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Selling a game concept to a dev studio


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Hi everyone,

That's a serious interrogation for my mates and me at the moment :). Firstely, let me explain you a bit the situation :

I just graduated from a videogame school, during the last 5 months we had to develop a prototype of game which could be shown to an editor.

So as a coders/designers/graphists team of 5 persons, we created the concept of a casual game, and after our presentation of the last release 3 weeks ago in front of a panel of professionals, a game dev studio which specialize in casual gaming contacted us in order to see the team and think of a probable future for the project, we agreed on a rendezvous to visit their studios last week.

No wonder we were quite enthusiastic :megaman: , last monday we went to their studios and presented the concept to the direction team which was apparently very enthusiastic too to make something from our concept. The next steps are an individual interview with each member of the team, and then in two weeks, a reunion with the whole team to discuss the project.

I have a principle to never go somewhere naked and unarmed. So before that reunion, i'm trying to find some informations about the types of contracts they could propose us.

Apparently, their idea is to hire the whole team, work on a better prototype during 3 months and show it to an editor. However, they never told us that they would buy the game concept, give us remunerations if the game sells alright etc..

If there is some industry veterans on mapcore who could give me some piece of advice on this matter, that would be very kind. What are we in right to propose them ? I don't want our team to give up the concept to the studio in exchange to be hired and nothing else.. if we have other options !

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i developed a casual game with a friend last year and went around trieng to sell it to a whole bunch of big names in the casual game business ( if you can call it that ) and i was pretty shocked to find out that there is no upfront money NOWHERE its all: ... if its successful ... if it sells ... if the people like it ... if it becomes a hit. since i insisted on upfront + huge amounts of royalties nobody wanted the game :D

i think the general casual game attitude is: call us up as sonn as you make tons of money than we will be happy to take a slice of your pie =)

to which i can only respond with: no thanks id rather make a lot of money myself without you !

i would also not go for a deal that spells: we will employ you in exchange for the game ! which is what you make it sound like

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What Warby said.

If it's a casual title you can develop it yourself given enough time an dedication, get it on XBL or Steam :)

Get jobs at Maccy'ds to pay some bills and make games the rest of the time, if it's a good game you won't be flippin burgers for long. Or get a job in the games industry and develop your own title at home. Just dont tell anyone :quagmire:

Let me also add, because I'm sure others are in this boat;

You can view this from 2 different angles, the career or business perspectives.

Career - Many ex students or people that are just interested in making games professionaly come up with game concepts and designs in hope of finding your first professional position. I'm confident that if you decided to develope this title your careers would get a fantastic start that otherwise might be tough.

Business - Are you willing to develope this title by yourselfs with a good chance that it won't work out the way you all want.

Personally, I see the business option as better, mainly because you can still apply to work at studios (using the work done so far) and continue with the casual title in your private time on the internet.

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I would really encourage people NEVER to go look for publishers for their own little game project. There are many different ways to come up with solutions yourself and have both you and your game a lot more audience.

It's simple enough. If you go see the big wigs, they couldn't care less taking risks on your own little game that they still need to market and invest a lot of resources on when they can play with their own portfolio of brands. If you go see the small publishers, they won't have the resources necessary to help you as much as you'd like, and generally speaking their current status is due to bad business deals for years anyway.

Make your own game, have it on XBLA if you can afford that, talk to Jason Holtman to get it on Steam, make your own next Braid. Start your own 2 persons studio, and sell it back once you've made a name for yourself if you're not enjoying that crazy lifestyle anymore.

Do you think the Braid creators couldn't join a vast list of studios right now? In a heartbeat. Could they do that before? Probably too, but with half the salary and half the job title. Take the bull by the horns and make your own little gem. If you're that good, the accolades will start pouring in before you know it. This is a perfect example of how to shine as an entrepreneur.

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........ talk to Jason Holtman to get it on Steam, make your own next Braid...

do you know for a fact that this guy is the man to talk to ?! i was lookign for a game submission info page on the valve wiki / steam page for an eternity now ...

the guy who was assigned to codename gordon as a producer doug wood hasn't answered to my last couple pf mails i am afraid he might have stopped working at valve :(

if you have a contact address for jason holtman can you share it with me via pm ?

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No need for a PM, his address is commonly accessible and known. Jason Holtman is Valve's director of business development and oversees any commercial deal for both Valve and Steam (engine license, publishing deals, Steamworks). You can contact him at [email protected]

And as far as I know, Doug still works at Valve.

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In the end you have to decide what's the best move for you at this point in your life. If you feel really strongly that your game concept is something special and you think you could make it with the team you have now, maybe you should try and start your own company. This is extremely difficult though as warby said. It's very rare that a publisher or anyone else for that matter will give you the money up front to start your company, even if you've managed to create a playable demo.

I wouldn't expect the developer to let you guys maintain the rights to your game if they decide they want to hire you on to make it. They don't want to make you rich and famous, they want you to make the company as a whole rich and famous and it's not unreasonable for them to expect that since presumably they'd be investing a decent amount of time, money, and effort to bring you onboard.

I think that if you do get an offer to make your game for the studio you should at least make sure you have the potential to see profits from it.

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There is also a difference to be made between giving your project to a studio that will go look for a publisher itself, and going to see the publisher yourself.

If you decide to follow through with this, I would tell you to try and cut the middle man if you can. You won't be better served than by doing it yourself. If you can see a publisher with a playable demo, you can negotiate the terms of your contract a bit more. Including another studio is only making you jump through another set of hoops.

The studio has its own goals, will try and secure funding for itself, not the project, and once that's secured your project could turn out radically different, you could be fired and you'll have lost your project meanwhile.

Go straight for the publisher, you may also have a very marketable project with lovable characters that will do for easy merchandising, you could negotiate a percentage of the profit made on that instead.

Basically what I'm saying is the publisher will have many different angles to see this negotiation from, whereas the studio will only have one. Besides once you've presented your game to the studio, there is no certainty whatsoever they won't try and make it themselves without you.

You'd be surprised how many studios ask whether they can keep your documents after the interview is done. Especially in France with the state of the industry there.

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You should've gone in with some type of non-disclosure-agreement.

yeah i was thinking some sort of contract too, just so you don't get screwed over. not neccesarily just an NDA, but more of a general thing. i am too tired to come up with an example right now.

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Going in with a so called home made NDA might seem like a good idea, but I'm quite sure if a big developer/publisher wanted to use some of the design it would be a case of just doing it. Nothing in this world can be original anymore. NDA's are more about stopping people talking about whats going on than copyright or patening.

You simply can't protect a great game idea, there are always ways around it.

This is why it's universaly known that if you have a great idea you should do all in your power to get it developed yourself, get the big guns involved and things are out of your control. Unless that is, you have no choice :mario:

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