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Atlus Tries to Shut down Patreon Page of RPCS3, an Open-Source PS3 Emulator

In what seems yet another questionable business move from Atlus (after the Persona 5 streaming debacle), the company has now tried to take down Nekotekina’s Patreon page for funding the development of RPCS3, an open-source PS3 emulator, via a DMCA takedown request. According to the team developing RPCS3, the reasoning Atlus put forward to Patreon was the following:

The PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks; however, no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable

According to the team, there was no prior communication from Atlus before they sent  the DMCA takedown to Patreon. In an interesting move, Patreon declined to take down the page. Atlus then replied by arguing that the team had posted instructions to dump the game to internal storage, which meant circumventing the game’s DRM, and how Patreon’s funding had contributed to this. In response, Patreon requested that the RPCS3 team remove any reference to Persona 5 on the Patreon page itself and the emulator’s website, which they agreed to do. This appears to have resolved the matter, although it’s unclear if this means the end of Atlus’s attempts to shut down funding for the emulator. After this news was made public, Atlus did come forward with the following statement, confirming that they indeed issued the DMCA takedown notices:

You might have heard earlier today that we issued a DMCA takedown notice involving emulation developer group RPCS3 and their Patreon page. Yes, it’s true. We settled upon this action for two reasons:

We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen. We understand that many Persona fans would love to see a PC version. And while we don’t have anything to announce today, we are listening! For now, the best way to experience Persona 5 is on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.
We appreciate the awareness generated by the emulation community for Persona 5 and know that it is a fantastic example of how much people are loving our game. We want to keep bringing you titles like Persona 5. Unfortunately, when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences.

We want to continue having a dialogue about where and how you would like to play our games. Please let us know what you think.

It’s clear that this wording is already more nuanced from the messages that Atlus supposedly sent to Patreon. And much like with their statement regarding streaming Persona 5, it doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. Since Atlus asked for our opinion, here’s mine. This move seemed unnecessary, and arguing that performance issues with emulators have anything at all to do with this decision seems like a poor excuse. I completely agree with them that their games shouldn’t be pirated, and it appears the fact that Persona 5 was put in the spotlight by the emulator’s developers as being playable on their emulator is what caught Atlus’s ire. Even so, the sensible thing to do would have been to contact the developers directly and ask them to remove any references to Persona 5, before sending DMCA takedown notices to Patreon. Not only did their attempt fail, it just puts them in a bad light (again). Especially because, given the continued absence of PC ports from popular Atlus games, it gives people the perception that they simply don’t want PC gamers to be able to play Persona games (in fact, their statement towards Patreon apparently flat out stated that “Persona 5 shouldn’t be playable” on the platform).

Ultimately, targeting an entire open-source PS3 emulator because it can potentially run pirated versions of Atlus games simply isn’t the solution. If Atlus would actually have been successful here, it would mean any gaming company could take down any emulator as long as it could run an illegal version of one of their games. In fact, Sony used a similar reasoning in their lawsuit to take down the Bleem! emulator, and they lost that lawsuit on all accounts. It’s not clear how Atlus intends to move forward, but it seems most of the fans agree that the best move is for Atlus to simply release Persona 5 for PC. After all, if we take Valkyria Chronicles for example, few would bother trying to pirate and emulate that game when there’s an excellent PC port readily available. Perhaps Atlus is in fact planning to release Persona 5 on PC, and that’s what prompted this move in the first place, but at the moment we simply have no way of knowing at the moment. But in the meantime, if Atlus really wants to give people a perfectly legal way to play the game on PC, why not make the game available on Sony’s PlayStation Now service?

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