from the dead-zone dept
One of the more annoying aspects of how the video game industry conducts its relationships with gaming journalists is the concept of embargos. The idea goes something like this: publishers will furnish journalists and/or game streamers with advanced copies of games, but include an embargo on any reporting, reviews, or streaming those games prior to a certain date. Sometimes that date is the release date of the game, so that there aren’t reports or displays of the game prior to it going up for sale. Sometimes the date is actually pushed out past the release date. Both are pretty naked attempts by publishers to not generate any potentially negative press before the public can spend gobs of money on a game they don’t know might suck out loud. It’s a crappy process and it would be better if everyone simply agreed to not accept advanced copies unless the embargo is lifted, but that has never happened.
But there can also be challenges with enforcing those embargoes. For instance: were you all aware that the planet is round? Crazy right? With that roundness comes another wild thing: time zones. And with time zones comes an infuriating practice of having different release windows for a new game based on those time zones. How does that create challenges with embargoes? Well, when you get a Twitch streamer temporarily banned with a copyright strike because they streamed a game that “hasn’t been released,” but it actually has been in New Zealand, that’s how.
Square Enix’s brand new RPG, Forspoken, is to be released on January 24, 2023, and streamers worldwide have been looking forward to trying it out on their streams. However, one creator from New Zealand by the moniker Gtamen has been handed a two-day ban by Twitch after a copyright strike.
The YouTuber has claimed that the game was legally out in his country when he streamed it on Twitch, that is January 24. Meaning that the copyright strike, which is still in effect at the time of writing, would be entirely unfair. Here’s a screenshot of the blurb that pops out when trying to access his channel.
The notice for the 48 hour ban very specifically indicated that the reason for the ban was for streaming an “unreleased video game under embargo.” Because of the way that time zones and the release windows for Forespoken were handled, though, the game was released in New Zealand. That country is basically the starting point for time zones, which means the game was released there before the vast majority of the rest of the globe. But it was released at the time of the stream.
Some folks made excuses for Square Enix by noting that the embargo was listed as lifting at 2pm GMT, which is based off of London’s time zone. And while that may be technically true, that means that a Japanese company is enforcing an embargo based on the time in London for a game that releases essentially first in New Zealand.
The post from the streamer sparked quite some reactions, with some claiming that the ban was legitimate, considering the embargo on Forspoken ends at 2 pm GMT on January 23. Meaning Gtamen technically did break the stipulations, however, he did retort by claiming that the game had been unlocked by the store and should, therefore, not be subject to the embargo.
And to put the finest point on this, the streamer in this case technically broke the embargo by roughly 12 hours, but received a 48 hour ban. That seems fairly silly, no?