In the past, games have been a huge driver of popular music even at a time where the genre of music may have fallen out of favour – looking back at titles like GTA: Vice City and the heavily 80’s inspired theme with the radio in the car brings back a lot of memories for many – even modern games rely on music and themes to identify with fans, even games that you may not associate with having a strong soundtrack like the rise of online casinos when looking here for example, but many are able to use licensing alongside other features to pull users in. But this may be quickly changing as the world of copyright is beginning to catch up, and the free-use of music that has been seen for a while may start to fade.
The big change here has largely come because of the growing live streaming world – many of the latest games have grown massively in popularity because of a streamer influence on a new release and the long playthroughs over a few days may be enough to win many casual viewers over if they weren’t interested already – but lately there has been a black mark on streaming as big channels have been threatened with copyright strikes for playing music during a session, even if this music has come from a game.
The latest big release of Cyberpunk 2077 even had to address this in launch notes – it stated that the radio station that could be played in vehicles in-game would have to option for a “Streamer Mode” which would disable any copyrighted songs from playing and instead rely on original compositions – if licensing costs remain high for music and the wider streaming base and audience can’t enjoy these songs, it may become not worth it to include the cost in the game when developing given the wider audience may not even hear these songs.
It’s certainly a changing of the guard so to speak – whilst popular music will still remain popular music, integrating it safely into games where many are now more prone to sharing and streaming just adds future difficulties and headaches to do so, and unless a new deal is struck regarding DMCA then it could be a slow crawl toward original music only.
There have been plenty of suggestions on how to fix this – perhaps a yearly license with a one-off fee that allows streamers to play the music, or even the ability to introduce a structure that directly supports the studio and artist if a track is listened too, but the music industry has shown over time that they’re unwilling to cut their bottom line despite the popularity or success of another service, so many feel this is unlikely – with many big names already taking a huge hit though, something needs to change quickly otherwise many gaming developers will have little choice but to choose between entertaining live-streamed content or a little extra polish from licensed music.