That Dragon, Cancer was created by a studio of eight, and for many of us it was a full-time effort that involved thousands of hours of work.

“We underestimated how many people would be satisfied with only watching the game instead of playing it themselves.”

While it may be easy to jump to criticism of the video form popularised by online celebrities such as PewDiePie, Green took the time to say that the medium that had significantly hampered his own title could be the saving grace for others.

“We feel the Let’s Play culture adds value to this medium,” he said. “And for games with more expansive or replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers.

“Despite infringing on developers’ copyrights, it can especially benefit those who make competitive or sandbox games.

“We’ve watched the playthrough videos and we see the value that this community is adding to our work through sharing themselves. Let’s Play culture is vibrant and creative and really cool. 

“However,” he continued, “there is a flip side for the developers whose content you build your work on top of.

“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.

“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.”

Despite the troubles he has experienced with online videos, Green announced that he and his team would remove their Content IDs for composer Jon Hillman’s music, which had resulted in online broadcasters complaining that their videos had been flagged for copyright infringement, allowing them to reupload their gameplay videos.

“We did not intend to make copyright claims or to force anyone to take down their videos, we simply intended for Jon to be able to draw some income from the original soundtrack to our game that he poured his heart into,” explained Green.

“All we are asking in return is that you honour our work, the work you build your livelihood on top of, and acknowledge that when you do it, there is a real cost to developers.”

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