The June/July issue of Game Developer has an article, Playing Smart with IP, by Dan Lee Rogers, that hits on several strong points in favor of original IP versus licensed IP. One of Rogers' key stats: If you look at the top 40 console games (lifetime sales) since 1995, 31 of them, or 77 percent, are original brands (including sequels within these brands). That leaves just nine out of 40 as licensed game brands. That's near total dominance in favor of original IP. Some of these top selling brands include: GTA, Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Halo, Crash Bandicoot, Tekken, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and Driver.
And about two years ago I read a similar article with original IP winning by 80%. This earlier article included PC brands, including Diablo, Doom, Half-Life, The Sims, Warcraft, Tomb Raider, Duke Nukem and EverQuest.
So, if original brands control nearly 80% percent of the chart every year, why aren't we seeing a LOT more original games in development? It's clear that the real gold mine in our industry is with original IP (and their sequels and spin-offs). Publishers would be so much better off in the long-run by creating original IP versus licensed games. Owning an arm's length list of home grown IP should be the goal of every publisher, because it gives them ultimate control of their own destiny and revenues.
Yet we have a large publisher like THQ being out-IP'ed by a little game studio like Id Software, who've created three blockbuster IPs, Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake.
Given the success of original brands over licensed ones, why don't publishers invest more in original IP? There can be only one answer: They're not good at it. They're afraid.
But we need more original IP to put us on the same self-sustaining plateau as TV, movies and novels -- all three of these entertainment industry branches absolutely crush us in total revenues, and by no coincidence, in original IP output.
It's okay to cherry pick a few licenses now and then, but if I ran a publisher (fat chance!) I'd be focused on creating original brands that I fully controlled, and could exploit across other media. When it comes to licensed IP, other than kids licenses and sports licenses, there are fewer than a dozen licenses from the entire library of novels, TV and movies that are worth exploiting in the game world. That's right, less than a dozen. Which is why so, so few licensed games can compete with original games for the top revenue slots year after year.
And yet every year publishers trip over themselves to license Hollywood summer movies, adding value to Hollywood's bottom-line, while spanking ours. What we need are fewer chicken-shit publishers run by non-gamer financial or legal suits, and instead run by someone with a creative spark in their cranium, who have the guts to ignore financial quarters or slotted release dates. I won't hold my breath, though.