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Sunday, November 16, 2003


Dave Long

"The game industry will only establish itself as a true creative entertainment force by creating original IP."

Right the hell on, Scott. Good luck convincing the rest of the industry of this, but it's great to hear someone with a loud voice in the industry making this distinction. I've written about it on messageboards and in my own Long Shot column at GamerDad. It seems like lots of folks think games should be movies, right down to the content they're based upon.


While there have been complaints about using the GBA as the focus for this study, I think it makes (quantitatively) the points that the drive to create original properties is weak and that the industry does rely very heavily upon licensed material from elsewhere while also feeding off itself with sequels and remakes.

Scott Miller

Mike, I read your article -- good stuff. The GBA is a skewed market though, because, as it happens, it supports licensed material better than any other platform. The reason is that studies (don't have links handy, sorry) show that kids are highly susceptible to the draw of licenses, and are drawn to buy familiar products over original products. This is why we see practically all cereal boxes with a license on the front nowadays.

Only hitting the teens do we move away from this as we realize that advertising is not our friend, it's out to trick us. Thus we rebel, or at least we think we do, as we simply move to underground and alternate brands and think we're cool by doing so.

Anyway, on the non-kiddie platforms the ratio of successful licenses verses original brands swings heavily toward original brands -- especially if you ignore the team sports games (NFL, NBA, etc.), which succeed for a different reason.

This is a big topic that I plan to cover in the next month or two.

Charles E. Hardwidge

The whole issue of original versus licensed IP is such a bloated monster in my own mind that a few articles from Scott would be helpfull. Even if I don't agree with a single word he says it should provide a benchmark to compare against. Where I might differ is that I believe quality of creative process and the final deliverable is more important than whether an IP is original or licensed (assuming creative constraints to be equal).


FWIW, I'm Matt (id: jvm) at CG and that's my article, but my friend Michael (id: michael) writes some of the posts there. I've already had that article attributed to someone else, so I thought I'd pipe up. :^D

Scott Miller

Sorry about the name mix-up, Matt! BTW, you have a good site--I'll add it to my link list.

Charles, unquestionably, licensed games can be as creative an endeavor as original games. But, my point is that original brands (original games plus their sequels) make up the majority of successful games in our industry. Generally, licensed games have a strong negative perception working against them. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, an attached license will limit the number of gamers who will be interested in a game -- quite the opposite effect that all publishers believe takes place. Again, this is a fascinating topic I will cover in detail soon enough. ;-)

Charles E. Hardwidge

Thanks for the clarification, Scott.

Given that an original or licensed IP can be qualitively equivalent the comment that licensed IP is often negatively perceived and actively reduces the number of potential customers is quite interesting. If I read you correctly, this neatly dovetails with the bullet points dealing with finance, production, and publishers.

I look forward to seeing how this one unfolds.


Excuse my so-so English, french is my primary language!

I'm in the process of preparing a masters research on software processes in game development, and to my surprise, and as you point out in this posting, there seems to be no consensus within the industry concerning processes. Yet, none of the most cited problems in game projects postmortems are new to the world of software engineering; schedule slips, crunch time, and poor estimates are frequent in traditional software development. What do you think are the main reasons for this apparent paradox? What are the key elements that would need to be addressed in order for a game development process to be sucessful?

Thanks for the enlightening postings, I have no doubt that I will visit this weblog very frequently.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Hello nickelplate. Thanks for the warning. No need to apologise for English being a second language. It's better than either my German or Japanese.

Key elements? Decision making and experience. Making the connect between quality of process, product, and commercial success. The industry's grown up in its own bubble and hasn't had the internal or external reality checks more mature industries have to deal with, though that's beginning to change.

Funnily enough, I had a creative versus analytic disagreement with one of his own former employees, where they disagreed that design informed by a formulaic approach was possible because the industry was "different." This leads me neatly to something that's been bugging me for years - how apprentiships were cost cut out of existence.


Why doesn't game dev-ing borrow more from established industry?

I've read quite a few postmortem's (which make me a wannabe, granted) and articles on game development, but it really gets me that there is no cross polination between the games biz, the movie biz (ok, ok...movies/games are crosspolinating) and more structured (yet still creative) disciplines, like mechanical engineering and industrial design. Seems to me basic black boxing, structured design processes, basic Gant scheduling and morphological overviews would be the absolute minimum the gamesbiz could benefit from.

And I apolopgise in advance if these methods are already used (Gant charting foremost...I mean, I'd be appaled if it wasn't!) , but as I say...I know more about physics/engineering than game developing :)

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