Friday, October 21, 2005

Licensing woes

Many products these days, games included, use an existing, popular, intellectual property as a selling point. "If you like the IP, this game's for you!" The major advantage to licensing an IP is getting an established customer base. There are, however, also many pitfalls.

Communicating with the property owner can be a big problem if you don't have a clear direct channel. An easy way to get into a low-communication situation is to license an anime property.

If you want to make a game for an anime property in the USA, you get the license from the American distributor of that anime, who gets the license from the Japansese distributor. That's at least one "unnecessary" level of communication. If you work as a game designer for a game company, you might have another layer to go though - the marketing or licensing department in your own company.

Recently, I wanted to get something from an anime IP owner, and I have to go through at least this many layers. I wrote a nice e-mail, explaining what I needed. Prior to this, I had demonstrated directly for the American licensor the game's concept. They found it most pleasing, and at the time verbally assured me they could get this thing I needed for me. Well months later and I still don't have it so I'm writing this e-mail. I remain very polite and professional in my request.

After going through my people, the American licensor, the Japanese company, and back again, all I get is: "No." Not even the slightest explanation. I press my company people and then get a slightly bigger no, with basically a "we're not interested in helping you with that, don't do it that way." Which is nice, after I've spent 4 months of work operating under the assumption that I would be helped to do it this way.

I'm confident in my design, it's a perfect fit to the property. I want to use some images that are from an associated work. That work is not owned by the same people, and aparrently "they hate each other" - the anime IP owners and the owners of this other thing I need. That's all I get though: "they hate each other." Which can't be simply true. I press again, and finally people in my own company actually show me the e-mail they recieved from the American licensor. This e-mail tells me the American licensor is on my side and wants what I want, but the Japanese people are saying they want the anime and the thing I need to be kept separate. This is ludicrous, but there is nothing I can do about it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Taking Turns

When you and your friends or family eat at restraunt, do you take turns? Does each of you eat a certain amount of food, or a certain number of forkfulls, or for a certain number of seconds and then wait for each other person to do the same?

When your company's product is in competition with the products of other companies, does each company spend an equal amount on advertising, or have the same number of commercials? Does every product get equal materials or equal design time?

Real life doesn't have turns.

Is the concept of a "turn" the difference between a game and real life?

Turns are used as a system of fairness, they hold certain things constant. Most often these are things like resources and opportunity. Games do this to focus attention on decisions. Players can see very clearly what results come from the decisions they make. This structure also allows you to compare the results if you play a game multiple times but make different decisions.

Games are a test arena for strategy and decision making. Players can experiment inside a game with their own decision making process and learn without risking their real-life resources what impact their decision will have in various circumstances.

I wonder if the first person to invent the concept of a turn was a parent trying to get their children to play together without fighting so much...