Video streaming services have revolutionized the video game industry. YouTube, Twitch, HitBox, and now, thanks to a deal with Blizzard, Facebook Live, allow people to connect one on one with the games that interest them without as so much as paying a cent. It allows the gamer to get a real sense of a game before purchase by watching someone else play it.

Let’s Play videos have taken the internet by storm with the likes of Markiplier, PewDiePie, and the Game Grumps. People who play video games all day, record them, then upload them online. This content is consumed by literally millions of fans who watch, interact, and pay to get more content. It’s even been theorized that the main booster for the phenomenon iOS game, Flappy Bird’s success was a Let’s Play video.

Things wouldn’t be the world if it also didn’t receive some criticism as well. Even well known developers have been more than a bit outspoken to the Let’s Play community and the lack of actual funds seen their way. Developer Ryan Green of That Dragon, Cancer has stated:

“If a fraction of those who viewed a let’s play or twitch stream of our game left us a $1 tip on our website (less than the cost of renting a movie), we would have the available funds to continue to work and create for the benefit of the gaming and the Let’s Play community.”

And it’s hard to debate this argument. After all, they did create the game that is being played. Whether it’s being played for advertising or just interest, the developer doesn’t seen any money from the monetization that the Youtuber gets from each page view. Green went on to say that these videos have even cost sales of their title since it’s a relatively short, linear story. The entire playthrough is up for all to see from start to finish. For free.

Let’s Play videos are not going anywhere and if anything, they will only become a more important role in a gamer’s purchase decision. Trailers are full of assets made not using the actual game engine and sometimes don’t show gameplay footage at all. Just a couple quick glances and shiny objects. Check out any Steam game page. You’ll be lucky to find legit gameplay footage of the game you’re interested in buying.

So are Let’s Plays really killing the video game industry?

Or, are Let’s Plays uncovering the holes in your game?

There’s too many decisions you can make to create a game that’s worthy of buying with or without seeing a Let’s Play video.

Tell a more open storyline. Green’s game is so linear that it feels more like a movie than a game. Games should be interactive and the environment should react to you being in it. That Dragon, Cancer is an amazing story, told with passion and unabridged poetic tragedy, make no mistake. But this style of game, as the anchor of your development team’s financial future, is simply poor business.

You should be able to create a unique experience every time someone plays. This way a single playthrough online won’t tell the whole story of your game. Everyone plays a game differently and giving gamers those options to play the game like they want to will give them the unique experience that a simple video just won’t suffice.

You can’t fight the future. What you can do is stop, realize, learn, and adapt. If you can’t change with the market, then the market is going to leave you behind. And the foundation to your future starts with a game that people find interesting enough to want to play. Not who’s going to be playing it online.

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Eric M Hunter

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