Atlus sends PS3 emulator RPCS3 a takedown notice in response to emulating Persona 5

For those who haven't been paying attention to the scene, PlayStation 3 emulator RPCS3 has been making waves lately as it has grown leaps and bounds with the help of the community. More games become playable through the emulation software on a monthly basis. 

One of those games happens to be Persona 5, one of the biggest games released in the west earlier this year. Not too long ago, the community working on RPCS3 proclaimed victory as they were able to make the game run at a full framerate from start to finish. It still isn't perfect, but it was a crucial milestone for this budding project.

But that has all changed as Atlus announced today they have sent a takedown notice to the development team behind RPCS3. As a result, the game has been wiped from the RPCS3 official website, the Compatibility page, and the monthly progress reports mentioning it by name. It appears Atlus wasn't thrilled the game was being advertised so boastfully when the game itself isn't officially available on the PC to begin with, nor do there seem to be any plans to make that happen. 

Here's the official statement from Atlus regarding their decision:

You might have heard earlier today that we issued a DMCA takedown notice involving emulation developer group RPCS3 and their Patreon page. Yes, it’s true. We settled upon this action for two reasons:

We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen. We understand that many Persona fans would love to see a PC version. And while we don’t have anything to announce today, we are listening! For now, the best way to experience Persona 5 is on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

We appreciate the awareness generated by the emulation community for Persona 5 and know that it is a fantastic example of how much people are loving our game. We want to keep bringing you titles like Persona 5. Unfortunately, when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences.

We want to continue having a dialogue about where and how you would like to play our games. Please let us know what you think.

Developer SSShadow has released his response regarding this development, which you can check out the rest of on Reddit:

Atlus U.S.A. filed a DMCA takedown request directly to Patreon requesting the removal of Nekotekina & kd-11’s Patreon page for RPCS3 development. The reason given is as follows:

“The PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks; however, no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable.”

Patreon responded to this request by stating they do not believe that removing the Patreon page entirely to be reasonable, given that the page itself does not specifically infringe on Atlus’s IP, and that they believe the emulator itself falls under fair use. After Patreon declined to remove the Patreon page, Atlus retorted by alleging:

“We kindly ask that you remove both for this reason – to make Persona 5 work on the emulator, the user has to circumvent our DRM protections. The following blog post provides specific instructions for “dumping the disc or PSN download” and discusses how Patreon finding contributed to this breakthrough.

He continues on, talking about how this won't really do anything to them in the long run due to the nature of the RPCS3 project:

"In discussion with the very helpful people over at Patreon we have decided to proceed with caution. Per the request of Patreon, we removed every single reference to Persona 5 on the Patreon page itself and This seems to have resolved the situation. RPCS3 as a project and the Patreon itself are safe. And whatever people may wish, there’s no way to stop any playable game from being executed on the emulator. Blacklisting the game? RPCS3 is open-source, any attempt would easily be reversed. Attempting to take down the project? At the time of this post, this and many other games were already playable to their full extent, and again, RPCS3 is and will always be an open-source project."

While this won't stop the fact Persona 5 is still playable on RPCS3, you just won't see any references, discussions, or ongoing official support for this. That won't stop other members of the community from stepping up. 

One can make the argument it's a fruitless endeavor to try and stop emulation by any means. And after Persona 5 raised a real kurfuffle attempting to stop people from streaming Persona 5 at a certain point (and having to move the goal posts later), it's been a bit of a wild ride for the publisher. While it's well within their rights to enforce their legal obligations (considering it can be used for piracy), the fact they're the first ones in this case to raise the red flag may cause their fanbase to grow weary.

On the other hand, this may teach those behind RPCS3 not to market a particular game that has been fully emulated as a reason to download their software. Time will tell if any repercussions will come about as a result of this, such as other publishers exercising their rights. In any case, it's been a weird year for public relations.