How do you balance a fear of spoilers and the natural desire to share in the current gaming environment? Usually, the answer is to let the community police itself, but not in the case of Persona 5, which is bringing the hammer down hard on spoilers via streaming and video.
Earlier today, Atlus USA posted a note warning that they will take action against video producers who play past July 7 in Persona 5's story.
This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it. Sharing is currently blocked through the native PS4 UI. However, if you do plan on streaming, video guidelines above apply except length. If you decide to stream past 7/7 (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NOT DOING THIS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED), you do so at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension.
These were essentially the same guidelines issued to the press when previewing Persona 5 a few months ago; but with the game now officially available on the market, you would think these retrictions would no longer apply. Not so, apparently.
Naturally, streamers are already reacting:
Considered checking out Persona 5 until I just saw the company us threatening takedowns if you stream it. LOL That made my choice easy.— Mike "0x33" (@its0x33) April 4, 2017
Since Twitch itself confirmed about DMCA of #Persona5 post 7/7 plot, I have no intention to stream Persona 5 obviously now.— TorNis Entertainment (@TorNis7) April 4, 2017
These streaming guidelines pretty much preclude serious Let's Plays, which is unfortunate given that Let's Plays are often a useful bit of viral marketing. Persona 4 fans will recall, for example, how much Giant Bomb's stream did to lift that game into the public eye. With more than a few streamers planning to avoid Persona 5 now, Atlus will have that much more of a challenge getting the word out on what is ultimately a pretty niche title, despite the very positive reviews.
The guidelines also set kind of a bad precedent. It's important to be able to freely discuss a game's story, otherwise how can their ever be any real discourse? With so much of the discussion happening in video form these days, Atlus guidelines are apt to have an unintentional chilling effect on an otherwise well-intentioned fandom. In the end, they will find a way (fans always do), but this is nevertheless an unneeded bit of self-sabotage on Atlus' part.
More than ever, games succeed on the strength of word of mouth. After that first wave of reviews and analysis, games tend to drop away unless they earn a second life on social media and elsewhere. Persona 5 was never going to have the ridiculous tail of a game like, say, Skyrim, but the ability to easily take screens of the best moments and one-liners and post them on Twitter might have helped its visibility. Instead, screens and clips are blocked. Alas.
Ultimately, Persona 5 will be fine. The series has a big fanbase and a nice media tailwind behind it, and it will no doubt make more than a few Game of the Year lists. But if Atlus had any aspirations of Persona 5 legitimately blowing up, then they've kind of damaged them with these guidelines.
Atlus is in "ongoing discussion about how our policies may evolve in the future," but for now, they're the law of the land. As always, I've reached out to Atlus for comment and will update if they decide to respond.