Monetization and Crowd-Funding of Fangames

Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by Beamer the Meep, Jul 6, 2020.

  1. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    My name's Martin Member
    If you make your own project which may earn money, but then use the same engine to make a fan game independently and abasolutely for free, I suppose it'd be safe too. Sort of releasing a free public version of the engine which someone else would use to make said fangame, but better because you know your stuff yet you're still separating it from the real source of money.
     
  2. Beamer the Meep

    Beamer the Meep

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    Sorry for the bump, but it seems Project 2020 is gaining traction again and I thought it was pertinent to share.

    They just recently renamed the game to Sonic Omens (mildly ironic considering the circumstances) and released Episodes 1 & 2 to great acclaim. Unfortunately, their Patreon is still active and is selling in-progress screenshots on their 1 dollar tier.

    Honestly, I have to admit I'm impressed with how the game is looking right now, but they're playing a very dangerous game here. The more reception it gets, the more this situation could escalate on Sega's end...
     
  3. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    My name's Martin Member
    I read this wikipedia article the other day and what I read there was very revealing. If I got it right, the fandom and indie scenes in Japan are these doujin circles, and japanese companies don't seem to mind if these circles make a bit of cash with their fanwork as long as it's just a bit of cash because they understand it as a positive sign of the success of their product and even free advertising, essentially meaning Sega does worldwide what it's common practice in Japan (this also means Nintendo are even greater assholes if they are the exception in their home country, but I digress).

    What I want to say with this, and don't take it as a defence for what Omens team are doing, is that maybe we're in a safer spot than we think despite what people like these guys do sometimes. Again, I'm not defending them, but it's good to know there's some safety net to deal with these situations. Personally, if I thought I did a such a good work with my fan project I think I deserve money for it, I'd pitch it to the owner of the IP first, but these people seem to be too bold to respect intellectual properties and too adamant to listen to the people that told them that's a bad idea.
     
  4. Beamer the Meep

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    Honestly, pitching your idea to the IP holder is a great idea. It's essentially what led to Mania's creation in the first case.

    If Sega were to outright say that making a small amount of money on their IPs when creating fanworks, then that would be different, but the most we've gotten on the matter is that they'll allow fangames so long as they don't make money off of them or significantly negatively impact the Sonic franchise. In either case, you are directly competing with Sega and it damages the brand as they sell it. Not that I'm saying you're arguing for it Xiao, but I've been seeing the doujin argument in connection to this recently and it ignores the fact that it's not been a stated policy of Sega's.

    I think Noah explained it all well in his recent video. He describes the IP holder as a mother bear and monetization as a stick that people use to poke that bear's cubs. You poke the bear, you will get eaten irregardless of what's "fair" or not.
     
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  5. Lilly

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    Mania's case is more complicated than that, however. Taxman and friends were industry professionals who already had established business relations with SEGA.

    Your average non-professional fan, soliciting an email to a multi-national corporation for permission to make a fan game, won't get much farther than the trash bin, in stark comparison. This could be one of many reasons why the Sonic fan game scene has largely operated on a "silent pact" with SEGA, so to speak, because communication is functionally impossible here.

    For companies or indie studios that operate at a much, much smaller scale, though? Your odds of reaching the right people certainly improve, there's no reason not to try!

    In my case with Shang Mu Architect, I reached out for Strife's direct permission to continue its development, some years ago; I wasn't sure if a fan game of an indie platformer even existed before, nor if its scope would be right by an indie developer. But needless to say, I got GalaxyTrail's blessing and the rest is history. Strife was wonderful to communicate with any time I asked if this thing or that was okay for the fan game, even!

    This situation looks a bit more nuanced than I was expecting. Their Patreon only lists their original projects, which means the Patreon funding isn't directly funding the fan game they're secretly keeping behind the pay wall, but it's more money allowing them to work on it nonetheless. So, on the outside looking in, nothing seems suspicious here, and that could be intentional?

    I just hope a professional games journalist outlet doesn't pick the fan game up; that could end badly for all of us. This is typically how a lot of fan game projects end up on corporate radar, much like with AM2R. SEGA never said anything about Sonic fan games ending up in magazines before, but the landscape has changed so much in the past couple of decades- it's hard to say what would happen here.
     
  6. Beamer the Meep

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    Of course, I wasn't trying to imply just anybody could submit a fangame to an IP holder and get approval. You're absolutely right about that so my bad.

    Having looked at both footage for the recent release and their page, I can assure you that some of that locked concept is of Omens' latest episodes. In essence here, they aren't promoting it as a project on their page, but they are using it as an incentive to invest in their Patreon; in other words, they are using Sonic Omens as advertising which is a breach of copyright. I think it's safe to say that some of these funds are being funneled into the project anyway, but there's no definitive proof. Borrowing from Noah's video again, they're "leaving the stick outside the cave" to try and outsmart the copyright, but it's a violation in and of itself.

    To be clear, I do think the project looks spectacular, which is why it's such a shame that it's being monetized. Even if Sega is merciful and only C&Ds this particular fangame and leaves the rest alone, a pretty cool game is gonna be lost.
     
  7. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Utterly disgusting that they're still doing this despite the backlash and everything everyone's said. The selfish fucks are going to ruin everything for us all if they don't stop.
     
  8. Overbound

    Overbound

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    Monetizing fan games is unwise and a very bad idea. However, If your so afraid that someone else might ruin your community by doing a little more IP theft than you already do, because said community is on shaky legal grounds to begin with and it causes you to devolve into name calling and being nasty to people. Maybe your community isn't worth saving. Ban the guys from your forum who are monetizing the game and leave it at that.

    Making decisions based on fear never goes well. If you can't stomach the risks of making a fan game, make something else. Mind your own and live and let live. This is Sega's battle and they can come down on you or them any time they want. Regardless of this particular fan game monetization instance. No one gave you the right to police Sega's IP for them.
     
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  9. Beamer the Meep

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    As I said when I created the topic, I don't condone the toxic behavior people are directing towards violators. That said, I do think it should be made clear by the community (politely) that such behavior won't be condoned or tolerated. Most of the "name calling and being nasty" really comes from Twitter rather than from Retro. Honestly, it's a reaction that seems to have started with Omens' team members themselves. Not saying I condone that, but that seems to be where that issue stems from.
     
  10. BadBehavior

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    I just looked at all the doom and gloom that said these people were killing fan games and I thought "If this means we never get another Sonic Mania, then so be it." And just like that my journey into self-destructive nihilism is complete.
     
  11. Willie

    Willie

    Each day the world turns Laugh 'til it all burns Member
    All this negative attention from Sonic fans resulted in this video popping up as a recommended video on YouTube.



    If we want the Sonic fangames community to continue thriving, making a big deal about this has given the creator of Sonic Omens a lot of free advertising to his project. It's possible Sega would have never noticed it existed if people were not creating so much drama about it. Internet drama can be addictive and fun, but the consequences usually result in bad outcomes. Good example? The Smash Community. Some of the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U players attempted suicide or contemplated suicide as a byproduct of how drama from a video game fandom ruined their lives. I would argue what this person is doing might be illegal, but way less morally objectionable than the behavior that caused those Smash players to get bullied on the internet. I used to moderate a flaming forum associated with a video game fandom when I was 16 years old in 2006 and I learned a lot from that experience of how much hate from people in video game fandoms can trash a person's mental health for decades. My advice is to be careful with our rhetoric.
     
  12. Melody the Sylveon

    Melody the Sylveon

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    This shit is really sad and upsetting all around. I haven't seen much of this vitriol that I'm hearing about because I'm not keeping in touch with the issue on social media. That said I'm sad that this is getting big attention. I hope the worst doesn't come to pass (our community gets mauled by the bear).
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2021
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  13. Sparks

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    At this point, the lesson is going to be learned the hard way; they're going to reap what they sew. It's no longer a matter of if, but when.
     
  14. MagnusTheGreen

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    This is just my opinion, but I think having a pay what you want or a patreon is fine, as long as you aren't paying to play the game. If I like the devs and want to support their endeavors, I should be able to do that. But the game itself should not be behind a paywall.
     
  15. Beamer the Meep

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    Honestly, it's my belief that Patreon is very easily abused these days. While yes, on paper it's a great idea to be able to support a creator directly, be it an artist, a YouTuber, or a game developer, more often than not it's now someone who is creating a fanwork or a derivative work because Patreon itself doesn't/can't screen for this sort of thing. YouTube videos are questionable, but so long as it's a transformative work such as a review or a video essay it falls under the legal definition of fair use. I suppose covers and remixes of songs could fall under that as well, but when it comes to artwork or games you suddenly run into the problem we have now.

    Game developers and, to a lesser extent, artists on this platform are going to be people who are just starting out, and thus are more likely to lean on established IP. That in isolation isn't a problem since fanwork obviously can help someone develop their skills as this community has continually shown. When you add money to this equation in any way, you suddenly risk competing against the IP holder. Patreon, which everyone and their brother knows about and everyone and their brother can easily set up, makes this all too easy to occur.

    Now it doesn't matter if you are not putting this specific work behind a paywall. If you are using any part of this game as an incentive, a reason, or marketing for, making money on anything, then you are competing with the IP holder and you are breaking copyright law. Omens has screenshots of progress locked behind their paywall and it is still a violation of copyright. It doesn't matter if it's $1 or $100 per person, that money adds up to quite a tidy sum and it encourages others to follow suit. That is not a situation Sega is going to allow to continue since they desperately need that money right now.

    I think it's admirable that people want to support these creative endeavors, really it is, but if a creator abusing copyright then supporters really should stay away from that situation.
     
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  16. Overlord

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    You don't see the inherent problem with people charging for stuff that they don't own the rights to? Especially when it's competing with the primary product the owner of said rights makes? Making the final EXE free doesn't stop that.
     
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  17. Chaud

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    In my case, I have two conflicting opinions on this issue. One is my ideological view on this, and the other is the practical issue.

    Personally, I am against the idea of intellectual property / copyright by definition. I don't want to get off topic so I'm not interested in discussing this point here as I'm sure anyone interested in this already has their opinions about it. (Or if not, Google/YouTube is certainly there to help you research it.) My point here is that even if I disagree with an idea from a theoretical standpoint, that doesn't mean I think it's valid to ignore the practical consequences of our actions. Honestly, in an ideal world, to me, there would be no problem in Sonic Omens, or any other fangame, making money in any way.

    But we don't live in my ideal world, we live in a shared world where intellectual property does exists.

    The world has its laws and rules. I may not like them, I may not even agree with them, but that does not exempt me from having to obey them. Even if Sonic Omens turned out to be the best fangame ever created, it would not be worth the risk of making Sega take a harder stance on fangames in general. I wonder how many Mario/Zelda/Metroid fangames have not come into existence for the simple fact that Nintendo falls like an adamantium hammer on any game that gains the slightest notoriety. In that sense, we are extremely privileged. And it is worth remembering that under current laws, companies not only can block fangames, but technically are encouraged to do so in order to maintain their rights. We are in a delicate balance and if the scales tip to one side, they may never return to the starting point.

    If the team that is making the game is not able to produce it without taking money from other fans... Well, then unfortunately, the game shouldn't exist in the first place - at least not in its current form. The risk is too great, and what we have to lose is too valuable. Again, from a theoretical standpoint I am 100% in favor of them doing whatever they want, but in today's world and with the laws that exist and the way the game industry works, in practice, they are potentially harming several other future fangames. And to me it is too selfish to think that whatever you are doing is worth more than everything else. But if he's not seeing this now, I don't think he's the kind of person who would realize (or care about) the risk he's making everyone take.
     
  18. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    My name's Martin Member
    I have a lot of things to answer here, so I won't quote since I think everything will be easy to get anyway:

    1) I only used the doujin thing to try to explain Sega's stance and hope it helps if I'm right. I'm not using it as a divine privilege to do fanwork when laws are there to tell me I'm not allowed in any (meaningful) case.

    2) I spoke about pitching the project to the IP holder not as a necessarily realistic measure, just a way to do the right thing. If you're making a great work and are organized enough to act as an indie studio, doing this could be quite more professional than simply seeing it as "Hi, sega! release my fangame, plz!".

    3) I don't get why some people mix the arguments about fangame monetization and internet toxicity as if one served as a counterpoint to the other; both behaviours are bad, end of the argument.

    4) At the very moment a fangame shows up in patreon, even if everything about its content is free, is already linking it to the money earned through that platform. It might not be a paid fangame, but, come on, you're already using it to gain interest in your work.

    5) Sorry, but, about copyright... If I published something, and someone tried to gain money from my original work, I would sue them. I'd be open to free fanwork because, as always, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'll decide if what anyone else does deserves to be canon, earn money, or whatever, and I should be getting at least part of that money because it's something I created. Being against copyright in case of things that could save the world, ok (we have this case with the vaccines now), but art is up to the artist to share or not and in which way.
     
  19. Beamer the Meep

    Beamer the Meep

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    Sorry Xiao, wasn't trying to call you out at all. I've just been seeing that being brought up quite frequently by those on Twitter who would argue in favor of Omens. There's merit in your point, not so much in theirs that it's a thing that "should" exist. As Noah has correctly pointed out in his video "what should be" has no relevancy on "what is", much like @Chaud is trying to say.

    I can't say I agree about abolishing copyright wholesale, but I do think we should fix the runaway effect the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" has had on it. Copyright realistically should be protecting the right to ownership in a fair manner; abolishing it would be akin to abolishing the right to ownership in my opinion. That's neither here nor there when it comes to this situation, but I figured I'd add my two cents in for whatever it's worth.

    I do think the toxicity argument, while valid in certain instances, is being used by the Omens Twitter mob to strawman those who would oppose monetization. We should try to be cordial and polite when dealing with the situation, but arguing against monetization and pointing out both the illegality of it and the issues it can bring up is hardly being "toxic". Again, not trying to throw anyone under the bus with that statement, but apparently it needs to be clarified.
     
  20. Chaud

    Chaud

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    Just to be clear, I am not saying that you (or any other person/corporation/company) can't or doesn't have the right to do this, it is obvious that you do and can. I am of the position that you should not have this right. That ethically and logically, ideas, by definition, should not be "property" because the concept doesn't apply - and when you try to apply it, it doesn't make sense. But I don't see society adopting this position anytime soon, not for the next few centuries at least. Then, it doesn't make much sense to act in a way that breaks the existing laws - as I said, it's not because you don't agree with something that you don't have to follow it.