For many games developers, securing the rights to a recognised brand can be life changing.
Being granted access to familiar stories involving well known characters and worlds can mean more jobs, more customers and more eyes on your studio but navigating the fine print between you and a coveted licence can be tricky.
To find out how emerging studios should handle relationships with big licensors we talked to Don Whiteford, Commercial Director of games studio Nomad Games. Based in Cheshire, Nomad is a recipient of one of our Business Loans and has a 20 year history of game development. They're also the studio responsible for transporting the popular Games Workshop board game "Talisman" onto tablet devices. Read Don's advice below...
Do Your Research
Firstly, you need to show that you understand that franchise thoroughly and that your team has individuals who are ideally suited to working with that material. Some evidence that what you are proposing is achievable is also important and, of course, your proposal needs to add value, not simply on a monetary level to all parties, but in terms of perception of the I.P and audience reach.
Think About How It Will Affect Your Studio
There are two key activities added to the studio workload: approvals and reporting. You need to put in place checks and measures that ensure the i.p. holder is happy with what you are doing with the license. Secondly, you need to ensure you have a very transparent reporting system on progress and of course the financial aspects of royalties and receipts.
Know The Difficulties Involved
Contract negotiations are a key area. You need specific help here:
1. Good legal advice (we use Weightmans)
2. Good financial advice on whether the cost of the license is really worth what you are being asked to pay.
For the latter, our Chairman is invaluable. Having a chairman with vast industry experience is always a good idea. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the brand and the parameters that the licensor is used to operating with, you will struggle with approvals. You need to spend time and train your ears on this; don’t be afraid to make suggestions, but be respectful and accommodating of their views. They are likely formulated after long and perhaps fraught experience.
Be Aware of Compromises
There are always compromises in any negotiation. You need to work very hard to make sure they are fair and balanced.
It’s important to be able to rethink your standpoint at any time. You have to adapt to your environment and the opportunities and dangers it presents. Also, recognize when you are in a hole and that it’s time to stop digging. Sometimes audience feedback will tell you the opposite of what you thought. Don’t fight it. Work with it.
Think Before Signing A Contract
Is there anything in there that during the normal course of business will come back to bite? Contracts are there to define what happens when things don’t work out. Make sure that you don’t have any unreasonable mountains to climb in order to get the job done. You may have to argue strongly to ensure things are fair but stand your corner. Your success is the licensor’s success after all, and you need to have them onside as much as possible. Tell them that. Make them see your perspective in a respectful way.
Make Yourself Attractive
Do a great creative pitch and show that it’s not the first time you have been successful at a similar exercise. And show them that you love the license!
Keep The Collaboration Going
It’s really about delivering results. If you have a plan that presents a long-term view, your partnership will be for the long term. If you are just ‘having a pop’, expect the licensor to have the same view. Talk about how you could develop the I.P to keep it working for both of you. You may find that the licensor is able to help, because they will likely have their own I.P road-map.
Find out more about Nomad Games by visiting their website.
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