MiHoYo, the company behind the popular free-to-play game Genshin Impact, has given fanfiction writers the all-clear to create their own stories with the game’s characters or universe — even if they want to make money from their works (via Kotaku). Commercialized fanfiction has long existed in a legal gray area, and MiHoYo making clear rules about how fans can sell it and physical merchandise is a big move for such a popular video game.
In an update to the rules for fan-made merchandise, posted on MiHoYo’s community site, the company said that “novels or stories written by fans” won’t need to be officially declared, “whether for profit or not.” That means that creators won't have to fill out any forms letting the company know they intend to profit off of stories written about Genshin Impact.
Normally, writers working with popular franchises have to be very careful if they want to sell their work. While listing a physically bound version of your Harry Potter story for sale online probably won’t get you a cease-and-desist, some creators have acknowledged that they’re relying on their small size to avoid being shut down.
While the rules today create a bit of a gray area (does the word “novel” include printed books, or would those fall under physical merch?), it does seem clear that you could sell Genshin Impact-themed ebooks without any worries. With MiHoYo’s previous rules around merchandise, it was left unclear whether paid fanfiction of any kind counted as something you would need to seek advance permission from the company to make.
Fans selling physical merchandise at conventions or on sites like Etsy have often faced the same fears as fanfiction authors. For some of those people, MiHoYo is updating its policy to be even more lenient — individual fans selling items like T-shirts, cloth dolls, and fan art (but not statues or figurines) inspired by the game can now sell up to 500 units without having to apply for official authorization. Previously, they were limited to selling 200 units without permission, which will remain the case for fan groups selling merch. In an FAQ section of its post, the company also gives instructions on what to do if you end up going over the limit because you sold more units than expected.
There are limitations, but MiHoYo isn’t leaving it to fans to figure out what the company will and won’t allow
Of course, there are still limitations on what you can do with Genshin Impact’s characters. MiHoYo says you can’t sell items that have actual screenshots from the game in it, you can’t act like the items you’re selling are officially licensed, and you’re not allowed to make anything that harms the reputation of the company or its game. Plus, if you are looking to get permission to sell hundreds of units, you can’t just ask to use all the characters.
While MiHoYo isn’t the first company to allow creators to sell their stories and homemade merch, it’s rare that permission is provided so officially. The company isn’t ignoring its fans, letting them do what they want but without any assurances — it’s laying out a clear path for them to create their own work based on the company’s stories and characters. For those with a passion for the series, that’s good news; they can make and sell their own art without worry about getting in trouble for it.