Most games don't have guidelines for streaming. If they do, it's usually explicit permission for a streamer to monetise videos. But this is Square Enix we're talking about. With Dragon Quest Heroes on PS4, it's mostly about what you can't do. For example, you can't stream on Twitch with the music on. Seriously!
"Streaming via Twitch is absolutely fine as long as you don't have the music on," a company spokesperson told me. "YouTube is currently the only video service in the West approved to use if there is music on in the video."
The game won't block you from streaming over Twitch, but it means you could run into copyright issues, due to the soundtrack used in the game.
"If you stream the game with the music on via Twitch you could indeed run into a copyright issue," the company spokesperson said.
There are people streaming Dragon Quest Heroes on Twitch right now, of course.
This is a hilarious contrast, by the way, to Square Enix publicly embracing a Deus Ex fan mod only a day ago. Talk about mixed messaging.
I decided to ask Square Enix about this after seeing the game's absurd streaming requirements being roundly mocked on social media yesterday.
The guidelines start innocent enough, with Square Enix explaining how they (and others) own the rights to the images, characters, etc. Standard stuff.
Then, it breaks down how you're "allowed" to stream using the PlayStation 4. The guidelines stipulate players should "not post or transfer copyrighted material (video, voice, music, etc. in DQH) in ways that are not listed below."
Under line 2b, Square Enix specifically mentions the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, aka JASRAC. JASRAC made headlines in the early days of YouTube. At one point, JASRAC demanded the service take down more than 30,000 videos. JASRAC represents a bunch of really powerful companies -- Pony Canyon, Sony Music Entertainment Japan, Universal Japan, Avex Japan, Warner Japan, etc. -- and their request made waves.
Per a Mashable report from 2006:
They [JASRAC] wanted YouTube to automatically screen all uploads to see whether they contain copyrighted content (something YouTube is already working on), post a Japanese language warning about respecting copyright and delete any users who had posted copyrighted clips. JASRAC is the same organisation that managed to get 30,000 YouTube clips deleted in October - one of the biggest purges so far. The deletion included clips from Sony Japan, Warner Japan and Universal Japan.
According to reports out today, founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen replied to the letter and agreed to post a copyright notice on YouTube in Japanese as well as English - this will only be shown to Japanese users. They also said they'd consider flying out to Japan to discuss the issue (translation: please don't sue us!). However, some sources suggest that JASRAC just sent a second letter to complain about more copyrighted clips, so the issue isn't over yet.
My gut tells me the restrictions for Dragon Quest Heroes have to do with JASRAC; Dragon Quest series composer Koichi Sugiyama is a council member for JASRAC!
I've asked Square Enix for more details.
For example, look at the second set of guidelines for streaming:
It's not often a company requires video makers to include specific copyrights. Not only will a "future game update" automatically insert two sets of copyright into your YouTube description, you're being asked to do that manually -- or else!
(The "or else" part is ominous, since it's pretty easy to lose control of your YouTube channel if copyright strikes start stacking up.)
What's scary about the both weirdly specific and vague guidelines is how Square Enix reserves the right to "delete any videos or streams in its sole discretion." If Square Enix wants it gone, it will disappear, even if you've followed the rules.
Heck, according to the last bit, in the event Square Enix doesn't want to take down your video, they're not totally sure this will protect you from others!
"Square Enix makes no warranty or representations regarding the DQH Content. Square Enix expressly disclaims that any such images or videos posted on the Internet will not violate any third party rights. Furthermore, Square Enix is not responsible for any disputes or conflicts that arise between any player and 3rd party from the use of the DQH Content."
This isn't totally new for Square Enix. There are very specific rules about what you can do when it comes to streaming Final Fantasy XIV, for example. They have banned creators from making money, unless they have joined a partner program that's established a relationship with Square Enix, and if your footage contains a Final Fantasy logo, it also must include this line:
FINAL FANTASY is a registered trademark of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd.
This is serious! Have you ever looked at a screen shot from a Final Fantasy XIV? Take a close look at the corner:
This is frustrating. If you want to limit how people monetise footage from your game, that's a conversation, but these confusing barriers for sharing a game only make a fan's life harder and the companies involved seem out of touch.