I want to take some time today to point to an article at gamesindustry.biz. The article is a brief on one of the things which came out in a longer interview with RebelPlay. The gist of the article was: Indie game developers should be willing, and accepting of giving up their IP for funding. This is the biggest load of unadulterated bullshit I think I have heard in a long long time.

Here’s some excerpts:

When we talk to developers they realise that the ownership of the intellectual property isn’t as important as being associated with it and going on a journey with you when you exploit it.

No, what it is really, is a journey where you probably wind up getting told how it will be exploited. Because when you sell your IP to someone…it’s just that: selling a piece of property. You no longer own it. You no longer have complete control over it.

Something we do with all our contracts is that by default all developers get first refusal on sequels and ports to do with that IP, so they are effectively intimately connected to that IP through its lifetime. They can exploit it with us and benefit with us.

Do tell, how well did that attitude work out for Jason West and Vince Zampella? How well did their right to refuse sequels work out for them? Care to answer that one? You know, my Dad used to tell me “The big print giveth, and the small print taketh away”…never in my life have those words come so alive..as they have after reading this article. Notice the language here, and pick it apart a bit. You can benefit with them. As long as you sell your IP. To them. They own it. Let’s refresh our basic vocabulary…

sell/sel/

Verb: Give or hand over (something) in exchange for money: “they had sold the car”.

 

That’s the top entry on google. Why is it so important that you tag along for a ride with them? Is not the idea of them tagging along with you just as valid when it comes to the publication of ideas in any format?

“They get to earn off it whatever happens,” added Cubbin. “So if it becomes a film they earn off it, if it becomes a toy they earn off it. I think a lot of people die with great ideas that are never developed.”

How magnanimous of them, and every single developer should be reading that first bit carefully, because “Whatever happens” may not be something of your choosing. They are not forking over money out of the goodness of their heart. They are buying the right to determine “Whatever happens”. It may be small but it will grow.

What I see this as is a blatant attempt to frame this pitch as something positive for developers. But the truth is much simpler: this is a way for a publisher to purchase, and harness creativity for an industry that is lacking any originality or creativeness of its own. It’s a grab, plain and simple. Anyone with a grasp of third grade vocabulary and critical thinking can see the language for what it is: inherently one sided in many respects.

What if Notch had given up the Minecraft IP for something as common as an advance? What if Team Meat had done the same with Super Meat Boy? Would they be the same games? I suspect they would not. When an indie developer does not scrutinize where the money is coming from, and more importantly…what the cost of that money is, they run the risk of becoming a “dependie” instead of an indie. Understanding the difference between the cost of something, and the value is a skill. Something anyone who is doing their own business in development needs to understand.

The sad thing is, Authors get advances all the time. For Novels, for books of all kinds. Imagine for one moment if J.K. Rowling had signed away her IP just for a shot at publishing? Imagine if you will, if J.R.R Tolkien had signed away the rights to his mythos just for being published? Yet that’s what these funding companies in the games industry expect. It’s insane.

Sometimes, a good deal is a good deal. Understanding how to evaluate a deal is incredibly crucial. If you don’t understand a deal, and do not understand the value of what you are about to give up for money…you should run, not walk away.