Raphael van Lierop, the director of the popular survival game The Long Dark
has a bone to pick with Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service. In a post shared on Sunday, Lierop said that the studio had asked Nvidia to take The Long Dark off of their service, saying the graphics card and technology company did not ask for permission to host the game. The matter calls into question what rights a game company may have when a service like Nvidia’s GeForce Now aims to sell access to their product.
“Sorry to those who are disappointed you can no longer play #thelongdark on GeForce Now,” Lierop tweeted. “Nvidia didn’t ask for our permission to put the game on the platform so we asked them to remove it. Please take your complaints to them, not us. Devs should control where their games exist.”
Lierop followed up his statement by saying that “[Nvidia] offered us a free graphics card as an apology, so maybe they’ll offer you the same thing,” though it’s not entirely clear if he meant the comment in jest or was serious.
Nvidia GeForce Now is a game streaming service, much like Google Stadia or Microsoft’s Project xCloud, wherein customers stream games from a central cloud hub over wi-fi or a mobile connection. The trick with GeForce Now is that you can link your account to other services, such as Steam or the Epic Games Store, to prove that you already own a game. Depending on what level of membership you’re paying for (or not paying for), you may also have to wait a few minutes for an available PC rig to open up so you can play. Check our review of Nvidia GeForce Now for more details. There’s no one centralized page listing every game available on GeForce, but those interested in checking out the catalog (which Nvidia says includes “hundreds of games from more than 50 publishers) can use a search bar to see if a game they want pops up.
When pushed on the subject of game ownership and why The Long Dark developers should have any say in the matter (since any GeForce user playing The Long Dark ostensibly already paid for the game), Lierop reiterated that Nvidia had never formally signed any deal with the developer Hinterland Studio.
“Because they sell this service based on access to a library of content,” Lierop said. “We have the choice whether to be in that library or not. Our distribution agreement is with Valve, not with Nvidia.”
After another Twitter user pushed Lierop on the same subject, he responded: “It’s our content. We determine where it lives and where it does not.”
Funnily enough, this isn’t even the first time Nvidia has found itself being asked to remove a game from its service. Activision-Blizzard, the publisher of such massive properties as Overwatch, Diablo, Call of Duty, and Hearthstone, pulled its games from GeForce after the service exited its beta last month. Nvidia blamed the incident on a misunderstanding between the two companies, and says it hopes to work with Activision-Blizzard to bring the games back to its service.
Regardless, the string of incidents raises the question of just what legal rights and ethical guidelines game developers and publishers have when streaming services such as Nvidia GeForce Now hope to bolster their libraries with popular titles.
Business lawyer Richard Hoeg (of Hoeg Law and Virtual Legality) generally agrees with The Long Dark developer’s position, saying that Nvidia should have asked for the consent of the developer.
“I think Nvidia thought that they could convince developers/publishers of the value proposition of participating in “Now” and that just hasn’t coalesced, particularly with big publishers that may have their own streaming solutions in the works,” Hoeg told IGN, adding he’d be “very surprised” if Hinterland Studio somehow gave up distribution rights to their own game.
“As you know, a developer owns the copyright to their game, and they don’t lose the rights associated with that copyright when they license their game to a ‘buyer,'” Hoeg continued. “And games are, in general, licensed and not sold, with terms related to that license applied to the ‘buyer.’ Most of these are known or otherwise non-controversial (‘you won’t reverse engineer this product,’ ‘you won’t use it to post speech we find hateful.’ But some are probably less well known. Most licenses are going to say (some version of) ‘you have the right to play a single copy of the game on a personal computer/system in your control’ and you can’t use your copy for “commercial access, use your copy to run an arcade, etc.’ So in this case, the Long Dark folks (and probably Steam, GoG, Epic above that too) have similar language in their EULAs, and Nvidia probably should have gotten permission.”
IGN has reached out to both Nvidia and Lierop for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply. We’ll update this story accordingly.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer with IGN.