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CaseyLink

Having the Ideas but not the Means...

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I have spent the least five years playing and developing video games more so than I should probably admit. During this time, I've had a lot of chances to see what works, and what doesn't when it comes to video games. Because of this, I feel I've been able to refine my own game design ideas into potentially successful products... I just have no way to go about creating them. Yes, starting up an indie team is entirely possible, and I would love to do that in the near future, but lets put that aside for a moment. If I had an idea for a video game, how do I approach a studio and convince them it's worth making? How do studios decide which titles they're going to work on in the first place?

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Original post by CaseyLink
I have spent the least five years playing and developing video games more so than I should probably admit.
Do you mean "Developing video game ideas"?
Quote:
If I had an idea for a video game, how do I approach a studio and convince them it's worth making?
You don't. That's like ringing up Universal studios to tell them you've got a great movie idea. Everyone has a great movie idea...
Quote:
How do studios decide which titles they're going to work on in the first place?
Either:
A) Their staff (i.e. internal creatives and designers) are paid to do this.
or
B) A publisher tells them what IP they need to make a game for and what date it must ship.

So in short, get on the inside. If you have a job as a game designer they you'll get to use your design skills, otherwise you're just another starving artist =(

Alternatively, do some Indy/DIY projects to build up a portfolio of work, which could then be used to get a paying gig as a designer, where eventually you might be given a chance to actually design a new IP and have it professionally developed.

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You don't. That's like ringing up Universal studios to tell them you've got a great movie idea.

Actually, in the film business that's exactly how it works. You don't even need a script written yet to get the funding, even from a big studio. You literally do just send them a pitch for an *idea*. I'm serious. Hollywood is a very different world from the game industry. Give it a few decades and maybe the game industry will be the same way.

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Original post by Portugal Stew
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You don't. That's like ringing up Universal studios to tell them you've got a great movie idea.

Actually, in the film business that's exactly how it works. You don't even need a script written yet to get the funding, even from a big studio. You literally do just send them a pitch for an *idea*. I'm serious. Hollywood is a very different world from the game industry. Give it a few decades and maybe the game industry will be the same way.
Really? What movies have been pitched to Hollywood like that - by outsiders, at least?

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Original post by Portugal Stew
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You don't. That's like ringing up Universal studios to tell them you've got a great movie idea.

Actually, in the film business that's exactly how it works. You don't even need a script written yet to get the funding, even from a big studio. You literally do just send them a pitch for an *idea*. I'm serious. Hollywood is a very different world from the game industry. Give it a few decades and maybe the game industry will be the same way.


That is a gross simplification of the process for film industry insiders with proven track records. In no way, shape or form, does it reflect reality for the rest of us.

Besides, the game industry *already* is like that...but only for the insiders with proven track records.

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Original post by CaseyLink
If I had an idea for a video game, how do I approach a studio and convince them it's worth making?


Your chances of even getting a studio to listen to your idea without being able to show them a fully completed technical demo of some sort are about 0%. My suggestion would be that you get a bit of programming under your belt, start up an indie endeavor of some sort, and revisit your idea when you have something more than a design doc to show. Not trying to sound harsh here, it's just the reality of the industry.

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If I had an idea for a video game, how do I approach a studio and convince them it's worth making? How do studios decide which titles they're going to work on in the first place?

Read:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm

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Original post by MSW
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Original post by Portugal Stew
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You don't. That's like ringing up Universal studios to tell them you've got a great movie idea.

Actually, in the film business that's exactly how it works. You don't even need a script written yet to get the funding, even from a big studio. You literally do just send them a pitch for an *idea*. I'm serious. Hollywood is a very different world from the game industry. Give it a few decades and maybe the game industry will be the same way.


That is a gross simplification of the process for film industry insiders with proven track records. In no way, shape or form, does it reflect reality for the rest of us.

Besides, the game industry *already* is like that...but only for the insiders with proven track records.


Again, that's really not how it is at all, you're just assuming the film industry operates much the same as the game industry.

The truth of the matter is that, while it comes easier if you are an insider, to produce a film, even off of as little as an "idea", is as simple as writing a mockup idea, usually with a few buzzwords and some recommended actors so that it stands out, write a standard legal agreement stating your conditions, and get investors to pledge money and sign. And while this can be a difficult procedure of finding rich individuals and organizations willing to fund a film that might not break even, it can also be exactly as simple as pitching the idea to a studio, and, if you're lucky and the execs think that it will captivate audiences of the near future, you'll have a deal. You do not need an MBA from NYU or a BFA from USC, you don't need to know a guy who knows a guy, you don't need to be the favorite nephew of a guy who works at Universal, you just need to either be very persuasive or very lucky.

This is largely because of the structure of the Hollywood studio system. The way studios generally make so much money even from flops is by charging rental fees. There's a certain cost to use the set, a certain cost to use the cameras, the lights, everything. The studio inflates the rental fees, so even if the budget for a film was $100,000, the actual cost could have been as little as half that, so even if the movie only made $70,000 in the box office it would still have been a profit (for the studio, though not for the producer). Besides that, films can rely on blockbusters to make up for any slack, because even if out of 20 films 19 are a flop, one major hit will make up for the rest, even if they all cost $100,000,000 to make. These numbers are guestimates from the back of my mind, but they are based on real statistics I assure you.

The videogame industry on the other hand is a bit less centralized so far. The same studio system isn't shared by game studios as film studios in general, and there isn't always an exec ready to support you so he can mooch off your profit.

And when this is not true, I have to note that although you do not have to be a Hollywood insider to *produce* a film, you generally have to have a reputation to get picked up as the writer or director. So unless you're a real smooth talker and you can tell your investors that even though you have no experience working with actors and you don't know the difference between VistaVision and Super 16 you still have what it takes to direct your film, don't expect anybody to back you. And in that respect the same goes for videogames. You might be able to convince people to invest in your game project but you'd better have a good portfolio of work if you want to make more than $150 from your loving grandparents to go buy yourself a laptop.

I will also point out that another disadvantage the game industry has is it's not a part of our culture the same way as film. It may be easy to convince people of your vision of a film, because everyone likes movies. However, it's a lot harder to find rich people who like videogames enough to want to risk their money to fund one.


So anyway that's my piece. If anyone sees anything wrong with it I'd like to know. CaseyLink, I reccomend you follow Tom Sloper's suggestions, he has a lot of experience and can probably get you started. On the other hand, if you think you can be persuasive, go hunt some investors. Just not here, we're all broke.

Edit: I made some unnecessary assumptions about game studios.

[Edited by - Portugal Stew on October 26, 2009 3:28:53 PM]

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Original post by Portugal Stew
Again, that's really not how it is at all, you're just assuming the film industry operates much the same as the game industry.

The truth of the matter is that, while it comes easier if you are an insider, to produce a film, even off of as little as an "idea", is as simple as writing a mockup idea, usually with a few buzzwords and some recommended actors so that it stands out, write a standard legal agreement stating your conditions, and get investors to pledge money and sign. And while this can be a difficult procedure of finding rich individuals and organizations willing to fund a film that might not break even, it can also be exactly as simple as pitching the idea to a studio, and, if you're lucky and the execs think that it will captivate audiences of the near future, you'll have a deal. You do not need an MBA from NYU or a BFA from USC, you don't need to know a guy who knows a guy, you don't need to be the favorite nephew of a guy who works at Universal, you just need to either be very persuasive or very lucky.

This is largely because of the structure of the Hollywood studio system. The way studios generally make so much money even from flops is by charging rental fees. There's a certain cost to use the set, a certain cost to use the cameras, the lights, everything. The studio inflates the rental fees, so even if the budget for a film was $100,000, the actual cost could have been as little as half that, so even if the movie only made $70,000 in the box office it would still have been a profit (for the studio, though not for the producer). Besides that, films can rely on blockbusters to make up for any slack, because even if out of 20 films 19 are a flop, one major hit will make up for the rest, even if they all cost $100,000,000 to make. These numbers are guestimates from the back of my mind, but they are based on real statistics I assure you.


Speaking from experience, no that is not how it works. Not even close.


There are three ways to finance a film. Studio, private investers, self financeing...just like there are three ways to finace a video game. Publishers, private investors (venture capitol), and self finaceing.

Film studios make the vast bulk of thier money by owning and licenseing intellectual property. Just like video game publishers.


If you arn't an insider, but have an idea for a film/game. The *BEST* you are going to get out of a studio/publisher is a meeting with a mail room clerk. And thats getting real lucky with fast talking through your notes scribbled on napkins.

Until you prove yourself, It just isn't going to happen in either industry period.

Now if you self finance or obtain private investment. Make your game, then submit it to publishers. There is a chance they will pick it up, maybe even put some money into it to make it more polished.


You can't even get that good of a deal in the film industry for a completed self/private funded film. Unsolicitated copies of films are disposed of. A hollywood exec isn't even going to give your film the time of day unless it has gone through the filtration process known as film festivals. Else your only hope is to go the direct-to-DVD route through one of the many companies specialising in that (example: Troma).


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I'm speaking from what I know about film production from film producers I know (mostly family), so I am giving a second-hand account so if your first-hand experience is different then I'll assume that's sound, although that makes me want to ask more questions. Although, comparing what you said to what I posted, I don't see any disagreement. Oh well.

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