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Excerpt from "Designing and Developing Sports games"


Licensing

In the early days of computer gaming, most sports games weren’t licensed. The sports leagues didn’t treat interactive entertainment seriously, and the game companies didn’t have the business experience to negotiate licenses anyway. Athletes were used to seeing their names in the newspapers and record books without being paid for them, and didn’t expect, or know to ask, game companies to pay them. The whole business was very relaxed.

All that has changed. The leagues and players have gotten savvy about the value of their names, photographs, and trademarks. It’s still possible to develop an unlicensed game based on a real professional sport, but you have to be extremely careful. The team names and logos cannot be used, nor can player names.

Nowadays, it’s not unusual to have quite a number of licenses associated with a single product. A license with the league will entitle you to use the league’s own logos, plus the team names, logos, and colors — assuming the league owns all those rights; different leagues have different rules. However, the league doesn’t generally have the right to license player names. To get them, you’ll have to negotiate with the players’ union, if they have one, or with the players individually if they don’t. And even if you do have the right to use a player’s name and image, that doesn’t mean you can just put them on the front of the box. A license from the player’s union will let you use the player in the game, but you can’t create the impression that the player has endorsed the product — that would require a special license directly with the player himself.

Old-time players who aren’t current members of the union are another problem. There’s no organization that can sell you the right to use their names as a group, so you have to negotiate with them one at a time. For player photographs, old or new, you’ll obviously have to have the right to use the player’s likeness, and then you’ll have to get an actual photograph from somebody — possibly the league’s photo office or a trading card company — and pay the photographer as well. Even the stadiums have started getting into the act, especially since many of them are now sponsored by big companies. The stadiums are all owned by different groups, some public, some private, so like the old-time players, there’s no one organization that can sell you the rights to use their names and images.

Finally, there are referees, broadcasting personalities, TV networks, and team sponsors to consider. American sports teams don’t usually have a company name on their uniforms, but European and Japanese teams routinely do. Any and all of these can be licensed to increase the verisimilitude of your game — and every license costs money, either in cash up front or royalties afterwards. You’ll have to decide whether the benefits gained are worth the price.




[edited by - Maega on January 6, 2004 2:41:50 PM]

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