Angry Joe Vs. Capcom: The Internet Distilled
The world of gaming video is one of myriad competing business interests. You’ve got your big money publishers, your developers, big and small, your brand managers and advertisers, all coexisting in a space dominated by individuals, strong personalities with a sense of independence, relying on their own autonomy to deliver the content that’s made them noteworthy in the first place. When you take a broad look, it makes sense that conflict and controversy would be a normal, seemingly constant part of the ecosystem.
This last week, Capcom announced that the Playstation 4 would be the only console seeing a release of the next entry in their long-running and historic Street Fighter franchise. Whether this is a good decision on their part is debatable. Exclusivity has been a bit of a hot button for a while now, as each manufacturer looks to win gamers over to their platform by locking up a favorite franchises. If you wanted to play the Tomb Raider reboot upon release, for example, you had to buy an XBox One. Microsoft hoped the franchise was such a draw that it’d force gamers into adopting their system.
I see both sides of this argument. From a business perspective, with games becoming more expensive and having unreasonable expectations forced upon them by publishers, the financing you can get out of console exclusivity can, perhaps, help usher games through development that otherwise would never be made. But, it’s hard to imagine that’s the case with such firmly established franchises as Street Fighter, and, what’s more, it certainly feels like a betrayal to the gamer, who’s loyally played every entry in an ongoing series, to switch platforms mid-stream. Exclusivity is an issue that will continue to see lively debate, without a difinitive right or wrong answer.
What can become a black or white issue is how these companies respond to the discussion, the controversies, and whether or not they step over the line into terrible public-relations. Case in point: this week’s throw-down between Capcom and Joe Vargas.
Vargas is the man behind “The Angry Joe Show,” a gaming Youtube channel that boasts 1.75 million subscribers and a charmingly surly attitude. When Capcom announced Street Figher V, Vargas was amongst those on the receiving end of their press release, which, in addition to giving details about the game, featured a link to the announcement trailer, and an appeal to “spread the word.”
And spread the word he did.
Vargas wasted little time creating and uploading a video. Using elements from the linked trailer, he talked about the game’s anticipated features, the stage design, and its historical context. He also, quite explicitly, lambasted the exclusivity decision, calling it, in so many words, unfortunate and dissapointing for Xbox owners that they’d be unable to play the latest entry in what’s been such a long-running franchise.
For this, The Angry Joe Show was roundly punished, with Capcom making a copyright claim on the trailer’s assets and having the video pulled. He’s since added an additional video (NSFW language) detailing the whole affair.
Now, to be clear, Capcom has the right to do this. The trailer is theirs, and it was not disseminated with the explicit instruction that you could do anything you wanted with it. Is what Vargas was using it for probably covered under “fair use?” Hard to say without the video being available to view. One imagines the answer could be yes, but the point is there’s a legal grey area there. What isn’t nebulous is how this makes Capcom look.
Gaming video has become such a phenomenon because the community had grown tired of canned PR and biased game coverage. Youtube is a place where people can get real opinions and impressions from people they respect, people who aren’t “bought and paid for,” to use a cliche. Now, these people are a part of the business. They’re as important as printed reviews or television commercials. They are integral. Belittling them, and what they do, by stifling their expression, makes you look not only like a faceless corporation, but like an outsider, like someone or something that doesn’t understand the very space they call home.
Did Capcom have the right to pull that video? Probably. If they enforce that same standard across the board, sure, they’ll likely see a few thousand dollars in ad revenue that would have otherwise fallen into other people’s hands. But the end result is that Vargas continues to publicly call you out, drawing even more attention to the exclusivity controversy, and you end up looking petty, thin-skinned, and, worst of all, bureaucratically manipulative.
Fighting the new paradigm is how old businesses die. Every publisher and developer has the right to thrash and scream against the rising tide of web video, but it’s a losing battle, and the sooner they get on board, figure out how to coexist in this strange emerging world, the sooner they can find themselves back on top.
Originally published at blog.gamewisp.com Dec 10, 2014.