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How much does a NES game developer's license cost?

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If someone were interested in getting a developer's license for a Nintendo game, and the company which made the game originally still exists but is not doing all that great, how much would the developer's license cost them? Just a ballpark figure? Are we talking thousands? Tens of thousands? More?

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However much they want. Depends on the game, on the company, on whether they want you to get the license at all, on who you are, on the terms you negociate with them...

[moved to the Business forum]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Depends on the game and whatnot. You got to be more specific here in this case. DOn't worry no one will steal your future plans for world domination.

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If, as per your title, you are actually referring to the 8bit NES console, I don't believe you can get a development license for that console anymore considering its been dead for many years. However, if you are referring to the newer Nintendo consoles, that is another story. I don't know about the GameCube, off the top of my head, but I do remember seeing the Nintendo Revolution dev kits being sold for a nice $2,000. This, however, does not include the licensing costs to actually bring a game to market for the console. That I do not know the cost of.

However, there are a lot of variables to consider. From what I understand, this is not necessarily a fixed price.

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I think you're asking about getting licensing rights to a specific game franchise, yes? i.e. you want the license to Zelda not a license to be able to actually develop console games which you'd get from nintendo.

I think the only person able to answer that is the company itself. Just call them and talk to them. Have a proposal about the game you want to make, etc. There's just too many variables to consider. There's a really good chance that no matter how poorly they are doing that you'd be unable to get a liscense unless you're company has shipped titles before.

Otherwise it depends on the license, on the subjective estimation of the worth of that license, on the company, on any pending deals with that license that you may be unaware of, on your personal industry reputation, etc.

-me

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I believe what the OP was referring to was getting a license to remake an old NES game, not actually developing for the NES.

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OK, I'll spill the beans.

There's a certain sports game which was made for the 8-bit NES, around 1991, which I think could sell like hotcakes if re-released with brand new features but keeping the same awesome gameplay and interface.

I am not in the software development business. I contacted the orginal makers of the game and they said the copyrights are not for sale but they are "interested in a developer's license". Which got me feeling all warm and fuzzy, but once I told them I'm not a software developer, they withdrew their offer. We never got to money because we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and they wouldn't do it because I'm not a software company.

So basically this thing is possible, but the question is how much money? I have money, but not alot. And to re-program this great Nintendo game wouldn't take but one really brilliant programmer fluent in 6502 Assembly. I could find one of those at the local college. But I don't have a company so the original makers won't talk to me.

Any more info/help would be appreciated BIG time!

Thanks! Great forum...

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Tomlinson wrote:

>There's a certain sports game which was made for the 8-bit NES, around 1991, which I think could sell like hotcakes if re-released with brand new features but keeping the same awesome gameplay and interface.

In other words, you have one idea. And the idea is to update an old game, which you don't own. But you didn't say what platform you think the updated game belongs on, and...

>I am not in the software development business. I contacted the orginal makers of the game and they said the copyrights are not for sale but they are "interested in a developer's license".

That doesn't make any sense. Maybe they said they are "interested in a license," and later on in another context they also mentioned "developer's license," which is something you'd need to port the game to a current console like the Xbox 360 or the PS3 or something. It doesn't make any sense for them to tell you they are "interested in a developer's license" - it's a nonsequitur.

>...but once I told them I'm not a software developer, they withdrew their offer.

This is a non-starter, Tomlinson. You're not in the industry, you're in no position to carry out your one idea. I just don't see any way for you to accomplish anything in regards to this idea. Sorry, but that's the truth.

>the question is how much money? I have money, but not alot.

Unless you were a millionaire willing to form a company to pursue this idea and other ideas (no company can succeed on just one idea), I don't see how there is anything any of us can do to help you with this. It's not even clear what you're asking us. These FAQs might shed some light on the issue for you, although neither of them exactly dovetails with what you're trying to do:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson39.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson31.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson43.htm

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Tom,

I've actually got more than one idea. For more reasons than this space will allow, there are about a half-dozen sports games (and several others) for the 8-bit NES that had terrific, addictive gameplay, but were archaic in terms of features. I had the idea of releasing these games with the same gameplay but with 21st century features (online play, franchise mode, etc.).

There is one game that this especially applies to.

When I contacted the makers of said game, the part I quoted you about "interested in developers license" was exactly what they wrote. Not being experienced in this industry, I just assumed that meant that this company would allow a software company to update their game, release it, market it, and pay the original makers a share of the profit.

About platforms, this would be something to explore. It's my understanding that it costs millions to have your game released for PS3 or 360. So I was thinking about PC for online play, or one of those new 8-bit NES systems (cant think of the name right now).

I do realize I'm in no position to carry out the idea right now. But here's what I'm getting at: if the original makers told me it would cost $5,000 to get the developers license, I would start my company, interview and hire a great programmer or two, and get it going. But the original makers will not give me that figure, because I'm not a company yet. So I was hoping there was a way to find out through this forum how much the license would cost without having to start a company just to find that out. I would even help finance an existing software development company with this project if that would be a possibility.

Thanks,
Tomlinson

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Most likely WAY more then $5000 and they would want a significant portion of the profits.

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Most likely WAY more then $5000 and they would want a significant portion of the profits.


Absolutely. It was just an off the cuff example.

If I had to guess I'd say tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but really I have very little idea, so that's why I'm here.

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there are 2 fees you'll have to pay:

IP license fee: probably a number to start with and then a percentage of your profits that go to the owner of the IP. They are the ones that originally made the game you want to remake.

Developer fee: you need to pay nintendo or whichever console you release on. You pay them per development kit you "rent" from them. So basically Xthousand person on your team that needs to run the game on the console to test it. The real probelm is this is it's not just a "money talks" environment. You cannot get a developers license for any console unless you've already shipped 2-3 games on that console before. The only way to bootstrap yourself into this realm is to sign on with a major publisher who will get the license for you (EA/Ubisoft/Activision/etc). But they will only take you seriously if you have a playable version of your game already running (in your case on the PC).

The short: your plan is only feasable if you already have a playable version of your game that is good enough to convince a major publisher to take the risk with your team. So you will have to risk it all and build the game with a license that you don't know you can actually get. You'll need money to pay the programmers, etc. So basically what you want is first round venture capital funding or a really big bank account to fund your first year of development.

-me

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Something else you might want to look into. When the company denied you because you're not a "software company" you might want to figure out what they actually mean by that. They very likely mean that they will not give you the license unless you are a game company that has already shipped games commercially.

Basically, before you "create a company" you better talk to them again and figure out what the exact requirements are that they're looking for. Just having a company might not be enough for them to license the IP to you.

-me

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Tomlinson wrote:

>I've actually got more than one idea.

Good, but it takes more than ideas.

>When I contacted the makers of said game, the part I quoted you about "interested in developers license" was exactly what they wrote.

Huh. Weird.

>Not being experienced in this industry, I just assumed that meant that this company would allow a software company to update their game, release it, market it, and pay the original makers a share of the profit.

Perhaps. I'm not sure what "developer's license" means in this context. Development license yes...

>About platforms, this would be something to explore. It's my understanding that it costs millions to have your game released for PS3 or 360.

No, it costs millions to make a triple-A game. To develop a B game can cost only one or more hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending.

To manufacture tens of thousands of copies of a console game will cost hundreds of thousands. If you want to become a publisher, read my FAQ 60. I didn't list that one before because it didn't sound like you were going that way.

>So I was thinking about PC for online play,

OK, figure a hundred thou, give or take twenty. You might want to read my article on game finances too.

>or one of those new 8-bit NES systems (cant think of the name right now).

Um, "Plug and play"?

Look, you can't just pick a platform based on what's cheapest to produce for. You have to pick the platform that's best for the game and its target audience. Your thinking is backwards.

>I do realize I'm in no position to carry out the idea right now. But here's what I'm getting at: if the original makers told me it would cost $5,000 to get the developers license,

Let's see. They'd probably want somewhere in the range of $25-$35K down, as a guarantee, and a percent of sales after the guarantee has been covered. Just guessing low-ball.

>I would start my company, interview and hire a great programmer or two, and get it going. But the original makers will not give me that figure, because I'm not a company yet. So I was hoping there was a way to find out through this forum how much the license would cost without having to start a company just to find that out. I would even help finance an existing software development company with this project if that would be a possibility

I said it before, I say it again - read my FAQ 29. It's a mistake to form a development company just to do this one game (I know, you want to apply the overall thinking to other games from the same genre and era, but start small). Best to find a professional established developer to do the work (one who's a licensed developer on the target platform, if applicable). And you really don't want to form a publishing company (for reasons outlined in FAQ 60), so it'd be better to line up a publisher who'd be interested in the concept before paying for the IP license. Once you have a development plan and a publishing plan in place, and the money is ready, then you go back to the IP owner again, and when they see the ducks are all lined up, then they'll let you take a shot.

[Edited by - tsloper on March 27, 2006 3:26:11 PM]

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I've PM'd you as well but here's the gist.


>There's a certain sports game which was made for the 8-bit NES, around 1991, >which I think could sell like hotcakes if re-released with brand new features >but keeping the same awesome gameplay and interface.

15 years have passed since this game was considered awsome, its no doubt dated well but will be totally eclipsed by current gameplay and interface on modern hardware, these new features of yours would have to be astonishing.

>I am not in the software development business. I contacted the orginal >makers of the game and they said the copyrights are not for sale but they >are "interested in a developer's license". Which got me feeling all warm >and fuzzy, but once I told them I'm not a software developer, they withdrew >their offer. We never got to money because we had to sign a non-disclosure >agreement, and they wouldn't do it because I'm not a software company.

This does not really make a lot of sense, I assume what they were offering you was a license to use the name/assests etc of the original game, but let them keep the copyright (and some royalty no doubt)....This begs a small question though...if this game is so great, why have they not redone it? The stopped talking to you because it's clear that you have no clue what you're doing and so were wasting their time.

>So basically this thing is possible, but the question is how much money? I

HUGE amounts mate, HUGE amounts.

>have money, but not alot. And to re-program this great Nintendo game >wouldn't take but one really brilliant programmer fluent in 6502 Assembly. I >could find one of those at the local college. But I don't have a company so >the original makers won't talk to me.

Knowing 6502 these days won't help that much, yes you can dissasemble the code, and with the aid of the NES hardware manuals work out roughly whats going on, but if you're planning to release it on any current hardware you need to totally re-code it. Better to do that from scratch using a design brief based on the original rather than trying to slavishly copy the 6502 code.


>Any more info/help would be appreciated BIG time!

Unless you have a handle on the business side of things this is a total non starter. We all have favourite games we'd like to see re-done, but the fact is the market is very very different from 5, 10 15 years ago, and changing every few months. Development of a game now has to be up to the Console makers standards and that means huge budgets with large teams to enhance both gameplay and graphics for modern kit. Porting a NES game would not get anywhere, even on PC. No one apart from you would buy it!!!!

HP


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How much? Anywhere from 50k upwards. How much will depend on what format and what the developer feels their IP is worth. - Don't forget that on top of that you will need an experienced IP lawyer to handle the contract so add on another 5-10k or so in legal fees.

As Tom pointed out though, a developer is unlikely to license their beloved IP to someone with no development experience. You will need a team of experienced people and probably a really good demo to convince them and if you don't get the deal you have wasted a lot of money.

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This is probably a non-starter (for reasons TSloper made more than clear).

It should probably be mentioned that while actual content (brand, graphics, etc) is copyrighted, there's nothing stopping you from being 'inspired' by the game-mechanic, without having to pay a 30-50K for the rights. Game Mechnics like that used in Sensible Soccer would probably do great for a mobile game, or a downloadable Casual PC game. If the game-mechanic is the key (as opposed to the nice fuzzy feel the name Super Elite Footie Tournament gives you), this is probably a better bargain.

If you're willing to fund ~40-80K USD, you can probably get a small developer to bite on that concept. Alternatively, you can use a smaller amount to recruit some of those aforementioned kids out of University on contract/part time, and treat this as a learning experience (i.e. not expecting to make any money on game #1). You can also take a chance at the "Help Wanted" forum, but unless you're putting up cash, be ready to be asked what your role in this venture wil be.

As for closed platforms (consoles, DS, GBA, PSP, etc), you can pretty much ignore them for the moment. Not only will the cost of development be prohibitive, but you're highly unlike to get devkits. This is something you can return back to if your self-created IP ever takes off (i.e. if your Tomlinson Elite Soccer becomes a Hit).

Good luck,

Allan

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Thanks, guys, for all the help.

I knew from the start that my idea was an extreme longshot, and I haven't pretended otherwise. I know some of you guys get agitated with people who aren't real knowledgeable in this industry, and to you guys I apologize for wasting your time.

I still believe in the concept. It's not very practical, it would cost a ton of money, and it's quite risky. But often, winning ideas have a way of making their way to the surface one way or the other.

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