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That Dragon, Cancer dev says Let's Play videos took away sales

"Our studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales," said developer Ryan Green

Emotional indie game That Dragon, Cancer has sold 14,000 copies according to SteamSpy and its creator Ryan Green has gone on record to note that his team has "not yet seen a single dollar from sales." In a recent blog post, Green puts the blame mostly on the widespread nature of Let's Play videos, which rather than encouraging sales gave many viewers enough of the experience to feel like they could skip paying for the game.

"That Dragon, Cancer was created by a studio of eight, and for many of us it was a full-time effort that involved thousands of hours of work. This huge effort required taking on investment, and we decided to pay off all of our debt as soon as possible. But we underestimated how many people would be satisfied with only watching the game instead of playing it themselves," he wrote.

Despite the effect that Let's Play has had on his game and team, Green isn't actually against the concept at all. He would just like people to be more considerate of the game makers.

"We feel the Let's Play culture adds value to this medium," Green noted. "And for games with more expansive or replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers. Even knowing that some who streamed our entire game refuse to directly encourage people to support us, we've still sat on the streams and talked with streamers and viewers. We've watched the playthrough videos and we see the value that this community is adding to our work through sharing themselves. Let's Play culture is vibrant and creative and really cool.

"We have allowed our content, the fruit of our sweat and our tears, to be used by Let's Players and to your fans for free to create content with, and you are drawing a small amount of ad revenue from our content. We are asking that you return that favor by creating Let's Play videos that don't just rebroadcast the entirety of our content with minimal commentary, but instead use portions of our content as a context to share your own stories and start conversations with your viewers," he continued. "We would encourage you to link to our site and directly encourage viewers to support our work financially through buying the game, or donating a dollar or two to our studio if they believe that what we did has value. This small act will allow us to continue to work."

It's unclear if any backlash from Green's Content ID claims also contributed to people watching instead of buying That Dragon, Cancer. Legally speaking, That Dragon, Cancer composer Jon Hillman's work was being used without his permission, Green pointed out.

"We paid Jon to create music for our game because we understand that he needs to be paid in order to spend time creating that music. If someone else uses his music without permission, we also believe he should have the right to determine the consequence. And if there is revenue being drawn from that use, we believe he should be compensated," Green said. "We did not intend to make copyright claims or to force anyone to take down their videos, we simply intended for Jon to be able to draw some income from the original soundtrack to our game that he poured his heart into."

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James Brightman


James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.