Have the video game rights to film: now what?!
August 26, 2009 8:26 PM   Subscribe

I have a chance to acquire the proprietary rights to make games based on a popular Asian action film. Can I make money off this opportunity?

The film has not yet been released in North America, but has done well across Asia. Sequels are in the works. It has recently been picked up for UK release and there will certainly be a North American release sometime in the future. I myself have no connections in the film industry but I know a few people in the console games industry, and a few independent mobile games developers. I certainly don't have the kind of capital it would take to finance the game myself. Is it worth it to just sit on the rights until the film gets released? So before I take the plunge, let me ask the hive mind: how can I make money off this opportunity?
posted by mushroom_tattoo to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Can I make money off this opportunity?


how can I make money off this opportunity?

Those are two _very_ different questions.
posted by mhoye at 8:32 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sitting won't work to do you much good - by the time the movie comes out and hits or flops, you're way late - you can't rush a tie-in. And I don't know a lot about rights contracts, but wouldn't there be a clause that you must do at least XYZ to retain your right to make games of a certain type or lose your option?

If you've got numbers on it's success in Asia, and can correlate them in some way to similar style movies released in a similar fashion, and some decent concepts for the game, you might be able to pull together a business plan to show to investors and a gaming studio. Would also need firm dates for movie release(s) and contingency dates.

I just can't quite get my head around a distributor for the States and UK not having that right in some form as part of the film distribution contract.
posted by tilde at 8:35 PM on August 26, 2009

gonna be a risk either way, either you make the game now in anticipation that the film does well (you'd want he game release to be pretty close to the film release I'd think), but if you sink enough $ into the game production and the film bombs here you'll be out the dough.

you could try flogging the rights to a 3rd party that has the resources to do it, and do it big.

I'd actually talk to your contacts and figure out exactly what would be involved in independently doing this, keep in mind making the game is only part of the process, you'll have to effectively market it as well.
posted by edgeways at 8:37 PM on August 26, 2009

Perhaps more to the point, I will say that modern computer games are quite expensive and time-consuming to make, so the real question isn't how or can you make money off this but whether or not you can more than recoup any investment of money and effort you might make in this project, given that you need to ship a competent product on or quite near the North American release date for the film.

I'd be willing to bet that if the movie is already out in Asia, that the answer is therefore "no".
posted by mhoye at 8:38 PM on August 26, 2009

You're essentially gambling that there's enough interest in this film as a game. You mentioned that you have friends in the games industry. Do you yourself play games? Will the film translate into a good game? Gamers are savvy bastards. If you're talking about a hard-core game that's a quick license, if the game is bad, gamers won't buy it. Ask your gamer friends if they think this film will work as a game. Stranglehold was a game that came out recently that was based on a John Woo SCRIPT. It did poorly. In fact, many blame its huge budget (to actually get Chow Yun Fat's voice and likeness, and John Woo's name and input) as one of the main reasons Midway went under.
posted by Sully at 8:42 PM on August 26, 2009

I've been involved in some movie tie-in games. Almost all of them are produced for simultaneous release with the film - the only ones that aren't simultaneous release are for films with a huge established fanbase, such as Star Wars, the Godfather, Indiana Jones, etc

So on the assumption that the people already making money from movie tie-in's know what they're doing and that it would be wise to emulate them, you would want to be able to get a game underway in time to capitalise on the movie's release, so that you can benefit from all its advertising and buzz. (Movie advertising is ended when the movie is released, because advertising costs a lot of money but can't trump word-of-mouth).

I don't really know the biz, but I you would be talking to game publishers (not developers) about whether they'd be interested in licensing the franchise for a game. Then, making the game is their money and their problem, and you can be less involved once you've brokered the deal (that presumably involves taking a fee). THe publisher will farm it to a developer, etc. However, it wouldn't be as simple as signing a piece of paper, eg they would normally need access to movie materials (production art/photos/plans etc of characters, props, costumes, sets, etc), although in this case since the film is already made and not released in the USA, they could probably do most of their work from the film itself. SO there would be various coordinations needed, at the least.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:14 PM on August 26, 2009

For the last few years I've worked with major media companies to create game tie-ins.

Unless you have day and date release (or earlier) with the film, you've wasted time/money/effort.

You need at minimum 6 months advance to start a licensed titles and that's a crappy iPhone/free web game. (Neither of which are money makers, they're promotional and are typically payed for by the film company.) Console titles are 18 months plus and are still sponsored by the fimmakers. If the film is coming out sooner than that then there is no point at all. Add into that the serious pasting the console game market has taken this last year. There are more unemployed game developers than employed right now and companies aren't taking risks. If you have no money to put up, they're not going to even blink in your direction.

Also the depth of the rights and access are important. If you only have right to the title, theme, plot, etc, that's frankly not worth much. If you have right to use film footage and actual diologue and can get the actors in the studio to to VO, you've got something much more valuable.

But I'll just shortcut and say "no" since you neither seem to know what you have or how to exploit it. "I know some people" doesn't pay the bills. Don't bother. Some of the most hilarious/disastrous stories I know start with "This guy said he knew someone body who..."
posted by Ookseer at 2:12 AM on August 27, 2009

I will say that modern computer games are quite expensive and time-consuming to make

iPhone games, Flash games, and games for direct sale via the PS3 and XBox 360 "online only" marketplaces are much, much, much quicker to make than retail, DVD-based games in boxes for PCs or videogame platforms.

You also skip all the packaging, duplication, printing and distribution hassles/costs/time.

So advice on this short a timeline: forget discs. Work on (in order of ease): Flash for web, iPhone, and videogame online marketplace versions.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2009

Thanks for the replies everyone - for the candor, advising me of potential pitfalls, and not berating my ignorance tooo much. I suppose I should have waited until I had more details before asking here! As it is, I'm getting more information about the deal every day and this has all been extremely helpful information. Thanks again Mefi!!
posted by mushroom_tattoo at 9:03 PM on August 27, 2009

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