On an internet obsessed with reactions, events like E3 are a goldmine. Content creators of all stripes co-stream big announcements as they happen, adding some flavor to otherwise pristinely packaged proceedings. Today, however, E3 told creators that might not be such a great idea this year.
This morning, Geoff Keighley, who hosted E3 for years but departed last year to launch his own event called Summer Game Fest, tweeted out an email from E3 sent to content creators. Many of these creators applied to be part of E3's official co-streaming program, but not all of them. In the email, the organization explained that spaces in its official co-streaming program were “limited” and “quickly filled.” It went on to say that if others choose to co-stream one of the biggest gaming events of the year, they will be doing so at their own risk.
“Though we encourage fan engagement and people to co-stream and think that it is great when the community does it, we do not speak for platforms like Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook,” wrote E3 talent team leader Luke Stepleton. “We recommend that the TOS and guidelines for those platforms be followed for such events.”
“I did try to play nice,” tweeted Keighley, whose Summer Game Fest event, which took place earlier this week, specifically stipulated that anyone was allowed to stream it “for free.” “Creators be wary unless you have permission,” Keighley said.
He then asked other content creators, streamers, and hosts if they received the same email. Many replied that they had, and that they were upset to only be receiving this information today—after they’d already planned content around E3.
“Wow!” the owner of a small YouTube channel called The Weekly Wrap Up said on Twitter. “This is extremely disheartening and discouraging, especially for a small channel like myself. Maybe I should rethink any co-streams I had planned.”
In the past, E3 conferences have been rife with licensed music and other elements that could easily run afoul of platforms’ rules—especially the newly (at least, relative to previous E3s) DMCA-happy Twitch. During BlizzConline earlier this year, for example, Twitch itself co-broadcasted a Metallica performance for which it realized it did not have the rights, which forced an official Twitch channel to replace Metallica’s live music with generic wind chime noises so as to avoid a DMCA. While Twitch has previously encouraged E3 co-streaming, 2021 is a very different year for the platform than, say, 2019.
In a DM to Kotaku, Keighley responded to a question about whether he thought his rejection was a matter of application timing or other factors (for example, Summer Game Fest) by saying he applied to co-stream “weeks ago.”
The small handful of bigger-name streamers who made it into E3's official co-streaming program applied at a range of different times—when they applied at all. Longtime variety streamer AnneMunition told Kotaku in a DM that her manager asked her if she’d be interested in participating “around the very end of May,” which would put E3's decision to add her to the program in line with Keighley’s application timing. Fellow variety streamer Renée said she also signed on last month after E3 organizers—including Stepleton, who she previously knew from his time at a talent agency called 3BlackDot—contacted her directly. Twitch mainstay CohhCarnage, on the other hand, told Kotaku that the process began for him “a couple months ago.”
Generally, though, it sounds like E3 was very selective, handpicking some streamers who hadn’t even applied. This stands in contrast to Summer Game Fest, which opted for an open-the-floodgates approach more in line with Keighley’s focus on a “more digital and global” future for video game events.
“I wasn’t even aware that you could apply to co-stream [E3], to be honest,” Renée told Kotaku. “I was just planning on virtually ‘attending’ as a fan this year, so I’m pretty stoked they thought of me.”
Update: 6/12/21, 3:30 PM: E3 parent company the ESA replied to Kotaku’s inquiries, saying that out of over 1,300 submissions, it approved “less than 100" creators and brands for official co-streaming. A representative explained that since this is E3's first year doing official co-streaming, it decided on “a small select group this year to monitor the opportunity and see how we can apply it to future E3s,” though the representative did not explain why the organization only decided to convey that information today. The representative also added that unauthorized streamers are still “welcome” to co-stream, but it won’t be in “official” capacity.
“We are welcoming everyone to co-stream, we’re just reminding them to recognize the terms of service for each platform,” the ESA rep told Kotaku in an email.
As for Keighley, the ESA representative said the decision to exclude him wasn’t personal.
“We appreciate Geoff and everything he’s done for the video game industry,” the ESA rep said. “The decision to not include him in the small list of official co-streamers was absolutely no personal slight. In addition to our distribution service and media partners, we focused on a diverse group of influencers and creators who consistently create video game content across YouTube, Twitch and/or Facebook.”
For the majority of streamers, potential DMCAs represent a difficult-to-ignore danger, but all hope is not lost. Individual publishers’ event rules vary, with Microsoft, especially, ensuring that everyone should be able to co-stream tomorrow’s Xbox and Bethesda event.
“We at Xbox greatly appreciate any co-stream efforts and aim to ensure you have a smooth experience if you choose to do so,” Microsoft wrote on the event’s “How To Watch” page. “To that end, we have been cooperating closely with the music industry and with platforms like YouTube and Twitch.”
It noted, however, that “due to forces beyond our control,” automated software and glitches might interfere, so it recommends using Twitch’s official channel (as opposed to its own, or a third party) as the source of material creators intend on co-streaming.
It is unclear why E3 did not take similar measures, though it’s not difficult to imagine that trying to wrangle so many different publishers and events into the same tent—such that many things seemingly came together at the last second—might have something to do with it. For its part, E3 hopes to give creators a better experience next year.
“We hope to continue the [E3 co-streaming program] next year with larger availability,” wrote Stepleton in the email to creators, “and encourage you to reapply next year for the opportunity to take part.”