Monday, 18 January 2016

Sony Trademarks Let's Play?

This week the world discovered that Sony had tried to trademark the term 'Let's Play'. They originally filed for this with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in October last year. Unfortunately for them it was rejected due to the existence of a company with the name 'Let'z Play'. It's yet to be known whether Sony will attempt to appeal the decision, but what would they have done with this trademark?

'Let's Play' is the concept of playing and recording video game footage for the purpose of providing entertaining or informative content. It's synonymous with platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, but it's humble beginnings were actually on the Something Awful forum and in the form of a collection of screenshots. Before capture cards people would setup video cameras and record their screens. 'Let's Play' has been around for about a decade. 

Considering the biggest change in the current PlayStation's functionality is the share button and the ability to record, edit and upload footage to social networks as well as Stream, it's a good assumption that Sony could want to cut out the middle-man and provide a complete platform via a 'Let's Play' app. This could be a good and bad thing. Logistically, it could be a lot simpler and faster to get your 'Let's Play' footage up on a channel (that channel being hosted on Sony's new service). It could also mean that from a license point of view, it would be a lot safer to upload and monetise footage, because Sony (as the arbiter of their service) could potentially give an across-the-board permission-slip, meaning videos wouldn't be being claimed.

Despite the change of the digital landscape when it comes to YouTube and the benefits of allowing 'Let's Play's' from a marketing perspective, copyright claims still come in thick and fast from some companies and so this could be quite appealing to some people. However, established YouTube channels and Twitch streamers who rely on PS4 content would be very unwilling to move platforms and would almost certainly take a hit to their subscriber count. Sony could make the decision very easy for people though by updating the PS4 and permanently turning on HDCP - rendering capture cards useless and forcing players to use their own service. YouTube takes about 45% of revenue from ad sales, but Sony could take less than this to soften the blow and entice users over to their platform, or they could just be dicks and take more - the former would probably be ideal from a marketing perspective. YouTube uploads could be allowed by Sony (after they take a cut, similar to Nintendo's current programme).

Personally I think it's a terrible idea, especially since whilst there may be a lot of console exclusives out at the time of the release of this service, many larger YouTubers who use mixed content could just boycott the PS4/5 and use other platforms (such as PC which generally has the most exclusivity). Sure there will be big business for some YouTubers new and old, but moving a large audience from one service to another won't be easy. I don't actually think Sony would do this personally, and instead I think it's much more likely that they want to improve their existing tools to allow content creators to avoid editing on their computers, and to stop using capture cards altogther. Being able to upload your own images, animations, titles and use key-frames on the PlayStation (especially using a cloud service) would be a nice feature, especially since the basic object properties and key-frame options is all that a lot of 'Let's Players' need - large channels included. Not everyone has a computer with decent editing facilities anyway, plus anything that saves on editing time is always good - although sometimes the biggest time saver for me is flexibility, not simplicity (yeah I'm look at you native Apple apps).

Now onto the legal element of this and what Sony's claim could mean for everyone else who uses the term 'Let's Play'. For a start, no one is going to stop you from recording game footage generally - don't worry about that. The term 'Let's Play' has been used for so long that Sony would have a hard time appealing this one. Even if they did get the trademark then I don't think they would aggressively take down all existing videos with 'Let's Play' in the title - I think this would be a pretty disastrous thing from a PR point of view. Many people don't use the term anyway, but those that do could potentially have to stop branding their content in such a way to avoid Sony making a claim in the future. One of the biggest games media companies on YouTube - Rooster Teeth - do have a channel called 'Let's Play' - who I'm sure have many many lawyers ready to defend their right to use it as a brand. -oP

Monday, 4 January 2016

Not A List Of New Year Gaming Resolutions 2016 - Honest

I'm not going to list a standard selection of self-delusional goals (how pessimistic of me to say!), instead I'm going to list some self-delusional gaming-related achievements instead! Yup, there's no way I'll complete some of these as ironically I spend less time playing games despite being totally focused in starting a career in the industry! From morning to night, my time is spent developing myself through my personal game creation and creative content, but I need to change the way I operate this year!

1. Separate my 'work' and 'play' time more efficiently. A definitive window of time needs to be set for me to enjoy the ton of games I own (thanks steam sales). 

2. Stream more - something I briefly dabbled in before Christmas. It's more relaxing and ultimately less time-consuming then regular Let's Plays because there's no editing to worry about. Just play, record and upload - if it's rough around the ages then no one cares. I can also chop up the footage and create a shorter video from a two-hour stream if necessary. The important thing is I can just enjoy a game whilst also developing my YouTube channels - plus being able to interact with other people is fun!

3. Efficient YouTube videos. My Elite: Dangerous content will consist of one heavily edited short film a month, more ship build videos (which seems to be the most popular kind of video I've produced on my channel) and a restart of my narrative series. The important thing is to keep high production values whilst being efficient, and my new audio interface will help with that a LOT. Up until now, I had an annoying set-up with multiple computers which has resulted in poor audio quality because my old hardware isn't compatible with Windows 10. Now I don't have to worry about this, and audio should be free of digital distortion - an issue which has resulted in throwing out quite a few videos after recording them multiple times. The software I'm now using should allow for better use of templates and will speed up editing time.

4. Focus on a game! I tend to struggle with sticking with one game at a time until completion, because my normal play-time is so disjointed and irregular. Having a Steam library with so many options doesn't help either! At the minute I am casually playing a Total War game as I enjoy slow-paced turn based games and don't want to sink time into a mobile strategy title, but I have finally got a PS4 with five games to start off with... oh dear. Over the years I've had to leave quite a few games by the wayside simply because I don't have the time for them all. Great RPGs such as Ni No Kuni sit on my shelf unfinished, and getting back into a game isn't helped by having to spend precious time re-learning mechanics. I haven't even finished Skyrim, a game I bought on day-one, although I have sunk 200 hours into it (yeah, I'm a side-quest completionist). Dark Souls 2, Fallout 4, MGSV: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3 and Star Wars Battlefront - oh boy: two big RPGS, one re-playable action-RPG, an open world stealth game and a multiplayer time-sink. Elite: Dangerous is my long-term MMO game of sorts and since I have a channel dedicated to it - it's here to stay.

5. Expand my second channel. This is currently focused on Elite: Dangerous gameplay, but I want to start other space-themed game or two. My current thoughts are Space Engineers and No Man's Sky. Space Engineers would most likely involve creative mode builds as this would be the most efficient video to produce and I feel like this would interest people the most. No Man's Sky would be a more casual explorative series as I make my way to the centre of the galaxy.

6. Complete my current game and software. I have a card/board game in development and it's been hanging in limbo as I have been focused on other things. It's just a simple game which will be free on, but I need to get it into a working state so that I can move onto another project. I don't expect to make any money from my games, but I do want to get more under my belt. My other project is a tool for sound engineers, which whilst being a niche product, is something I think is worth selling. It's very close to completion too, I just need to focus and push for the end zone! After this is done I can begin my next game and continue developing myself!

7. Most importantly get a job in the industry. My ideal job would be creating game-related video content for a YouTube channel. I have the technical skills and project experience (plus it helps that I do this in my spare time anyway). Since I create my own games, I would love to work with a developer or publisher in some capacity in production, media, community or QA and develop my skills further. It's got to be in London though - that's where my partner is!

So that's the plan... let's hope I stick to it! What's yours? -oP