What If… Developers & Studios Were More Accommodating With The Use Of Their Intellectual Property

The other day I was thinking about an indie game that is currently in development and how perfectly suited it would be to feature intellectual property from another studio. This raised the question, what if studios were more accommodating with the use of their IP?

Of course most studios offer the option to license their IP for use, however this isn’t typically an attractive arrangement because of how expensive licensing deals can be. This is especially true when you’re referring to the more popular / iconic characters, whether you’re inking a flat fee or a royalty percentage there aren’t many studios that can afford to take that kind of hit on their bottom line.

However if studios were more apt to partner with each other or draft more favorable licensing deals for the use of their IP, it could prove to be mutually beneficial for everyone involved. With a little creativity you could broaden your reach to a potentially new audience that may not have been reached otherwise.

Most recently I had this thought as I was researching Night Terrors, an upcoming augmented reality horror game being developed for the mobile market. The game promises to provide a terrifyingly immersive gaming experience, by utilizing the advanced tech built into all of our mobile devices. They’ve devised an intelligent system of environment mapping, allowing the game to accurately position the characters/ creatures in a manner that makes sense in relation to your surroundings. It also recognizes decorations, like picture frames, to the point where they’ll fall or fly from the walls as if by supernatural forces.

Imagine its late at night, the game prompts that its time to play, and its up to you to rescue the little girl. Its dark in the house and your only source of light is your mobile device. Using it as a monitor, you’re prompted to walk down a darkened hallway when you hear a sound in the distance. As you continue down the hall the sound continues to grow louder and louder, as you round the corner to find Leatherface ( from Tobe Hooper’s classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise and the upcoming prequel Leatherface) running towards you with chainsaw in hand. I don’t know about you, but in the moment… I might need to change my pants.

However Leatherface could easily be replaced by the sudden appearance of the female ghost from P.T. ( the playable teaser for the recently canceled Silent Hills) or perhaps one of the masked killers from the upcoming PS4 exclusive Until Dawn. In this case, the potential is endless as there is an abundance of iconic and new horror villains that could be applied with terrifying results. However this idea isn’t limited to this game or genre, what if Master Chief ( from the Halo franchise ) or Reaper ( from the upcoming Black Ops 3) were to make an appearance as a playable character in Helldivers?

The point being that there are a wide variety of characters, even recognizable locations, that could make appearances within games outside of their norm. It may be clear how this sort of tie in would be beneficial for an indie game receiving the AAA characters, however you might be wondering how the reverse would be beneficial outside of a hefty licensing deal?

Let’s say that the team behind Night Terrors made an arrangement with New Line Cinema & Paramount to use Jason Voorhees ( Friday the 13th) within their game. The mere presence of this iconic horror figure and the manner in which you’re interacting with him, would leave a lasting impression on the player. This could also be said if Red ( Transistor) were to make an appearance within The Witcher 3.

These characters would prove to be memorable because of their unexpected appearance and your interaction with them within these games. This could be the first step in a marketing campaign, leveraging your property as a limited time promotional tie in featured in an outside IP. This promo could be a tease that would lead into a major announcement regarding your project in development. This is only one example, there are any number of creative solutions allowing for all parties involved to come out on top.

Think of the conversations that erupted as a result of the revelation that Kratos ( God of War) would appear in the Playstation version of Shovel Knight, while BattleToads appeared in the Xbox.

David D’ Angelo, Creative Director at Yacht Club Games, said “We had the pleasure of visiting Santa Monica Studio’s gorgeous brand new facilities to discuss our gameplay, story, art, and sound ideas with key members of the God of War team! It was very exciting to bounce concepts back and forth and get a better understanding for how the God of War team viewed their character and world. After we laid the foundation with the team, Yacht Club Games went into development mode and start crafting gameplay, music, and the look of the character.

After the arrangement with Yacht Club Games was made Aaron Kaufman, community strategist at Santa Monica Studios, said “In honor of the God of War 10yr Anniversary, we granted Shovel Knight access to the God of War kingdom, to face the legendary Ghost of Sparta in his quest to dismantle the Order of No Quarter.”

Even though I can’t speak to the deal that was made, its clear this was a winning outcome for Yacht Club Games as people were eager to get their hands on both versions of the game. While the ensuing conversations and let’s plays drew focus to both the God of War and BattleToads franchises.

I’ll leave it to the developers/ studios to make the deals they feel most appropriate, however I stand by the thought that there can be mutually beneficial arrangements made that don’t need to break the bank. All you need is a little creativity to see the potential and strike the perfect balance so everyone involved can win.

What do you think? What character(s) would you like to see make an appearance and in what titles? Let us know in the comments below…

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2 thoughts on “What If… Developers & Studios Were More Accommodating With The Use Of Their Intellectual Property”

  1. If IP sharing happened in the sense that you want it to, then consumer attachment to their preferred IP would dwindle. I don’t think you realize the value of IP, copyright, and their brand trademarks. Suppose I like some IP, which was created by person A. I don’t care for person B but I find out that person A has allowed person B to use their IP. Now I don’t care for either person A or the IP. That’s the risk and it happens far more often than the opposite where person C gets the IP and I happen to like person C and their interpretation of the IP.

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    1. I completely understand and agree 100%, the last thing I’d want would be for there to be free reign on everyone’s IP. If there weren’t any copyrights on material and everything was open territory, I’d dread the things that would be made in the name of the things we love. However I do think there is something to be said about there being more collaboration between devs/ studios.

      If A created a phenomenal character and were approached by B to have that character appear for a limited time in their project as a promo. If A likes what B is doing and supports the direction they’re taking their own project, then there should be the potential for working together to ensure the IP is properly handled and treated with respect. The contracts should be written to protect the interest of the IP, if A is concerned with the direction being taken that would be where the collaboration comes into play. If things don’t improve, then the access to the IP would be revoked.

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