Over the past year we’ve had to license game mechanics and intellectual property from a variety of game designers and authors. I’ll be honest, this used to seem like the most complicated and expensive endeavor in the world and scared the hell out of me. I always envisioned a week-long meeting with a roomful of high powered attorneys discussing terms and conditions, finally culminating with a contract signed in blood with a clause for my firstborn.
Fortunately, I’ve begun to look at licensing for what it really is: an additional revenue stream that you can leverage if you choose the right people to partner with.
This definition is of course from the side of the person licensing the IP. A good way to look at it is that you are partnering with someone that has the time and resources to take the world that you’ve built and introduce even more people to it. And as a nice side effect, you’ll hopefully make some extra cash along the way!
So what are a few things to look at? Let me turn the tables and tell you what it is we look for as a game publisher:
Strength of the brand
The greater a following your IP already has, the more likely there is to be some crossover with a new product. If you have a strong fan base, you can usually negotiate for a higher percentage.
I don’t make a game thinking that it’s going to fail, so I want to leave myself open to as many opportunities as possible to cash in on that success. This means I’m going to ask for the rights to produce expansions and a digital version of the game. Since we have the skill set to convert the assets we’ve already created in order to have them do double duty, this makes a lot of sense for us.
Another stipulation here is normally the length of time that a license can be utilized. Typically, I’ve seen a length of five years during which time the licensee should be actively producing and/or marketing the products using the license. Of course the term ‘actively’ can be pretty arbitrary so you have to be a bit careful with this one.
How much do we like the person we’re licensing from?
You may think that money is money and this doesn’t matter. Maybe for some people it doesn’t, but for us, we don’t want to deal with someone that’s going to turn what should be a fun endeavor into tedium. We tend to gravitate towards those with a similar vision and approach.
How well do we know the license material?
I think it’s difficult to really immerse yourself in a product and capture its full flavor if you don’t really know it. Our company doesn’t deal with anything if at least one of us doesn’t have intimate knowledge of the subject material. This is really the only way we can tie in little nuances that true fans would appreciate and make something that truly captures the essence of the IP in our products.
How passionate are we about it?
A game can take up to six months for us to produce (not counting manufacturing time). That’s a very long time to work on something that you don’t like, so we make sure that it’s something we really enjoy.
If you’d like to see the result of one of these licensing endeavors, check out Dragon Whisperer. We licensed the game mechanics from the legendary game designer Richard Borg and crafted a rich and vibrant world around them that we’re really proud of.
Erik Dahlman is CEO of Albino Dragon, a game publisher based in Austin, TX. Within the past year, Albino Dragon has launched and successfully funded five Kickstarter projects that have raised over $180,000 to date by leveraging licenses ranging from Richard Borg’s game mechanics to Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. An avid gamer and businessman, Erik strives to maintain transparency with Albino Dragon in an effort to help others also realize success in the industry and give back to the community.