Atlus is walking back its previous restrictions for streaming Persona 5. Where players were warned before not to stream past the in-game date of 7 / 7, the publisher has since amended those rules to 11 / 19, the staring point of late-game content. It’s an improvement that still fails to fully address the wants of the community it’s serving.
Since Persona 5’s release, developer Atlus has been very particular about what players are and aren’t allowed to share online. The PlayStation 4’s share features are disabled outright. Streamers who played past 7 / 7 did so “at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension,” as per Atlus. The company’s reasoning was comically simplistic: It wanted to prevent spoilers. “Our fans have waited years for the game to come out and we really want to make sure they can experience it fully as a totally new adventure,” Atlus said.
The choice was unpopular with players, but also a baffling business decision. For a game like Persona 5 — long, complex, and damn near impossible to fully explain in a few words — streaming can be a powerful marketing tool. If a prospective player can’t understand why the game is worth picking up from a back of the box description, what better way to show them than to... well, show them.
Atlus’s dedication to spoiler prevention is an admirable goal. If your 80+ hour game is heavy on plot twists and storybeats, of course you’d want to preserve that as best you can. But streaming guidelines didn’t prevent players from spoiling the game anyway. Banning social features doesn’t prevent players from taking grainy cellphone photos and sharing them on Twitter; it actually has the opposite effect. Life finds a way, as they say, and it has unfortunate side-effects. When fans must share screencaptures by snapping a photo of the television screen, it makes the non-spoilery images of the game look low quality. If Atlus really wants to stamp out spoilers, it’s forgetting that it already has a powerful ally: the community itself.
Whether or not it truly ruins your enjoyment of the game, fans at large tend to care about and respect spoilers. On the Persona 5 subreddit, home to more than 21,000 fans, there are only four rules. One is specifically dedicated to spoiler prevention. No one likes a bigmouth, and fans are especially vocal to those who cross this line. The community is self-policing, and this fear of reprimanding, from fellow fans, is a powerful idea.
Atlus is now trying to correct its misstep. The revision itself is a response to what the company calls “reactive” news articles, videos, and emails from players themselves. “We recognize that our fans are the reason why the game is the major worldwide success it is, and we continue to want them to be able to enjoy the game without fear of being spoiled,” Atlus said. “However, we also heard your issues with the guidelines and have decided to revise them. Because we want to give players the most access to the game while respecting the original goal, we’re now asking players to refrain from streaming or posting video past the end of [11 / 19].”
But fans have spoken loud and clear since the game’s release. They want to be able to watch others play. They want to be able trade screenshots with friends. And for the average player, that remains difficult because you still can’t use the PS4’s most basic social features.
On the Persona 5 subreddit, discussion about the change is largely fans voicing their opinion for the restrictions to be lifted entirely. “I wish they would revise their screenshot policies too,” said one. “I'd be happy with just being able to share my personas with friends without having to take a picture of my screen with a phone like it's still 2005,” replied another.
Others argue that people viewing these streams are probably not worried about plot points. “If someone is watching a stream of a game they haven't played, then they probably don't care about spoilers,” wrote one user. “People who do care about spoilers are either playing the game themselves or not watching streams. It's pretty simple.”
Persona 5's community has policed itself, and deserves the trust of Atlus. The policy tweak is a step in the right direction, but it’s hardly evidence of the developer meeting its fans halfway.