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How To Sell a Video Game Idea? 351

Posted by timothy
from the keep-cat-in-bag dept.
fobsta writes "Do any Slashdotters have experience of selling video game ideas? I'm an artist who has programmed a rough-as-nails demo and animated a trailer to explain my concept. Obviously I think it's fun, it shows promise, and my friends think it's cool. Who should I pitch the idea to? Existing video games companies, venture capitalists, or what about those dentists who financed the Amiga? Are they still around? I've had a previous idea hijacked, and received no reward for it whatsoever; how can I prevent this happening again?"
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How To Sell a Video Game Idea?

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  • Ideas are cheap. (Score:5, Informative)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @04:57PM (#24517379) Homepage Journal

    Really ideas are a dime a dozen. Get a good bit demo code done. Shop it around to some venture capitalists and see what happens.
    As to protection. NDAs are about it but if you are not prepared to sue then they are just paper.
    The old saying is "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door"
    Have an idea about better mousetrap well that is nice.

    • Re:Ideas are cheap. (Score:5, Informative)

      by dlaudel (1304717) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:01PM (#24517467)
      Exactly. The group that made Portal started out with a little project called Narbacular Drop. It was a rough looking project (I think for school) but it nicely demonstrated the concept of portals. Valve apparently hired the team on the spot when they saw the demo, and that has worked out very well for the team. If you can, code a demo, or find someone to code for you while you provide art and direction.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:48PM (#24518067)

        The Portal group were students at DigiPen, where you make a game as a project every semester. There's a big difference between being a college student and seeing your final thesis become a commercial product [as happens in many different industries and fields] and trying to support yourself while coding and creating assets for a garage game.

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        No, get someone else to provide the art. After all, you really just want to be the guy with the notebook.

      • by p0tat03 (985078) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:17PM (#24518459)

        Yes, really. The blog post you linked doesn't claim that good ideas are worth money, just that great execution can't fix a terrible idea. But that's really just common sense.

        Execution is IMHO worth more than a good idea, but only because fewer people can pull off great execution than people who can come up with great ideas. We've all had that "OMG GENIUS!" idea hit us at some point. Some of us get more of them than others, but in the end anyone who's reasonably observant and has good judgment can come up with good ideas.

        Being able to pull it off is another story altogether. People who can do it are few and far between. Goes doubly if the idea requires a team. Good *team leaders* who can pull together the right people and execute the idea are truly one in ten thousand.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by blahplusplus (757119)

          "Execution is IMHO worth more than a good idea"

          The idea that one is worth more then the other is a bit nonsensical, it's not an either-or proposition since whenever you're doing something you're executing ideas! This whole false dichotomy between execution and ideas is nonsensical. Take for instance all the ideas that go into making a modern CPU, or GPU for that matter. IDEA's MATTER, bigtime. Someone had the ideas public education was a good idea!

          What is mathematics if not one big mass of ideas? Don't

          • by hclewk (1248568) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:03AM (#24521395)

            All of the ideas you mentioned changed the course of history. However, the reason those ideas changed the course of history, is that they were executed very well. There are thousands of other ideas out there that could have changed history just as much or more. However, they didn't because of poor/non-execution.

            You are right... ideas are very important. But the worst idea executed brilliantly will beat the greatest idea executed poorly any day. You have to have an idea, but the quality of the execution is way more important than the quality of the idea, and that's what the GP was talking about.

      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:40PM (#24518727) Homepage Journal

        Actually his post proves my point.
        "Imagine that products are mountains. To build a product, you will need to climb that mountain. Some mountains have a big pot of gold at the top, and some do not. In order to make money, you will need to pick the right mountain and then successfully climb to the top and gather up the gold."

        At best this person thinks they see a mountain. Now they need to do the hard work and start climbing it.

        So that blog supports what I have to say.
        I said ideas are cheap not worthless. But you need a lot more than just an idea.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          The DoD has a scale from 1 to ten for system development status where, for example, 1 would be 'hey, wouldn't it be cool to carry all my music in my pocket?' and ten is a second or third generation iPod. Roughly speaking, the cost of going from each level to the next costs an order of magnitude more than the previous one. The good news is that by around step 7 you can often start selling the not-quite-polished product to people. The bad news is, getting to step 7 is really expensive.

          The original poste

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Interesting article, but I think when people say "ideas are a dime a dozen" they really just mean those initial one-liner-ideas. In this case maybe something like: My idea is a third person RPG set in fictional colonial times with steampunk-technology like in the movie Wild Wild West with Mass-Effect-like gameplay.
        As you see, it's completly worthless, or does someone want to buy it? It's yours for a 1/12 dime ;)
        Then again, if this were a well tought-out concept with a storyline, characters, weapons, sideque

    • Yeah... there are *loads* of video game ideas. Look into jobs for game design... every piece of game design job info you find will say something along the lines of, "If you're looking into being a game designer because you have some pet project that you want to see happen - don't hold your breath."

      Re: Idea theft - If your idea is truly unique and you're worried about it being stolen I'd definitely immediately put a copy of what you've got so far on a disc and mail into yourself. That can *roughly* provid
      • by pthor1231 (885423)
        I wouldn't go with the Poor Man's copyright [wikipedia.org] idea. It doesn't have any case law AFAIK, and is easily fakeable.
        • Re:Ideas are cheap. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:56PM (#24518891)

          I wouldn't go with the Poor Man's copyright [wikipedia.org] idea. It doesn't have any case law AFAIK, and is easily fakeable.

          The "sending a letter to yourself" idea is demonstrably ridiculous.

          However, Wikipedia briefly mentions the correct "Poor Man's Copyright", which is a notary public. One of the notary public's duties is to certify documents as being the same as the original. Simply find one and have them execute a certificate of authenticity on your documents. It will cost very little and, while IANAL, should be pretty solid in court, at least in terms of proof that you definitely had the document on the given date.

          That having been said, IANAL, but I am a game programmer, and it's pretty unlikely that a game development company will take an idea from an unknown and run with it. They have their own game designers.

          (And on that same note, the game designers are going to be the ones who sign off on your idea... and it's unlikely that they're going to admit that it's a good idea since it would be an admission that the company is wasting its money on them.)

          If you really want to make your game, like others have said, you have to have a playable demo. If it's good enough, it will get noticed and will get published. I mean, Elf Bowling is now a Nintendo DS game. It's simply a matter of developing a popular game.

          (And I might take a moment here to suggest that everyone thinks their game ideas are good and nearly everyone is wrong.)

      • Re:Ideas are cheap. (Score:4, Informative)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#24518203)

        Mailing something to yourself is worse than useless. You'd be laughed out of court. There's no legal requirement that letters be sealed. You could just as easily have mailed yourself an unsealed envelope, and put a cd in there at a later time. If you want copyright protection, register it with the copyright office. Really, this mail it to yourself meme needs to die.

        Of course, copyright doesn't protect ideas, merely an individual implementation. SO even if mailing it to yourself was worth a damn it wouldn't matter- there's no law against ripping off a game idea. If they use the same character names, plotline, and artwork you might have a case. But taking the idea and running with it is not copyright infringement. If you're afraid of that, get an NDA signed, and hire a lawyer.

      • Won't work, never has.

        The only way is to give a copy to a lawyer, get them to sign/date every page and keep a copy in their office. You can do the NDA thing as well if you want but in both cases you still won't have much because the company could claim they were already working on something very similar and you won't be able to prove otherwise.

        Even better, just trust people. They're most likely not interested in your ideas but if you impress them enough with your enthusiasm and/or artwork you might get a jo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Enderandrew (866215)

          A public notary is no doubt cheaper than a lawyer, and can verify a dated document just as well.

        • The only way is to give a copy to a lawyer, get them to sign/date every page and keep a copy in their office.

          There are more than a million notary publics in this nation who would beg to disagree, many of whom work for the bank and can put things in their vault for you, notarized, for around $20 plus $2/mo.

          Stick to handing out advice regarding things you know about. Call your bank and ask the manager before you tell me I'm wrong.

    • Mod parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:18PM (#24518471) Homepage

      Game ideas are ten a penny. When I worked at a game company we got three of four "ideas" sent to us every day of the week. We threw all of them in the bin, fancy artwork and all.

      If you want to design games you need to start applying for jobs as a game tester. If your feedback/ideas are good you'll work your way up.

      Beware though ... if there's one thing which outnumbers game ideas it's people who want to be game testers. There's millions of people who think getting paid for playing video games would be the coolest job ever, though the reality is that testing games is nothing like playing them.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:24AM (#24521215)

        You do NOT need to work your way up from game tester to game designer. Forget the "game industry" and the folklore about career paths in that mythology.

        If you think you have a good idea, find a programmer to be an early partner, and develop a prototype.

        Ideally, don't deal with any established companies, and try to publish the game yourself. People buy games online now, and the concept of a publisher is laughable. Marketing and advance money are the only possible benefits of dealing with a publisher, but if you believe in your game idea, and you are confident that you can implement the game well, then do it yourself.

        If you enter the game industry, you're likely to become a mere employee, and you won't get any financial benefit from your innovative ideas. Moreover, your ideas are likely to be modified or distorted by many different pressures within the management of your employer's company or by pressures imposed by the publishers.

        Now maybe the advice that some people are giving here applies to most people, because most people might start with more ambition than talent, and most people might not have a good enough view of the overall picture to realize all of the elements that go in to making a successful game. But I think that people with talent should reject the "paying dues" concept. If a game company won't hire you as an entry game designer, and you think you are already a game designer, then say "no" to the "game industry", and figure out some other path to getting your game created.

        If you can't find a programmer who likes your game idea enough to join you, as a partner with equity in the project, then your idea isn't any good. You need to develop a prototype, and determine if it is as fun as you both think it will be.

        Bottom line: Do whatever you can to avoid the "game industry". The "game industry" is largely a cult of managers, where imagination dies and talent is unrewarded. Really all you want is money to finance development and marketing -- and I think you should probably just work at a non-gaming job to pay your bills while you continue developing your game. It's an unconventional path, but what you create will be your property and under your full creative control, and you will benefit fully from the success of the game. If you fail, you failed while doing exactly what you wanted, and you can learn from the experience. If you can't tolerate the uncertainty or the possibility of failure, then, yeah, maybe the "paying your dues" idea is the safe path...

        I worked on a few commercial video games, and I learned a lot about all aspects of developing video games. It can be a fun profession. However, if you divide your salary by the number of hours worked each week, you might determine that you're making money at the same hourly rate as someone working a normal work week at 60% of the salary! That's a big premium for the "privilege" of working in the "video game industry". Also, a video game of any scale is subjected to the creative input of lots of managers -- who think only of maximizing profit. Managers will set parameters on the game according to what *they believe* will maximize profit, but, in fact, their imposed parameters and constraints will, more likely than not, *reduce* the perceived value of the game in the market. I'm sure, as a consumer of video games, you will agree that most video games are the products of the risk-averse instinct to copy the success of others. How many games in the store aren't based on franchises (movies, cartoon characters, professional sporting leagues, television shows, popular books, popular music, etc)? Any innovative game that becomes successful becomes a franchise of its own, like "Tomb Raider", "Duke Nukem", "Half-Life", "Quake", "Doom", "GTA", "*Craft", "Sims", "Civilization", etc. Some of those game franchises have turned out well -- not lazily exploiting customer loyalty to continue making money on each successive release, but actually offering new value. But, the fact is, most franchise games make gam

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mdwh2 (535323)

      I entirely agree.

      The poster should not be thinking about selling a "video game idea", he should think about selling a "video game". Write the game, then think about selling it, either themselves independently, or to a publisher. Don't expect a publisher to give money to write the game though.

      Forums like http://gamedev.net/ [gamedev.net] will have far more specialised knowledge and experience than Slashdot. But there are also a million other people there going "Hey, I got a great idea for a game!"

    • Re:Ideas are cheap. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zeussy (868062) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#24518945) Homepage
      Agreed, Idea's are really dime a dozen, I infact use the same phrase to my students ( I work at The Academy of Interactive Entertainment [aie.edu.au] ) fobsta has an uphill battle, pitching to developers is almost pointless as very few have the cash to make anything themselves and if they do its going to be someone at that companies baby. Developers are just guns for hire. So pitching to a publisher is the way to go, fobsta has stated he was a working demo/prototype (they are always rough) and a trailer. My question is, by trailer do you mean Visualisation of segment of gameplay or Selling the story. Having a smooth, polished concept video of how the final game make play, look and feel helps and it will smooth off the rough edges of the prototype. As the parent said NDA's are the way to go, I am a little less cynical on what they are worth. NDA's seem to be well respected and honoured within the industry so find a template NDA and adjust it for your needs.

      That said it is a large uphill battle, Publishers are the ones with the money but I would not know where to start to get a publishers interest, and getting yourself heard through the sea wannabe teenager game designers is going to be virtually impossible. You could try venture capitalists but I expect they would not fund someone who has very little/no professional game development experience. Remember only about 1/3rd of games actually make money, it is very high risk.

      There is no quick fix for your problem. From what I can see there are 2 ways to go are, strip your game to its very core fun, as simple as can be but is still your game, no feature creep at all. Make a demo, submit it to the Indepedant Games Festival, if it is really good it will be picked up (Look at Narbacular Drop/Portal and The Blob). If the game is small enough, maybe try and produce something for the Nokia Games Innovation Challenge [n-gage.com] or keep an eye out for other similar competitions. You could try and go solo, like Introversion with Uplink, Darwinia & Defcon again if the idea is small enough, but you might have to find yourself a couple of good friends who are willing to starve.
    • by grumbel (592662)

      Really ideas are a dime a dozen.

      Ideas may be a dime in a dozen, but good ideas are very rare, especially in the video game industry where every title tries to copy whatever was successful in the last year. And that of course makes even the best ideas worthless in terms of money, since publishers are only interested in ideas that are already out there and have been tried and succeeded, they don't want new and risky stuff. They often don't even want games that have already been proven to be successful in another market.

      That doesn't mean tha

  • Existing process? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zugmeister (1050414)
    Isn't there some sort of process where the people you show your idea to Agree to Non-Disclosure of it?
  • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @04:58PM (#24517413) Homepage Journal

    I've got this great idea for a movie. It's called "Vampirates 2: Vampirates in Space!" With the tag line "In space, everything sucks!" and it would be a continuation of the Vampirates vs Ninja Mutants saga that started in Vampirates 1. So if ya find anyone with resources to throw around, point them over my way when you're done with 'em, I want to see some hot Vampirate vs cat-man ninja action on the big screen!

    -Rick

    • by Winckle (870180)

      Will the expansion pack have Zombie Pirates?

    • Everyone knows that Ninjas become vampires and Pirates become Zombies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's called "Vampirates 2: Vampirates in Space!" With the tag line "In space, everything sucks!"

      Well a quick google search has turned up that "Vampirates" has already been done. So change it to "Vampirettes" and turn it into a porno... you can keep the tagline though.

  • by sjonke (457707) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @04:59PM (#24517439) Journal

    Put a talking point in it for McCaine, and at the very least you might win a toaster

  • You could try to get reincarnated as one of Shigeru Miyamoto's kids... otherwise I think you are pretty much SOL.
  • give up now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:00PM (#24517457) Homepage Journal

    You have no chance of making it big. Bring the idea as far as you can on your own and just use it for resume fodder.

    You need something innovative on the business side to catch anyone's attention. Yet another "innovative" game concept is not going to attract any investment. You're about 10 years too late for that.

  • by RomSteady (533144) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:01PM (#24517471) Homepage Journal

    In this industry, you will NOT be able to sell an idea with what you have.

    Time, money, resources, staff, all of these are in short supply...but ideas are in abundance in the industry. Everyone in the industry has an idea, but only a rare few will get the opportunities to make their ideas into products.

    If you want your idea to come to life, make a prototype and a proof of concept like you've already done, and then polish it to a shine. Make what is called a "vertical slice."

    Once you have the vertical slice, create NDA's to cover your idea and work from there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aztektum (170569)

      Indeed. I'd even say this applies to ANY creative realm. You could write Marvel or DC every day saying "OO I have a cool idea!" and their response will be something along the lines of "So do the other 1,000 people we received letters from today." (I may or may not have received such a letter as a kid :))

      Hell even the pros have to come up with a fleshed out concept, characters, storylines, etc.. I remember reading in Wizard Mark Waid's outline for the new Ka-Zar comic a decade ago. At that point he had plent

  • by MiceHead (723398) * on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:01PM (#24517481) Homepage
    Four ways to turn your concept into a video game:

    4. Create a polished game and approach (or be approached by) an established studio. Also known as the Portal [wikipedia.org] approach [wikipedia.org]. Also the flOw [wikipedia.org] approach. "Sony Computer Entertainment approached some future members of thatgamecompany after seeing Cloud and asked them to form a company and signed them on to make three downloadable games for the PlayStation 3. Cloud ended up being a game that wouldn't be possible for a company as small as thatgamecompany to make, so they made flOw instead. thatgamecompany was created on May 15th, 2006."

    3. Work your way up in one or more established studios towards the role of game designer. The American McGee [wikipedia.org] approach. "McGee began his career at id Software. He worked on such games as DOOM, Doom II, Quake, and Quake II in the areas of level design, music production, sound effects development, and program coding. In 1998, he moved to Electronic Arts, where he worked as a consultant on many projects and also created his own game, American McGee's Alice." Mind you, that can be the long route, assuming you're even successful.

    2. Work with an independent group of hobbyists and promise to split the profits once you make money. This is difficult to pull off, because contributors lose interest when things become difficult. This is enough of a problem that I'd rather have one paid contractor with modest abilities than a dozen unpaid contributors with spectacular abilities. Blech.

    1. Establish your own company and finance development as a third party. Many small developers bootstrap with smaller projects in niche or new markets, eventually working their way up towards larger ones. The iPhone is potentially an awesome way [tgdaily.com] to get your title out there. Start by developing a finished game that's small in scope, and demonstrates the very core concepts of your idea. Rinse. Repeat.

    My favorite is, of course, to take #1 and run with it. Tighten your belt, and pay a contractor with good references to help you bring your idea to light on the platform where the competition is still pretty weak, and the barrier to entry is low. That was the Palm Pilot during late '90s, and is probably something like WiiWare or the iPhone now.

    Good luck!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nhtshot (198470)

      I'm a programmer. I have experience writing games for several different platforms.

      A good friend of mine is a 3d artist. He came to me a few months ago with an idea for a game. We pooled our cash, bought the necessary equipment and are making a go of it.

      I can tell you that it's not an easy road, but, if you really want to see your game get built, and potentially make some money from it, you'll have to build it yourself.

      On the bright side though, there are many opportunities once you have a viable product. We

    • by dhavleak (912889)

      In addition to the above, I'd point out that XNA creator's club (link [xna.com]) is a great place to make turn your concept into reality -- assuming you're also planning on doing the actual implementation.

      Most importantly: AFAIK, the creators club also provides a network where you can find other people interested in making the game, so for example, if you need another couple of coders, or an artist or somebody capable of doing sounds etc., creators club is probably the best place to find them.

  • It was back in the 80's. And I was pitching a "mat," that you use to "Jump" to "conclusions." Nintendo blew me off. A few months later, they released the power pad, and I still haven't seen a dime.
    • I was pitching a "mat," that you use to "Jump" to "conclusions." Nintendo blew me off. A few months later, they released the power pad, and I still haven't seen a dime.

      You should have approached the patent office. Then you'd have made a killing as a patent troll when Konami started to sell Dance Dance Revolution.

  • Ideas are crap... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by topham (32406) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:03PM (#24517515) Homepage

    Ideas are crap, everybody has ideas.

    In this case, it sounds like you've gone beyond an idea and prototyped the game. Now what?

    Non-Disclosure Agreements are your friend.

    Got some money? Hire a programmer (or two) to write it.
    Write it yourself.

    Promote the demo to everybody and get the game re-written as open source. Everybody gets to play to game, you get some street cred, and you have a better chance of finding someone to listen for the next game idea.

    • Most ideas are crap.
      But some ideas [wikipedia.org] are worth a million dollars, and could be implemented by a lone kid using a computer at a public library for an hour or 2.
      The execution can be butt ugly and take basically no time, as shown.

      The only trick is being first.

      If you can be first, and you have a good idea, then sometimes the idea is all you need.
  • by neostorm (462848) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:04PM (#24517549)

    As a veteran of the game industry I can tell you - you need to complete the game first. Ideas are a dime a dozen. No one will give you money for development. You need to show them the finished product and ask for them to fund the publishing of it. That's the only way you will be able to acquire money from a publisher, unless you self-publish online or through various indie-channels (XBox Live, Wii Ware, Greenhouse, etc), but of course those still require a completed product as well.

    • What would you suggest for someone how has... well, no idea how to do that? I design learning environments; so far curricula, but my main interest is informal learning settings, including video games. I think the DS would be a perfect platform, and have a few ideas that I could develop - but I have no idea how to get further than outlines, mockups, maybe flash versions of parts. I can program a bit, but I have no idea how to make anything like a finished product. Do I need to add a second career as a progra
      • by kesuki (321456)

        "It's all based on the latest and greatest in learning research, I swear. :)"

        then most likely whomever you work for made you sign away the rights to it, even though they aren't a game developer, most likely it some way pertains to work you've done for your employer, and it's going to be untouchable.

        now, you could look into the DS homebrew scenehttp://www.ndshb.com/ [ndshb.com], maybe find a couple credible homebrewers who are willing to slave away on your idea to produce a totally free product that will turn heads, and

        • Well, I'm a grad student right now. So if I did anything directly related to my research, the university would want it. But they can't lay claim to things I do on my own time, with my own resources, just b/c I got the idea from an article I read in Science Education.

          The homebrew scene is a good idea, though. I wonder if anything actually ever makes it out of there to a publisher - I could care less about making big money off my ideas, but I have the feeling a homebrew DS game isn't going to make it into
      • by AuMatar (183847)

        Either learn to be a programmer, or find a programmer who's willing to do it for cash (or if you can sell him on it, a share of the profits). However, flash demos may be good enough- write the game in flash, use that as a demo, and then hire real coders to port it (or rewrite it, which is probably needed if you write it as a non-coder). But you need to be able to show some sort of finished product as proof of concept. Otherwise why should someone give you money rather than someone with a proven track re

  • flexibility? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BPPG (1181851)

    I'm not speaking from any real experience or anything, but it might be a good idea to leave room in your pitch for flexibilities and possibilities. Or at least imply that you're willing to accept suggestions or criticisms. Producer-types like to feel like they've made some sort of impact on a project other than funding it. The main thing is getting them to actively think about the possibilities, which will force them to take it a little more seriously.

    The tricky part is to not let them get too involved

  • by Spectre (1685) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#24517615)

    If they see your demo, and anything they are already working on is similar or has similar elements, they're opening themselves up to a suit (from you) when they release their product.

    About the only way anybody I know in the industry will look at anyone else's concepts is if:

    A) The concept is being given away, for free, to be used in any way, without any limitations

    and

    B) The originator of said concept signs legal papers stating the material is theirs to give away and A) applies.

    Even then, most companies still won't touch it and will refuse to see it, as the person providing it may be wrong in stating the material isn't already encumbered (whether the originator knew it or not).

    Some examples of how material (like a trailer) can be encumbered without the originator really being aware:

    - trailer was made using originator's employer's software/hardware/time

    - trailer was made by somebody with a strict employer agreement on original works (anything I author that isn't "for the company" I need to register the material with my employer ... or my employer owns it)

    - trailer includes characters based on somebody else's trademarked images

    - trailer was made using pirated software (believe it or not - this can cause very weird legal problems)

    So, sorry, but you'll have a very tough time getting anybody to view it, even just to say "that's neat, but we aren't interested."

    Instead it'll be, "I'm sorry, but we can't look at it."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flnca (1022891)

      - trailer was made by somebody with a strict employer agreement on original works (anything I author that isn't "for the company" I need to register the material with my employer ... or my employer owns it)

      That's not possible. If you make something in your spare time at home with your own equipment, your employer can't not own it, no matter what is written in the employment contract.

      On the other hand, if you use office equipment to make something and the employer has the leniency to grant you your rights anyway if you register the work with them, then that's an extra generous employer. Normally, everything you make in office with office equipment belongs to your employer.

  • Amateurs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#24517625)
    Disclaimer: I am not a developer, but I've read a lot of horror stories. If you try to pitch it to an established publisher or developer, the legitimate ones will turn you away because it leaves them wide open to a messy lawsuit if they do anything remotely similar in the future, even by coincidence. The unscrupulous ones will just rip you off. You really need to turn it into a legally-protectable game, or a total conversion mod, or something, and then get it published small-scale to demonstrate popularity. If you don't have the know-how, try to get together a team of amateurs, friends, sufficiently motivated guys online, whatever. Give it away, shareware, however you distribute it make sure that it gets out there and people know it's yours. Enter it in indie game contests. Whatever you can.

    Then when you have an actual game to speak of, and some indication that it could sell, see about getting a publisher interested in buying the idea from you. What happens next will depend on the type of game we're talking about.

    What I've read about game development in the past suggests that your project may well vanish into development hell at this stage, or be pushed out as a diabolical mess which means nobody will ever want to touch your game ever again. And you'll be unable to make amends because you've sold away the "big version" rights. You may make some money back for your time and effort though. The alternative would be to keep it small-scale, on mobile phones or whatever. This would suit many kinds of games. Only if you can manage to turn that small game into your own personal development empire, could you crank out a large-scale game like Halo or whatever.

    Moral: the odds are against you ever being able to produce a Halo-style blockbuster, unless you want to get into career game design or are willing to give the idea to someone who is. And even if you're just trying to create one fun little puzzler, it's going to take a lot of time, effort, and cooperation.
    • by rhizome (115711)

      Moral: the odds are against you ever being able to produce a Halo-style blockbuster, unless you want to get into career game design or are willing to give the idea to someone who is.

      To my knowledge, the option of becoming a career game designer in order to make this idea happen is only realistic if the story's designer is still in high school.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sockatume (732728)
        From his homepage, he seems to be a professional 3D artist for Sony's games division, so at least he has some relevant industry experience.
  • There are no shortage of good ideas in this world. The same goes for good video game ideas. It's all about who has the means and the skill to execute on an idea.

    Also, NDA's don't mean shit when it comes to protecting yourself. You take a calculated risk every time you show someone your idea no matter what you make them sign before hand. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to have enough development work in that they would be better off buying you out than stealing. Make it worth their wh

  • by MythoBeast (54294) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:18PM (#24517725) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, video game ideas are about as rare as fiction plotlines. Every major series on TV is deluged by hundreds of story ideas that they are not allowed to read because they fear that if they read them, they'll be sued for using an idea that they already had on their own.

    Writers of all types suffer from this on a continual basis. The writers themselves usually have far more ideas than they have writing time. The desire to turn those ideas into reality is usually what pushed them to learn the skill in the first place. As a result, recommendations by other people that the writer should develop THEIR idea usually just winds up being annoying.

    Video game ideas are the same. People with the resources to develop video games are perpetually surrounded by people who say "wouldn't it be cool if...". Unless you have the development skill (or can find a friend with such) to actually create the game yourself and put it out on the internet, it'll never happen.

    Sorry, but that's the harsh reality of things.

  • Steam? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sta7ic (819090) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:23PM (#24517795)

    I'd hunt down a programmer, or hit the books, put something playable together, TEST IT, and try to pitch it to be published on Steam, XBLA, or the like. There are a couple of un-boxed distribution channels these days, and it couldn't hurt to look into them.

    In the meantime ... ideas are a dime a dozen, we keep hearing, and it's when everything gets put together and runs that you have a sellable product with value.

  • Sadly, Ideas are cheap - although ironically they are truly the most precious things we can posses.

    I have zero experience in the game industry and I have no success in getting any idea of mine going big-time. Still, I have had ideas which later have been implemented by someone else (often because they were obvious due to some recent event).

    I have come to the conclusion that the best ideas are the ones which you don't actually mind if someone else creates, because it means you get to use the creation.

    My idea is for a video game called "Freeway Crash" or "Freeway Pileup" or something.

    The game starts up with you getting on a freeway in random traffic. There is a countdown timer and at some random time in the countdown there will be an accident and you have to avoid it somehow - or avoid being caught-up in it.

    The game would hinge on two things - one, it would need to be freely downloadable. two, it would need to have very good car models and crash physics.

    The freeness would allow for mass download and play and the great graphics and physics would push for the pay (cheap 10$) version which would have the ability to playback the crash in slow motion and to create youtube-like vids a'la spore style and perhaps some other features like different cars and freeways or even an online component.

    There. Free idea for the world.

    Anybody want me as a game designer? I have 10 more concepts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CorSci81 (1007499)
      I play this game every day I drive to and from work, it's called Commuting in Los Angeles.
  • Thank you for asking this! I have been wondering the same kind of thing, I'll be bookmarking this page for future reference. I design learning environments and would love to make educational video games but have absolutely no clue how to go from idea to game that you can buy in the store.
  • ..there's cake!

  • by Allen Varney (449382) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:33PM (#24517891) Homepage

    Honestly, the best and most practical path forward in today's game market is to create and market the game yourself. Though the indie space is constantly changing (for instance, the casual-game portal market that thrived as little as two years ago has now turned stagnant), there are still many opportunities for independent creative thinkers.

    Indie designer Jonathan Blow, whose inventive puzzle platformer Braid just launched on Xbox Live Arcade, speaks eloquently about the indie viewpoint in his keynote speech at the Free Play 2007 conference [sumea.com.au] in Melbourne. The video of his speech is compelling and inspirational. Look up his many interviews and then go on from there to learn about other indie designers. It's a tricky path but exciting and potentially rewarding.

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:35PM (#24517917) Journal
    1. Think up idea for a sequel to a popular first-person shooter game based on a popular selling title from the early 90s.
    2. Spend ten years millions of dollars on its develop, and change your graphics engine 10 times prior to release.
    3. During this time, hype up the game in every major gaming rag, and on every major website and blog on the internet. Don't forget to tell Slashdot [slashdot.org] and Netcraft [netcraft.com].
    4. ???
    5. Profit!
  • Lots of folks have ideas. Some are brilliant. Most are unworkable. It's awfully hard to be sure at the front end that yours won't be among the unworkable ones.

    That's why VC's don't buy ideas. They buy teams instead: a group of apparently well qualified people who have subscribed to the consensus that a particular set of ideas is good and have already spent a considerable amount of effort building the idea to a point where they need capital to take it further.

    You're the artist. When you, a composer, a develo

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:38PM (#24517949) Journal
    Every well known writer has had someone come to them and tell them about their idea. "It's about this guy called Bob. He builds a spaceship and visits lots of planets where exciting adventures happen. Can you write this story for me? I'll split the profits 50/50".

    The same applies to studios. Everyone has an idea for a game. Here's an example [freelists.org]. It just doesn't work like that.

    What actually happens is that someone in the company comes up with a game concept, and producers and designers talk about it. In many cases (especially party games), there's some discussion about whether it's technically possible. It's possible that the technology isn't up to it, so some development effort is spent in making a tech demo to check that the concept works. If that works then the developer will submit a pitch to a publisher. The pitch is, at the very least, a detailed description of the game and how it will work. Ideally the developer will have some idea of the market for this as well.

    It's possible that none of the publishers will be interested. In this case, unless the developer is sure enough about it to develop a demo, they just come up with a new idea.

    Ideas are cheap. Developed polished realised ideas are wherethe difficulty is.
  • Any studio with an ounce of creativity already has more ideas than they can reasonably implement. They get tons of guys coming through their doors with great ideas, and they just shoo them back out.

    If you want proof, look at any indie gaming forum. There are tons of people with ideas for games I'd probably love to play, but only a handful make a finished product.

    Now, if you can create and release something (even if it's yet another Tetris clone), you are far more likely to be taken seriously.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Now, if you can create and release something (even if it's yet another Tetris clone), you are far more likely to be taken seriously.

      Tetris clone? Check. I've made one of the most configurable tetromino games on the Internet [pineight.com]. My next idea is a party game that uses two buttons per player, and I plan to prototype it on Windows and Linux. Once it's done, which publishers should I contact in order to get it onto a platform that's conducive to party games?

  • by HannethCom (585323) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @05:49PM (#24518069)
    I give no guarantees this will work.

    1. Make a demo of the game extremely violent, sexual, or something that would really offend Jack.
    2. Send him a copy of the demo.
    3. Profit as he advertises it to the whole of the US.
  • As I see other people have already mentioned, until/unless you have something in spitting distance of publishable territory to acquire, no publisher and vanishingly few development houses are going to be interested in allocating a single second to reviewing whatever it is you have in mind; they are constrained by resources, not by good ideas.

    However, if your idea is on a scale that can be implemented -- at least to acquisition candidate stage -- by a single programmer, then your probably not insurmountable

  • Whether you're programming games or selling shoes, if your intent is to make money, you're going to need a few things first:

    1. A lot of money. If you save up for 10 years and use that money as your seed money, if you make it big, you'll enjoy all the rewards, if you fail. You lose it all. You could also find a VC willing to fund your project, and your risk is minimized. However, you'll have to constantly deal with the VC's restrictions and requirements, and if you end up with a blockbuster, they'll end

    • by caywen (942955)
      Right, I agree. If I were an angel, the line of questioning I'd ask for this kind of project is: "How much money do you have? $100K? So, why don't you use that money?"
  • You should post it here and us ./ers will tell you what you need to know... My opinion is that you just don't hold the cards to effectively sell your idea. I think it's all in the execution of the demo. Rough-as-nails demo probably won't cut it because I think investors want to know how well you can actually execute the real thing. They aren't just investing in the idea, they are investing in your abilities. Either you have most of the talent baked in (plus the great idea), or you have the resume that give
    • by caywen (942955)
      Sorry, I didn't mean to be derogatory by saying "you don't hold the cards." That's an unjust assumption on my part.
  • Show your idea to a friend of yours. Select somebody who you can trust and then show the demo or paper drawings and make sure that the witness signs off. Then show the same to a lawyer who can come up with some legal document showing that the idea is yours. Only then talk to a company.

    If you do not protect it, people will rip it off and you'll be left with zero $$$. While most of us do work because we like it, there is no reason not to get paid for cool ideas.

  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:13PM (#24518419) Journal
    What is that supposed to demonstrate? That's why they're called *friends*, doh! Friends are the people who tell you you're not fat, you're not ugly, you're not stupid, and that your ideas are cool. Come back when your enemies are worried because your idea is cool.
  • Before you can do anything like this, you need to understand that world of business is not mutually compatible with the world of art and creativity. Many times, the ones who make the decisions will have little to no experience in creating the products they decide to sell.

    As such, it's next to impossible to walk into a meeting with a powerful executive and get them to fully understand your concept with nothing more than a few bar napkin sketches of your ideas. What they do understand, however, is results. If

  • Required Reading (Score:3, Informative)

    by mazarin5 (309432) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:17PM (#24518443) Journal

    Required reading for everybody (and their brother) who has a great idea for a game:

    "I have a Great Idea for a video game... [sloperama.com] how do I sell it and get rich and famous?"

  • The best way to game "your game" published is by making the most unoriginal over done piece of insipid piece of shit gear towards the 12 to 18 year old age group.
  • by Zadaz (950521) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:21PM (#24518497)

    Much like Hollywood, If you can get a basic concept together and get in front of the right eyes, you're in. Brush off your social skills, practice hobnobbing, chatting people up, and getting into networks. Go to GDC at very least, if not other industry events. Find the companies most likely to publish a game like yours, find out who the producers, CEOs, art directors, etc etc are and ... uh ... stalk them. Not really, but know what they look like and make and effort to meet them. Avoid the big names like Will Wright, Shigeru Miyamoto, John Carmack, etc. They have tons of groupies to fight through. But there are plenty of influential people at game companies who are anonymous and would be happy to talk shop for a bit at an open bar at a convention, especially of they are flattered by being recognized.

    Subscribe to Game Developer magazine and become visible on their forums. I'm only peripherally involved with game development these days, but I still read it cover to cover. It's one of the few industry mags that has useful insightful information from the front lines.

    Though it's still a one in a million chance. Frankly, self publish or forget it. There are lots of venues right now (competitions and the like) for a self published game to get exposure. And put the effort into the art and sound. There are tons and tons of shitty looking games in this space, so do everything you can to stand out. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the first impression is visuals and sound, not gameplay. Not everyone who could help you out is going to have a chance to play it, so a compelling screen shot goes a long way. I've seen a games sold on a video mocked up in Premiere and on concept art alone without having a line of code.

    Yes, I have given some contradictory advice. But it is a crowded business, getting more crowded every day. There is no one path to success. You need to shotgun it, turn yourself into a blunderbuss loaded with your game. Make it your daily passion and put yourself out there to get noticed. If you don't believe in your idea enough to do that, then file it under "dreams" and move on.

    Disclosure: For several years I had the job title "Game Designer" for a small company of industry veterans.

  • by EWAdams (953502) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:28PM (#24518575) Homepage

    I'm a game developer with 19 years in the business. I second what everyone else has said about the fact that the industry doesn't buy ideas. Let me also add that you can't protect an idea.

    You can copyright a specific expression of the idea, such as a design document, but only that particular text is protected, not the idea itself.

    You could try to patent the idea, if it meets the standards for being a patent, but that would make you an evil scumbag. Game ideas should not be patentable.

    The one thing you CAN do is treat the idea like a trade secret. Then you can sue your employees if they reveal the idea, and you can sue your competitors if you can prove that they spied on you to get hold of it. But for this to count, you have to actually act as if it IS a secret, i.e., don't tell anyone about it, and keep anything written down in a safe!

    Bottom line: if you don't want to be "ripped off," keep your mouth shut. But that won't prevent independent invention. Chances are very good that someone else has had a similar idea, and there's not a thing in the world you can do to prevent them exploiting it... nor should there be.

  • Have a lawyer present to witness presentation of the idea, in person.

    If a company agrees to hear and possibly fund/produce your idea, then rips you off, they owe you compensation. See pulse wipers.

  • One of my good friends recently got approved to develop for Wiiware, and their success was due to

    a) industry connections
    b) a totally kickass prototype

    My friend is in cahoots with a former developer that worked for one of Nintendo's American studios, who used his connections to schedule a presentation to some Ninty higher-ups in the hopes of scoring a dev license. They spent a good two months building a PC prototype for the pitch. It was basically a finished game (the pitch was for a puzzler, so making

  • Ideas are cheap and easy to come up with.  You're not actually as brilliant as you think.  The real work of any concept, games included, is implementation.

    I'm not saying you can't succeed at it--but just that it's vanishingly unlikely.

    Unless you're well connected.
  • Don't tell them it's "kinda like a cross between Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever"

  • If it doesn't pan out but you still think that the idea would be fun to play if you could just find people to help build it by growing a community around it. Sure it won't pay but it might be the thing in your portfolio that will lead to the job that does.
  • by MaineCoon (12585) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:03PM (#24520051) Homepage

    A few years back, one company I worked at had developed a playable demo of a game. We had an engine that worked very well, and was even being shown at the Nvidia booth at E3 (it showcased their latest tech very well). When other companies saw it, they asked how we had managed to license the Doom 3 engine (this is before Doom 3 had shipped, mind you) - it looked that good.

    We had the playable engine you could walk around a sample level and interact with, a story with storyboards, and plenty of concept art. We had an established company, founded by a well known game developer (who went back quite a ways in the industry), and all of our people had experience on at least one previous big budget commercial title. We had self funded a lot of the development to this point. All we needed was a company to pick it up and give us funding to go wide with development.

    We showed the game to a variety of publishers, and only a few were interested. But even then there was a catch. Those few who were interested, wanted to see a lot more before they bit. It became quickly apparent that the only way we'd ship the title was if we self funded most of the game's development. That was the nail in the coffin - we didn't have that money lying around, and our attempts at venture capital funding failed miserably.

    Another example - an independent developer not too far from us had developed their own game to completion, and went to a publisher. The publisher looked at it, liked what they saw, and then said "Well... can you turn it into a Star Trek game?" So they did, and the Star Trek game got published. However, I believe they ended up having to self-publish their original game.

    Publishers don't want to publish your game. They want to publish their game. They don't want to fund you to develop your game, but they will gladly fund you to develop their game.

    Your best bet - develop it up on your own, and try to sell it on Steam or the like.

  • by Provocateur (133110) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:52PM (#24520375) Homepage

    and nobody has reminded the OP about the importance of booth babes?

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