In a massive shake-up for fan games, vtuber giant Hololive will let indie devs actually make money off their work


Japan-based vtuber agency Hololive has spawned a staggering number of fan games, from fighters to Vampire Survivors-style roguelikes to Pokemon-like JRPGs, and all of them were released for free under the company's derivative work guidelines. But those guidelines are now changing, beginning with the brand's first official paid fan game, which is due to launch on December 1.

Cover, the company that owns Hololive, announced the quietly massive news today. With the creation of a new "holo Indie" publishing arm, Cover will enable select fan game creators to release their games on Steam – and, very importantly, "distribute paid contents using IPs of Cover Corporation."

Hololive already has one direct, monetized fan industry in the form of clips taken from the streams of its vtuber talents, but bespoke derivative works like games have thus far fallen under a blanket 'don't charge' policy. Basically, as long as your fan game wasn't for business or for-profit purposes, and it didn't make Hololive look bad, you could pretty much make whatever you wanted, within reason. Of course, that came with the caveat that Cover could in theory exercise its rights if and whenever it wanted, and as the rights holder, it could also use derivative works for its own purposes as it deemed fit.

That's now changing in a big way – and an exceptionally rare way for the games industry, which is so famously protective of IP. Just ask the many fan games and mods that Nintendo has struck down, though not all companies are as defensive as the House of Mario. Cover also isn't a games company itself, so its position is a little different, not to excuse the often needlessly brandished hammer of copyright.

"Through 'holo Indie,' the game brand aims to provide an ecosystem that supports the ongoing activities of the derivative work game creators, and to create opportunities to deliver a wide variety of derivative games to everyone," Cover says of today's news.

The company's freshly updated guidelines for derivative work games now specify: "Only game creators who use the 'Game Creator Support Program' as outlined below will be permitted to create fan-made (also known as 'doujinshi') games under a corporation's or circle's name." The program in question is, of course, holo Indie. "If a derivative work game is to be released for a fee, please ensure you have completed the 'holo Indie Application Form,'" Cover adds.

The "test case" for holo Indie will be HoloParade, a side-scrolling tower defense strategy game made by solo dev Roboqlo. Does anyone remember the banger Flash game Age of War? This kind of looks like that, but with vtubers – more than 65 vtuber characters, no less – and spliced with today's auto-battlers. Collect characters, level them up, and watch them plow through screens of cute little mobs as you fire special attacks.

The whole game will cost $4, and the Steam page promises "no gacha purchases, no stamina system," so abandon your fears of free-to-play trappings.  It will also support Hololive's primary languages: Japanese, English, and Indonesian.

"I believe that 'holo Indie' has great potential to energize the community by involving both fans and creators," Roboqlo said in a tweet. "With plenty of fun games expected to be created in the future, let's all come together to amp up the excitement! The decision to release HoloParade as a model case was made quite recently in the development timeline. Being a solo project, there were long periods of uncertainty and anxiety about the future, but it was the unwavering support from all of you that allowed me to continue working with all my might."

The existence of holo Indie likely won't affect fan game developers who explicitly want their projects to be free-to-play, but it's great for a paid option to exist and be supported, both for Hololive fans and fan game creators in general.

The creator of the best and best-known Hololive fan game, HoloCure, previously stated that they don't want to make any money off it. Bear in mind, in just a few months HoloCure has become the 40th highest-rated game in the history of Steam. It's currently sitting just above Dishonored, Undertale, Omori, Hotline Miami, Doki Doki Literature Club, and Baldur's Gate 3 on the Steam top 250 – and, obviously, the tens of thousands of games ranked below those classics.

I'd go so far as to wager that HoloCure's explosive Steam release was a major factor in Cover's decision with holo Indie. However, in a statement released today, the HoloCure team, led by developer Kay Yu, insisted that the news won't change the game at all: "HoloCure will proceed exactly as it always has."

"We think it's amazing that all fellow fan creators now have the opportunity to work directly with Cover to have their fan-made games not only be officially published but monetized as well," the HoloCure statement adds. "We are simply extremely happy for everyone in the community and wanted to share our excitement. It's a big Cover W for us all bruh."

One Hololive vtuber recently released a Baldur's Gate 3 song cover so good that even the RPG's composer loves it