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alfred97

Development rights for old game series

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I'm playing with the idea of trying to revive an old adventure game series. The series featured three titles, released in the early 90s. While none of them turned out to be a real gold mine, they all became relatively well-known among fans of the genre. The developing company was later acquired and liquidated by Electronic Arts, which I assume holds the copyright at this time. The questions are many. Who should I contact, how much should I be prepared to pay etc. Has anyone else tried to acquire development rights for their old-time favorite games? If so, I'd like to hear about your experiences.

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Quote:
Original post by alfred97
Who should I contact, how much should I be prepared to pay etc.

Call and ask for the business development manager. Know how much you are able to afford for the venture to make sense for you.

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Quote:
Original post by alfred97
I'm playing with the idea of trying to revive an old adventure game series. The series featured three titles, released in the early 90s. ...

My Crystal ball informs me that you are talking about the Kyrandia series, developed by Westood Studios.

Quote:
The questions are many. Who should I contact, how much should I be prepared to pay etc.

1. EA's licensing department.
2. Far more money than you can afford. A minimum of $50k but probably a lot more if they are even willing to license it at all.

Big publishers like Eidos, EA, Ubi, Nintendo etc have large offices and staff and as such they cost a lot of money to run. That means that every project that gets approved must earn a minimum Return On Investment (ROI) - enough to pay its share of the companies costs or else it isn't worth doing. Every game involves Producers, Accountants, Development Managers and Lawyers, office costs etc.... it all adds up.

So, unless the business case you propose is going to make them enough money to cover all those costs they will just say "no". Because it is old they may believe it wont generate a high enough return for them to publish it and they won't license it to you because you couldn't afford to pay enough to cover the publisher's legal costs let alone the rest of the costs above.

Quote:
Has anyone else tried to acquire development rights for their old-time favorite games? If so, I'd like to hear about your experiences.

Cinemaware and all 14 of its games were acquired a few years back - but not from a giant publisher. Cinemaware went bust in the days before people understood the value of IP and as such became the property of the State of California (or whoever looks after deceased companies). Someone paid a lawyer a few $k to find the box and they bought the dead companies assets for a bag of magic beans, including the rights to all the games.

Never heard of anyone buying the rights to an old title from a big company though, for the reasons listed above.

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"Interplay Entertainment went bankrupt and closed down Black Isle Studios before the game could be completed, and the license to develop Fallout 3 was sold for a $1,175,000 minimum guaranteed advance against royalties to Bethesda Softworks."

A'la Wikipedia. Fallout 2 was 1999 and probably a more valuable IP. Licensing IP isn't cheap at all, let alone buying IP.

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First of all, thanks for your answers. Highly informative stuff for a game industry newbie like me. And yes sir, your crystal ball is correct: I am indeed talking about the Kyrandia series.

From the feedback I have received in this thread, there doesn't seem to be much room for optimism, and Obscure is probably correct in his assumption that we will be talking about far more money than I can afford.

But still, we are talking about a trademark which has been dead for 15 years, and which most current gamers haven't even heard of. After the liquidation of Westwood Studios, we have seen no indication whatsoever that EA or anyone else is going to reuse it. Therefore, selling the exclusive rights without any deal about publishing/licensing will represent no economical risk, as I want to manage the project myself, with my own crew. If EA has no intention of making any more money off the Kyrandia concept, how much value do the development rights really represent to them?

I guess I'll be contacting EA's licensing department concerning this matter. I know for sure that I'm not being very realistic here, but I am taught never to give up before I either reach my goal, or prove beyond any doubt that it is unreachable. :)

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EA is very likely not going to sell you the rights to a game they own, but do some research.

I was involved with the Starflight 3 Project for a long time. Starflight was published by EA but they don't own the copyrights to it - the rights are owned by the original developers (Binary Systems) who were more than happy to give the team permission to create the sequel.

Now, Starflight was published in the early 80s, before EA policy (I assume) was to acquire the rights to every game they publish, so it's unlikely that they don't own the rights to games made in the 90s but you never know what kind of wierd deal was made when Westwood was acquired.

I wouldn't get my hopes up, but start with the US Copyright Office and do your research from there.

Good Luck!

[Edited by - linternet on July 25, 2008 11:31:55 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by alfred97
.....we have seen no indication whatsoever that EA or anyone else is going to reuse it.

Are you privy to EA's board and product development meetings? Many companies make plans without informing the general public so the fact that EA haven't made any public announcements means nothing.
Quote:
...Therefore, selling the exclusive rights without any deal about publishing/licensing will represent no economical risk,..

Hmmm it seems you need to go back and re-read my previous post. The act of selling the rights would cost EA money - more money than you would be able to pay them for the rights. Why would they lose money to give you these rights?

Quote:
If EA has no intention of making any more money off the Kyrandia concept, how much value do the development rights really represent to them?

A minimum of $10-20,000 (probably more) just to cover their legal costs then a bunch more profit on the deal to cover all the costs I mentioned in my previous post - so minimum $50k probably lots more.

Of course they might allow you to make a non-commercial fan project with the IP. It's unlikely but it does happen.

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Also keep in mind that while the original artwork, source code, dialog, etc. are under copyright (and the name probably under trademark), the idea of the game is very probably not protected (would need a patent). Meaning that while you might not be able to create YourFavoriteGame3, you can create a game that's suspiciously what YourFavoriteGame3 would have looked like. Just don't recycle any old artwork from YourFavoriteGame1 or 2, sounds, dialog, etc. But you can still reference plot elements and even characters from the first and second (unless those characters are under trademark, then you'd need to name them something else, and have them look a little different).

So if I wanted to make a platformer about an italian plumber who saves princesses from turtles, I can totally do that as long as my italian plumber isn't named Mario, my princess isn't named Peach, and turtle isn't named Bowser, since all those names are probably trademarked.

Or if I wanted to make an RPG about a soldier with amnesia that uses the life force of the planet to power magic spells and is on the hunt for a super human genetic experiment that uses genes from a dead alien, I can do that to. Just don't name the characters Cloud, Sephiroth, etc. My main evil character can still have long white hair even. Just make sure all the artwork is original (stuff you own the copyright for).

Really the only thing the IP gets you is the ability to call it MyFavoriteGame3. Which is only useful if you want to sell the game and the MyFavoriteGame IP will generate sales just on the worth of the name alone.

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