NetEase Backs Down On Requirement For Early Streamers Of ‘Marvel’ Game To Not Critique The Game

from the about-face dept

It’s a funny thing what game publishers sometimes try to do when it comes to releasing games early to internet streamers as a way to boost interest in their games. I’ve heard stories of all kinds of crazy stipulations that streamers have to sign off on contractually in order to get access to the game. They can only show certain parts of the game, or they can only play so far into it, or they have guardrails put up around what they can and cannot say about the game they are showing off to the public. What tends to get lost in all of this is that these streamers are essentially an advertising channel to generate more hype about these future games, yet they’re treated like some kind of a threat.

And where this gets really pernicious is when publishers want to both get messaging about their games out in the form of independent streaming personalities, but also want to control what that message will be. Perhaps one of the most extreme forms that type of thing can take showed up with NetEase, who is developing the upcoming Marvel Rivals game, attempted to contractually prohibit these streamers from saying anything negative about the games.

The controversial early access contract gained widespread attention over the weekend when streamer Brandon Larned shared a portion on social media. In the “non-disparagement” clause shared by Larned, creators who are provided with an early download code are asked not to “make any public statements or engage in discussions that are detrimental to the reputation of the game.” In addition to the “subjective negative review” example above, the clause also specifically prohibits “making disparaging or satirical comments about any game-related material” and “engaging in malicious comparisons with competitors or belittling the gameplay or differences of Marvel Rivals.”

It should be obvious to anyone why this is a problem and why there’s no way this wasn’t going to become public. The contract, as written, essentially asked these streaming personalities, who have only their reputations with their fans to go on, to not just let the company tread on their own editorial credibility, but to actually mandate the full torpedoing of that credibility. Anyone who agreed to this, or other contracts like it, are almost purely shills.

After this all went public, NetEase unsurprisingly apologized and promised to make changes on their end.

In a follow-up posted to social media this morning, NetEase went on to “apologize for any unpleasant experiences or doubts caused by the miscommunication of these terms… We actively encourage Creators to share their honest thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms as they play. All feedback, positive and negative, ultimately helps us craft the best experience for ourselves and the players.” NetEase says it is making “adjustments” to the contract “to be less restrictive and more Creator-friendly.”

There are always going to be some restrictions in these arrangements. After all, these streamers are getting early access to a game and publishers will certainly want to exert some control over what is messaged and shown and what isn’t. But any attempt to tread upon the editorial integrity of those that are being used as the mouthpieces of hype for these games ought to be a non-starter.

Otherwise, the destruction of trust in those streamers in the public would render them useless, anyhow.

Filed Under: criticism, non-disparagement, non-disparagement clause, reviews, video games

Companies: netease

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