Numinous Games has "not yet seen a single dollar from sales" of That Dragon, Cancer, designer Ryan Green said on the game's blog. Fan-made Let's Play videos featuring the game stand as a major reason for why that is, according to Green, who goes in-depth on the effects of the genre on That Dragon, Cancer's profitability.
In a post entitled "On Let's Plays," Green addressed content creators who have taken to sharing That Dragon, Cancer playthroughs and videos on YouTube. That's a practice which, he said, allows people to experience the crowdfunded indie game without spending money on it.
"This huge effort required taking on investment," Green said of the game's development, "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."
According to Green, That Dragon, Cancer has racked up millions of views on YouTube, most of them on Let's Play videos showing off the game in part or full. This hasn't translated to revenue for the team behind the deeply personal project, he said, which recounts the traumatic, untimely death of the Green family's young son.
Video creators complained that they were slapped with copyright claims after the studio added Content IDs on YouTube for composer Jon Hillman's music. These have since been removed, Green explained.
"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," he said.
Green expressed his hope that Let's Play creators continue to share their experiences with the game, but doing so in ways that don't just rebroadcast the gameplay. That Dragon, Cancer is about more than turning a profit for the developer — as evidenced by funding partner Razer donating its profits to charity and a recent, stirring talk at Game Developers Conference — but in order to broaden the game's scope and audience, he said, they'll need financial support from players.
We detailed our experience playing the moving narrative game, now available on Windows PC, earlier this year. We also spoke to the Green family about That Dragon, Cancer's development back in 2015. A documentary about the game, Thank You For Playing, is now in select theaters nationwide.