Genshin Impact Developer Goes With Extremely Fan-Friendly Fan-Art For Commercial Sale Policy

from the merch-for-all dept

The manner in which content producers generally, and video game publishers specifically, handle art and content created by their biggest fans varies wildly. There’s the Nintendo’s of the world, where strict control over all things IP is favored over allowing fans to do much of anything with its properties. Other gaming companies at least allow fans to do some things with their properties, such as making let’s play videos and that sort of thing. Still other gaming companies like Square have managed to let fans do some large and amazing projects with its IP.

And then there is Chinese gaming studio miHoYo, makers of the hit title Genshin Impact, where the studio doesn’t just allow fans to make their own art and merchandise… but also flatout tells them that they can go sell it, too.

On May 21, miHoYo released its Genshin Impact Overseas Fan-Made Merchandising Guide, which explicitly permits the commercial sale of fan-made items up to 200 units. There are only a few restrictions and artists do not have to contact the studio for small batches under the limit.

The legal environment for fan art is so strained that conventions like NekoCon have limited the sale of non-official merch. Entertainment companies like FUNimation have explicitly stated in the past that creators at artist alleys, which are exhibition spaces at fan conventions where independent artists can sell unofficial merchandise, are “infringing Funimation’s copyright rights.” And it’s generally understood among artists that properties owned by companies like Disney are completely off-limits.

With some rules in place over the quantities being sold, this means that when it comes to miHoYo properties, fans don’t get sued over making merch. They don’t get sued over selling that merch. Hell, fans don’t even have to ask for permission to sell the merch. Instead, it’s a refreshingly open policy.

And because of that, as should be a shock to absolutely nobody save all the game publishers that want to go the lawsuit and DMCA route, Genshin Impact has an insanely active and vibrant fan community that keeps the game’s name at the top of everyone’s mind.

The studio’s open policy has made it possible for Genshin Impact fans to make more varied products than the prints, keychains, and charms that are typically sold at artist alleys. At the time of writing, a quick search on Kickstarter shows unofficial earrings, sweaters, bookbags, plush toys, and berets. And fans were willing to put money towards their enthusiasm. At the time of writing, there were 28 Genshin Impact Kickstarters with at least $10,000 in funding.

There are also numerous independent artists who advertise their fan-made items on Twitter. Olivinearc sells Genshin Impact merchandise in her online store, and despite only opening twice a year, she receives a couple hundred orders each time she opens. She uses the revenue to fund the development of her visual novel game, and she cites the revenue from unofficial Genshin Impact products as the reason she was able to expand its soundtrack.

This sort of symbiotic relationship that passionate Genshin Impact fans have for the game could be had by lots of other gaming companies, were they to only give up a bit of control over their properties to their biggest fans. It seems miHoYo understands this, rather than taking umbrage or offense at some fan out there making some amount of money from its properties. By treating these passionate fans in a manner that’s real and human, the company instead reaps the reward of all that free advertising that merely solidifies the fandom it has worked to build.

The only real mystery here is why more game companies don’t follow this path.

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Companies: mihoyo

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Comments on “Genshin Impact Developer Goes With Extremely Fan-Friendly Fan-Art For Commercial Sale Policy”

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8 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"“infringing Funimation’s copyright rights.”"

cuts to the video footage of their VO artists reading subtitles created by a group violating the copyright rights of the creators to have better translations for their version

(Waves at Evan, hey pookie!)

miHoYo employs very smart people.
They created a very liberal (and refreshing) clearly stated policy & are sticking to it.
Rather than wasting resources playing whack a mole at conventions hassling actual fan artists, they are okay with them making a living.
This lets them focus on the actual bad actors (which do exist but not to the imagine levels) who are ripping them & the fans off.

Something something rather than consider everyone who offers fan art for sale an evil thief, they look for the actual bad actors.
Such a refreshing point of view…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s a lot less refreshing when you realize that it’s because their home market is a cesspool of nutcases who managed to shut out AO3 over the pettiest of things, for example.

Oh, and one "fan" almost stabbed the company’s CEO, too.

ANd if anyone tries to bring up that Japan does similar things, let’s just say the threat vectors are different. Japan’s megacorps try to close one eye on Comiket because it’s a massive pool of talent to draw from (and presumably underpay). China also has similar events, but the market is also extremely hostile and will attack one another if they don’t get what they want.

Anonymous Coward says:

She uses the revenue to fund the development of her visual novel game, and she cites the revenue from unofficial Genshin Impact products as the reason she was able to expand its soundtrack.

See, therein lies the problem. A fucknugget like Tero Pulkinnen is just going to look at that and claim that it’s "money made from unauthorized material that would not be allowed under stricter copyright rules" or something. It’s a perennial attitude of business owners and anyone in a position of power afforded to them by the status quo and rule of law. Employers think that all employee time should be dedicated to the corporate good, even if that "time" is during sleep hours and the "corporate good" is an asshole manager or client demanding a single line of code changed via email. Companies don’t look at fan support as a resource to tap because they’ve always traditionally looked at them as adversarial.

A game developer could argue that Genshin Impact’s success and reliance on whales allows them to assert less control over their own work, which doesn’t explain Nintendo’s inconsistent stance on fanwork. They might argue that China has traditionally had very non-existent controls over IP law standards… and that’s accurate, even though it’s not really relevant as an explanation for why a company would willingly not enforce draconian law on its fans. That said, given China’s recent actions against videogame developers, players, and boys that don’t fit their definitions of masculinity (looking at you, Venti) it remains to be seen how long it takes before miHoYo gets hit by the crackdown hammer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The grapevine suggests that the CCP is very unhappy with the modern Chinese gaming industry as of late. And Genshin is in the crosshairs, as well as… just about every popular Chinese-based mobile game in recent years.

And yes, Venti is one of the reasons. The largely useless alcoholic twink is used as an example for the same reason why he’s liked, minus the useless part.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The grapevine suggests that the CCP is very unhappy with the modern Chinese gaming industry as of late. And Genshin is in the crosshairs, as well as… just about every popular Chinese-based mobile game in recent years.

All to prop up the CCP’s vanity project of portraying them as being in total control where Western philosophies of governance have failed. Which is also pretty fucking dumb, because 1) letting the market and economy develop is precisely what led to increased Chinese prosperity, and 2) Chinese appetite for games in general is not stopping any time soon. Look at the user stats for any mobile game. The odds are that most of the whales are Chinese. I’ve had associates work in the support department for mobile games and half the tickets are from China asking why their thousand-diamond purchases don’t go through.

Thing is any change to Venti will lead to huge fan backlash.

Yes, it would. But China’s not the US, or any other country where effeminate boys getting anally probed is a symbol of empowerment or desire. It’s highly doubtful that miHoYo will win where Blizzard couldn’t.

TheDumberHalf says:

If other companies were smart

Companies should see the free advertising value of this policy. Imagine the market saturation potential of having hundreds of thousands of marketing agents for your game. Also if an artist is successful after 200 units, having a system to approve and license will go along way to nurture a devoted fan base.

Nintendo, take notes.

NIna says:

Re: If other companies were smart

I imagine other companies are smart, because they are not being this stupid.
There is no free advertising, many artists are getting paid via patreon, redbubble, and Kofi. They only do the copy work, while companies actually do the advertising and building the IP part of it.
The marketing agents that also market other products, very few actually stick to one, they also sell others. I see some people offering prints and key chains of various anime properties.
So basically, you have marketing agents for your competitors, and many not reimbursing the companies for their labor or supporting them in any way.
Fanartists benefit from the companies artists developers, and other marketing agents, while only spending a limited amount on copying concepts, and gathering an audience. If the fan base is devoted to an artist, if the artist changes to another game or even another media, then devoted fanbase will follow them. Plus if the company tries to make merchandise deals, it will compete with other illegal fan merchandise.

Nintendo build the brand, and made many games. They decided to spend time money and effort on their IPs. They are under no damn obligation to let other people profit off their hard work.

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