UPDATE | OCT. 22nd, 2020: Google has issued the following statement:
“The recent tweets by Alex Hutchinson, creative director at the Montreal Studio of Stadia Games and Entertainment, do not reflect those of Stadia, YouTube or Google.”
These days, a product or service is only as good as the integrity and ethics of the people who make it. If you’re a big-name celebrity or entertainer and you say something insensitive, you can expect Cancel Culture to be nipping at your heels within hours. This is easily said for the video game industry as well.
Google Stadia is a service that you probably couldn’t care less about. Chances are, your current console or PC setup is more than adequate and if you’re like us, you may find the idea of paying a subscription service to stream games to seem a little absurd. Maybe the technology is almost there but as of today, it won’t beat local tech and wired connections. And while Google Stadia may be ahead of the game (no pun intended) in some respects when it comes to streaming video games when compared to competitors like Amazon, Microsoft, or Apple, having employees that oversee Stadia with questionably insensitive views could hurt them in the long run. Enter Alex Hutchinson.
If you don’t know, or care, for Google Stadia, you have no idea who Alex Hutchinson is- the Google Stadia Games & Entertainment Creative Director at Montreal Studio. Whether that matters is your choice, but what he has some pretty outlandish views that he is clearly very comfortable expressing openly. According to Alex, “streamers should be paying the developers and publishers of the games they stream. They should be buying a license like any real business and paying for the content they use.” Here is a screengrab of the Tweet, before he up and deletes it for all the flack he is currently getting:
This all started after Twitch went on the rampage and deleted a bunch of content from Twitch channels that contained copyrighted music. To avoid any DMCA conflicts, any clips that contained copyrighted music had to be removed, mainly because unlike YouTube, Twitch doesn’t have a service in place that protects streamers and gives money to the copyright holder when a streamer has their music playing in the background. Then poof, the content was gone with a swift removal from Twitch, some of which consisted of years and years of clips from some relatively high-profile streamers. So Alex here, a guy who is a high-profile individual himself for a very unique (and struggling) product and service from Google, decided to weigh-in and basically tell them to stop whining about it because they stream “games they didn’t pay for”. Which is blatantly false on a very grand scale. He presumably says this because some streamers make up to seven figures yearly playing games. But that isn’t the point. Let’s take a deeper dive into this.
Hutchinson says the above and replies to his own tweet saying that “The real truth is the streamers should be paying the developers and publishers of the games they stream. They should be buying a license like any real business and paying for the content they use.” Of course, this doesn’t make a lick of sense and the internet was furious especially when the likes of Dr. Disrespect came in to point out that this guy isn’t just some random opinionated internet civilian, but the Google Stadia Games & Entertainment Creative Director, as if to highlight the mindset of the team behind the streaming service.
Creative Director for Google Stadia. https://t.co/2ptIOiKNZT
— Dr Disrespect (@drdisrespect) October 22, 2020
To make matters worse, Alex’s entire thread contains varying degrees of indirect digs and direct insults, not just to the industry he works in, the company he works for, the company that owns Stadia, but also to individuals in particular who don’t agree with him.
First of all, Alex is wrong on many levels. What he says is the equivalent of celebrities paying a clothing company every time their brand is on their shirt or basically, any time a brand name is visible on someone popular, that someone has to pay the brand. Which, isn’t how advertising works in the slightest. Which is why companies, you know, pay celebrities and influencers to wear or showcase their product. And people like Ninja, who get paid major endorsements to stream, choose which games they play. And even if more people show up for Fortnite streams than any other game, that is free advertising for Epic Games- something that Creative Director, Alex Hutchinson can’t quite grasp for some reason.
A lot of people quote tweeting this hot take about how streamers should need a license from publishers to stream their games.
I think we should be more concerned that anyone that works at Google Stadia is giving business advice.
— Gothalion (@Gothalion) October 22, 2020
Streamers pay for games, too, plain and simple. And if they don’t, it is likely because the devs and or publishers have provided a copy for free to promote on their channels. That is probably the majority of cases that Alex is referencing in his confusion. The second thing is Alex is basically suggesting that the sword makes the man and not the other way around. This is like saying Fortnite made Ninja or Call of Duty made the Doc, when in fact, in many cases, it is the other way around (maybe not for Call of Duty, but stick with us here). You see, the audience watches the streamer. The game isn’t always what matters. Sure, some viewers have a preference when it comes to what games their favorite streamers play, but it would be hard to argue that Among Us, a relatively inexpensive game available on multiple platforms and one of the top streamed games right now, would be on anyone’s radar without the likes of Dr. Lupo, Ninja, and their rag-tag bunch of usual streamers. Fortnite would have likely blown up regardless, but Ninja had a lot to do with how rapidly it grew, as did his friends. Call of Duty was already popular, but we all know why we watch Dr. Disrespect. Because he is good at the game. Activision and related companies want Dr. Disrespect to play the game. He makes it entertaining. Imagine the difference between watching Dr. Disrespect playing Warzone, and then just seeing a stream of Warzone with no streamer attached. No face, no commentary, no personality, just the game. What do you think is going to get more views?
Idk maybe you're getting flak because you're picking this particular battle in a world where C-suite executives make $30m/year and devs don't get royalties so they'd never see any of that streaming money in the first place
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) October 22, 2020
So, “the real truth”, that Alex Hutchinson claims to speak of, is actually a blatant falsehood, misunderstanding, and a subjective opinion with far more evidence to the contrary. And while he is entitled to his opinion, as are we, the actual real truth here, is that Alex holds a high position in a team working on a struggling product for one of the most powerful companies on the planet. To be so careless in shooting his Tweets off in this fashion seems rather irresponsible. Why? Because if Google wants Stadia to take off, which we don’t see happening, they need streamers who trust it, believe in it, rely on it, and support it. You see where we are going with this? If Alex Hutchinson wants to say these things, he needs to be far more careful as his stance on anything publicly runs the risk of not only making or breaking the very product he is working on, but also his own position. You Remember Don Mattrick?
Don Mattrick was the President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft and Xbox Chief back in the days of Xbox 360. This was the same guy who, back in 2013, was speaking about the features of the Xbox One before it came out where he revealed that it required an internet connection every 24 hours to function. This wasn’t a very popular feature, and instead of just letting it go, taking the feedback, and then moving on, he said, in an interview, in a rather condescending tone, “We have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360.” This was in June of 2013. By July 1, 2013, Mattrick was leaving Microsoft to join the mobile company Zynga. Ouch.
Mattrick is a perfect, textbook example of what not to do when promoting your product, or speaking out about something that is going to piss a lot of people off when your face and name are tied to said product. By saying “you don’t like it? Tough sh*t”, he not only put the final nails into his coffin after he had dug his own grave and built the casket from scratch, he also somehow managed to bury himself in it all by himself. His comments on this topic, which you can see in this linked YouTube video, were extremely divisive, and borderline hilarious with many jokingly calling Mattrick the “greatest salesman for the PS4” back during that era’s console wars, which Sony dominated year-over-year. Was it Mattrick’s fault? Well, he certainly hurt sales to the point where he left the company to join Zynga. So, you be the judge.
All it takes is shooting your mouth off just a little bit, only once, just one condescending sentence, one immature or insensitive Tweet- that is all it takes. Sure, Mattrick left the company, the features he supported for the Xbox One were immediately reverted to reflect and be more in-line with the 360, and gamers ended up happy. But Mattrick was gone, and this critical moment during that interview was all it took to get him forced out. He is no longer with Zynga, by the way, if you care. But it makes you wonder how long people like Hutchinson can be working on the next big gaming project from Google, when he attacks the audience he needs to support it while saying some insanely ridiculous opinions. We can’t imagine Google is happy about the exchange.
Look, what we are saying is this- Hutchinson is entitled to his own opinions. We all are. But when you decide to say them publicly as he did, and you get large masses of people upset, and you know you are going to, specifically, the very audience and entertainers that you desperately need buy-in from to support your product (especially when they are literally your only target audience), you reap what you sow. And as mundane as a Tweet can seem in the grand scheme of things, Google may not see it that way when they are trying with all their might to get people to use Stadia. It’s not like gamers really needed yet another reason to avoid it, but Alex Hutchinson, Google Stadia Games & Entertainment Creative Director at Montreal Studio, gave them one more anyway.
UPDATE 2: Alex Hutchinson has since updated his Twitter profile bio with “ALL OPINIONS MY OWN” – as if that ever saved anyone. Good luck, Alex. You’re going to need it.