2016/07/03

The bane of IP's

I have worked on games with foreign IP's a lot. You know you develop a game with an IP which you license. The industry has done this since their beginning and in the long term those business ideas fail. And there are reasons for this - but somehow they tend to forget - and history repeats again.

Soe of you might remember the time when Ocean, Activision and the rest bid themselves to death for arcade machine licenses. Outrun, Defender, R-Type etc. None of these games are around anymore. In fact most of us remember the original arcade developer and not the licensee. Who remembers that Activision did R-Type? In fact I produced R-Type on C64 and Amiga for them, but this is another story.

So this happened in the last weeks:

http://venturebeat.com/2016/06/28/kabam-to-make-mobile-strategy-game-based-on-james-camerons-avatar/

http://venturebeat.com/2016/06/28/plarium-teams-with-skydance-to-create-terminator-genisys-mobile-game/

Again f2p publishers turn to IP's to make their games more successful. Here is the thing. f2p games are successful if they live long. Decades. Believe me, the good f2p games are still around. Maybe you can check out Tibia, a game 18 years old and still feeding a developer of 70 people.

The problem lies here: who knows if the IP you license is still sexy in 5 years? or 10? Exactly then your game might fail. Who knows if the IP owner screws up their IP in the long run like the TV series Heroes or any other similar fail?

And this leads to the question: which IP's are worth licensing anyway?

I always tell my clients that IP's are only valuable if they represent a universe, not just a single story or setting. Lord of the Rings. Star Wars. Those are universes. Worth taking.

This again leads to the business problem that publishers bid themselves to death for the valuable IP's. Do you remember EA paying $200 million for Harry Potter? Where is that now?

This makes IP's very expensive in the long run and cuts into the development budget and ultimately into the quality. That was the reason why most IP based games simply sucked in the past. And will in the future. I say most, there are exceptions.

There are other problems too. The IP owners are very protective about their IP messing up your game - as they usually don't know how games work and their IP protection is more important to them than a good game, which they can't even quantify. This for example led to the strange fact that most racing games weren't allowed to damage the original cars of BMW, Mercedes etc.

And believe me, working with IP owners sucks energy out of the team and you, and the game ultimately, reducing your game to nothing.

So here oyu are sitting on a bad game with an IP you don't own after 5 years and wonder what to do.

Creating your own IP is 100x more valuable than buying someones IP. If you do you will never own your game. Never, wich contradicts everything you need to do to your game as a service. As you can't do whats good for your audience. Ultimately you will fail. Like so many others before.

Read the history of the game business. The 80's, 90's, 2000's. Every 10 years this happens. And fails.

p.s.: exceptions to the rule exist and you will notice that many use them as proof this works, however there are 10x more fails than successes with IP's. If you don't know how to work on IP's DONT DO IT.


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