Thursday, July 28, 2005

Original IP, licensed IP, are they so bad?

On one hand I'm pretty disgusted at the current state of affairs where new games and ideas that were once the norm, have now slipped into "novelty"/foolhardy status. On the other hand I think we should be grateful that our industry has evolved to the point where we have the movie equivalent of "money flicks" (the flicks you do, to get the money so you can do the film you want/art flicks for charity pay/no $$$).

If you look at the fundamental business model of a typical video game company, especially a startup, there is the usual severe lack of incoming cashflow. I don't think any other business has a model where we work our arses off for 2-5 years for a giant crapshoot where our product may sell for only 1-2 months at best (assuming we get shelf placement) before being heavily discounted or forgotten. Developers are meant to be smart people yet we don't see the flaw in this plan? Don't blame the publishers for having you over a barrel when it's partly our own fault for accepting such a weak cash/bargaining position in the first place.

Anything we can do to bring in incoming cashflow while the giant epic Half-Life 2 clone is being worked on the better, especially if it can be done with fewer resources. Merchandise, mobile games that may have a 6 month dev cycle, licensed games with a 1 year dev cycle etc. It's rare that you get any studio large enough to have several concurrent projects running at the same time. I think by now we've established that certain franchises, Star Wars, Sims, Marvel tie-ins sell irrespective of quality. This is a boon and an opportunity to strengthen the studio. It is only a negative if the industry chooses only to focus on milking these cash cows for the short term. Which brings me to...

Original IP. This is what we should all be aiming for. Star Wars? Marvel chars? they were all once "original IP" (this also means investing in more writers, designers and treating them seriously). Who would not want to create something that could stand the test of time and (oh hell) milkable in the long run. Rare as that may be, I think we all have the potential to reverse our current (pitiful) fate, and I dream of one day seeing the established other forms of entertainment, tv, movies, music, even comics be licensing our stuff and have it be the rule not the exception.



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