In a recent exchange with a contact for developer Arc System Works, we got word of a rather unusual stance, which we’d think any person interested in video creation should know. The company apparently forbids showing uncut gameplay content from its games story modes. The quote starts as such:
“Please be aware that while video reviews and general compilation videos with commentary are just fine, any straight up Let’s Play content could be flagged by PQube and Arc System Works due to the nature of visual novel games.”
This message prompted us to ask for some more clarification. For instance, we inquired about the limitation of that stance, whether or not there is a date after which this notion would end. In addition, we asked if streams were included in this statement, given that visual novels are a popular pick for the streaming crowd, for instance. The Arc System Works contact, while understanding and apologetic, responded as such:
“Let’s Plays period, unfortunately. Applies to streams as well.
Arc System Works usually do not allow full Let’s Play content of their games at any point. Any sort of compilation videos, highlights, reviews etc are okay, but full Let’s Plays are always going to be a difficult one. There’s always going to be a risk that a copyright claim might be raised against Let’s Plays of these games.”
When asked how this isn’t more publicly stated by Arc System Works, as there isn’t a general policy on the company site, for instance, the contact pointed towards the following avenues, stating:
"This isn’t anything new, Arc System Works has pursued this policy with the story mode content in their games for a long time.
It came up quite a lot with Guilty Gear, where Arc did make a public statement about it. (via Rice Digital)
It’s also pretty regularly mentioned on [Arc System Works] English channels. (via Twitter)"
While this is indeed, technically, a public statement, the forbidding of Let’s Play content is definitely not displayed openly. In fact, the picture regarding only Guilty Gear Xrd Sign can barely be traced to a single post in 2014. Similarly, this applies to buried Twitter messages about the ban, only mentioned in the one example, even when searching the whole Arc System Works feed for “story.” At most, the company just reiterates once more that its policy has no limit, as it mentions:
Even after the game is out. There's no time limit to the ban on broadcasting/uploading story mode. https://t.co/SIy9NwBS1H— ArcSystemWorks (@ArcSystemWorksU) June 9, 2016
It’s questionable how enforceable this policy by Arc System Works on video content can really be. Searching for videos about any of their games returns tons of results, as most things on the internet, both in part and in full. That does, unfortunately, not mean that the risk of a takedown doesn’t exist. In fact, in search of a clear policy, there were several results of people suddenly waking up and having their channel struck with copyright claims. Games like the Blazblue series were struck, but the same is true for Skullgirls, which Arc System Works helped with for the Japanese release, but is otherwise in hands of developer Revenge Labs, now reformed as Lab Zero games. In a post from last year that calls the developer to cut ties with the company, designer Mike Zaimont responds in defense of the publisher, offering the following mirror to the situation:
“Please Mike, you should sever ties with the company that was willing to put enough money behind the game, on faith, to pay for Japanese VO and print physical copies including Limited Editions with OSTs and artbooks. You should sever your ties with a company that easily has the ability to test lobbies on console with an entire lobby of testers and devkits, which Lab Zero does not otherwise have. You should sever ties with a company that was willing to put their own money into marketing and promotion for Skullgirls in Japan. You should sever your ties with a company that, who knows, might be willing to discuss doing all that again for SG2 if that were to ever happen.
Nope. One does not burn bridges that fast.”
Zaimont, still, has some choice words about the way Arc System Works operates:
“Yes, Arc handles giving out copyright violations on YouTube poorly. Very poorly. Exceptionally badly, in fact, according to US standards, including overstepping their bounds. And we don't really know why, which is the other part of the problem. But we are talking to them about this specific issue, on which we will take a VERY STRONG stance because, as mentioned lots of times, it's bad. However, that's the extent of our problem with Arc.”
This ban from Arc System Works on its games’ video content seems to be another case of differences between Japanese and Western approaches to technology, even if it’s harsher than most. Even a giant like Nintendo only claims content, whereas a strike can actively punish channels that create videos. Therefore, please use caution when uploading or streaming Arc System Works materials; it might end badly.