The game stepped over the 60 million threshold in March 2022, and just over a year later hit a record 66.5 million. Since August, however, interest in the game has declined.
The situation is hardly catastrophic but from a second 66.5m peak two months ago, player numbers in September returned to levels last seen in March 2022.
Private Servers Upset Business Model
On a base level, Genshin Impact is free-to-play but through so-called ‘gatcha game’ mechanics, players are encouraged to spend virtual currency earned in-game or purchased outside the digital realm using real money. For those in the know, however, unofficial private servers provide an attractive third option.
These servers have the ability to set their own rules, meaning a potential fast track to virtual riches for players short on time, patience, or money. The fact that the required software is easily obtained and mostly easy to set up, means there’s no shortage of servers. That’s not to say all can be used for free, but it’s not uncommon for donation models to thrive in a world where time and money are already at a premium.
Cognosphere Targets Private Server Developer
Last Friday, Cognosphere’s attorneys filed applications for three DMCA subpoenas at a district court in California. Each application claims that Cognosphere’s copyrights have been infringed by a third party and as a result, service providers are required to hand over the personal details of the alleged infringer.
The first application targets GitHub and claims that a user called “casksteven” infringed Cognosphere’s exclusive rights in Genshin Impact. In an email to GitHub dated October 6, Cognosphere’s attorneys advised GitHub that “without limitation” the infringing content included material posted to the ‘Sweaty-Launcher‘ repo.
“The Content infringes Cognosphere’s exclusive rights under copyright law. Specifically, it infringes Cognosphere’s rights in its popular video game Genshin Impact,” the DMCA application reads.
The repository URL receives a prominent mention in the application and the screenshot below shows what appears there. However, for reasons that will become clear, we’ve blurred out a section depicting a character from Genshin Impact.
Cognosphere is demanding “Information, including name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), e-mail address(es), and IP address(es), or other information within your possession, custody or control, sufficient to identify the user(s) responsible for making available for distribution and/or otherwise controlling the materials currently or formerly available at the following Uniform Resource Locator (URL’):”
Surprisingly, “the materials” do not relate to Sweaty-Launcher at all, but merely the image included in the ‘readme’ section of the free software.
The corresponding DMCA takedown notice sent to GitHub requests “expeditious action to remove or disable access to the Genshin Impact Artwork as referenced above. Furthermore, it is requested that GitHub take appropriate measures to prevent further infringements by the party responsible, including pursuant to any ‘repeat infringer’ policies maintained by GitHub.”
Second DMCA Subpoena Application
In a second DMCA subpoena application targeting web hosting company Spartan Host LLC, Cognosphere again outlines its exclusive rights in Genshin Impact before demanding the identity of an alleged infringer, including their name, address, telephone numbers, and email address. According to the filing, the user in question maintains the website www.casks.me. While that domain no longer exists, the service itself is operating from a new domain.
“Tianli China is one of the largest Genshin servers in China, and we have close to a million register player, with thousands online at anytime. We are experienced with Genshin and handling mass players,” the service’s promotional material reads.
This invitation to the 35,500-member TianLi Community on Discord arrives courtesy of casksteven himself while other connections to the casks.me website are easily found elsewhere. Surprisingly, Cognosphere shows no specific interest in the private server here either, despite some site announcements receiving over 780,000 views in their own right.
In common with the complaint and subsequent DMCA subpoena application at GitHub, the application targeting Spartan Host also concerns allegedly infringing images, four in total, most likely screenshots. By examining an archived copy of the website we managed to find one example; it features a login screen with a HoYoverse logo, within the frame of a mobile phone.
Since Cognosphere is prepared to spend significant sums protecting these images, it raises the question of why they’re so special. They represent a tiny piece of what is obviously a more logical target, one that probably uses other Genshin Impact assets without appropriate licensing, in much more significant ways.
Third DMCA Subpoena Application
In its third DMCA subpoena application, Cognosphere targets Google LLC, doing business as YouTube. This time the allegedly-infringing material is contained in a total of eight YouTube videos, but how they violated Cognosphere’s rights is unclear.
The application and DMCA notice sent to YouTube states that Cognosphere owns the rights to the “gameplay and audiovisual elements” of Genshin Impact but no specifics regarding infringing video content are mentioned. The videos have already been removed, not by YouTube itself, but by the channel owner – casksteven.
At the time of writing, GitHub is yet to take action against the image on the casksteven repo.