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250,000 fans watched a VTuber beg to play an old game

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Atlus, please. Please Atlus. Atlus? Please.

VTuber Mori Calliope livestreams on YouTube. Image: YouTube/Mori Calliope

The livestream began with an audible sigh. The pink-haired goth girl was not thrilled, and within moments, it became clear why.

“Atlus, please let me play Persona 3,” started Mori Calliope, an English-speaking VTuber under the Hololive agency of digital anime entertainers currently taking the internet by storm. Visible on her screen was a cartoonish depiction of herself with two exclamation points — a graphic that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has played Japanese role-playing game Persona 3.

Released in 2006 by Atlus, the game is known for its vibrant depiction of Japanese high school, which is smartly paired with demon-infested dungeon crawling. In that game, when characters initiate a devastating attack, a close-up ensues; the character will then say a signature line. In this case, Mori’s phrase was “I’ve been waiting for this” — a smart play on the fact that right now, despite her urgent requests, Mori apparently cannot livestream Persona 3 to her legion of fans.

“Atlus, please, I’m begging you, please, let me, please, let me play, Persona 3, and live stream it, please,” she continued. “I’m begging you to let me play your game, please.”

That was the entirety of the livestream — Mori pleading repeatedly for over 90 minutes as thousands of fans cheered on. 250,000 people as of this writing have tuned in to hear someone say the same thing over and over again. At one point, Mori’s scheme was even trending on Twitter.

So, why can’t she play this old game? In the past, Atlus has been restrictive about what players can or cannot show during livestreams — but for the latest game in the series, Persona 5. Would the Japanese developer even care if a VTuber was playing a game that is now 14 years old? An Atlus representative tells Polygon that the trending hashtag was the first they’d heard of Mori’s request, and that, to their knowledge, Atlus hasn’t rejected a livestream. The rep said they were “looking into” the situation. But, it’s also possible that much of what’s going on here involves the Japanese side of both Hololive, Mori’s parent company, and Atlus, the game developer. Hololive did not return a request for comment in time for press.

While Mori never fully explains why she can’t play the game, the leading assumption among fans is that everything is tangled up in Japanese copyright law, which is infamously strict — and doesn’t have a fair use clause, as American law does. And so, the theory is that in order to play a game, VTubers sometimes have to take the extra step of asking for permission first. Which means, theoretically, that companies can say no. While it’s unclear what exactly the behind-the-scenes dealings are here, fans are more than ready to support Mori’s cause. To wit, there’s a hashtag on Twitter, #CallioP3, where viewers are submitting fan art, screenshots, and other ephemera in the hopes of increasing visibility, and, ideally, pushing Atlus to say yes.

During the livestream, Mori even promised that she wouldn’t “spoil” the game, and said that she was willing to stop streaming at a predetermined point. After that, she said, she would encourage people to go buy the game instead. This was seemingly in response to Atlus’ rules about Persona 5, where the developer seemed unusually wary of livestreamers showing too much of the game to their viewers.

Part of what makes the whole thing notable is the fact Mori was able to make saying the same thing over and over again actually entertaining for people watching. Sure, she was repeating herself, but she was also making smart use of the camera and absurd graphics that flashed in the background, which got wilder the more desperate she sounded. It’s no wonder that VTubers are making waves right now — and if they’re doing it with restrictions like this in place, I can only imagine the heights they’ll reach in 2021.

If nothing else, this particular VTuber deserves it: Persona 3’s tagline is “Memento Mori.” Her name is Mori Calliope. The two were meant for each other.

Update (Dec. 7): The livestream appears to have been pulled from YouTube.