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Buying the Rights to Distribute Games Uploaded to itch.io

A topic by Alphanerd2 created 19 days ago Views: 158 Replies: 2
Viewing posts 1 to 3
(2 edits)

Hello,

My project for this summer is to explore the feasibility of running a game development studio.    

I’m very much coming at the thing from an organization management perspective, and so learning the exact difference between the studio, a developer, and a publisher, has been a fascinating experience.    

One of the activities that ends up blurring that sort of line is purchasing game assets, rights and rights to revenue.   And I was wondering, first of all how the itch.io platform works, and if this is just in one of these little menu bars that I haven’t seen, or if there’s some sort of reputable third-party market that’s well known. That sort of thing. 

But also more generally about, just the practice itself. Is it normal and ethical to buy somebody else’s old project, and either market it as is, or continue development on it for the same purpose?  Seems to me a sensible way of building up a catalog for a studio that is just starting out. Don’t reinvent the wheel and all of that.  

I appreciate your input, and I hope this is in line with the rules and everything.   Thank you.



P.S. We are Fielding a three man team for the “skill up” game jam starting day after tomorrow.  You should definitely give them a look. And vote for whatever it is that we make. Xd


https://itch.io/jam/skillup-summer-time



Edit: mm, yes. Game assets. Okay. That answers the meat of my question

(+2)

Buying game assets is simply buying resources to use in your game, instead of making them yourself. It saves times and adds a skillset a developer might not have.

Tutorials and full games: Shows people how to write a game which is ideal when they're starting out and don't know how to work out certain game mechanics themselves. The idea is for them to develop their own game based on the tutorial. Here if your game is not significantly different from the tutorial or game demo, you'd run into trouble. For example, Google Play Store updated their terms to state only the original creator can publish a game demo. I believe it's because people were simply republishing it without changing anything which resulted in many clones of the same game.

You can also find games that developers started but didn't finish, and they sell the source code as is. In my experience, troubleshooting a game can take longer than actually writing the game. I'd be wary of those. If the game was complete and polished, they'd publish it, not sell the source code. They could also be selling the source code because the project became too big for them or they lost interest. Depending on how well their game is documented, it might be simpler to write a game from scratch rather than try to understand and amend their code.

A successful game development studio would either require a lot of time, or money.  Few developers are lucky because their games capture the imagination. For most of us, if we don't have a large network (say like college students would have), or social media followers we need a lot of money to promote our games and get them noticed.

It's not something you'd just jump into, unless you had the money to pay a team of people to work in the studio - like graphic artists, programmers etc. But the more people you add to the project, the less likely it is you'll make a profit from the project. If you're new or not paying, you're also more likely to attract developers who are new. Inexperience can delay a project. I still make mistakes when I write games, but the difference is that now I can immediately spot them and know what's wrong - like I forgot to put in a safeguard there. Previously, it would take me days to try and figure out why something wasn't working right. That's the difference experience makes. 

Publishers do buy the rights to games etc. but they tend to buy distribution rights. It's still up to the developer to support the game. There are many new publishers trying to get a foot into the market, but they've only had one successful title and game developers are wary of them - in other words, that game might have been successful with or without that publisher. One can't readily see what value the publisher added. This is especially true if you track the publisher's social media and they have few followers. 

This sounds like something that is not usually done in the indie sector. It is common in the "non-indie" sector. But usually it is the whole game studio that gets bought and sold.

Buying a single game from a still existing studio? Are there examples? Professional ones. I have seen hobbyists to try sell their source code for a couple bucks. And I would guess there are unfinished games that changed studios. Or more often, as was said, publishers.

There is nothing inherently ethical or unethical about all this. But in the low budget indie sector, there is the issue of trust and the problem of marketing. If you are a successful indie developer, selling out can cost you or the project fans. If you are an unsuccessful indie developer, why would anyone buy your unsuccessful project? The buyer would have to market it and maybe finish it. And here might be the point where you want to establish yourself, if I read your intentions correctly. Buying such unfinished gems, polishing them and marketing them. Which sounds like a hard thing to do, and offering "only" publishing services sounds a lot easier in comparison.

Also, in the indie sector you have to be especially careful about the legal baggage of things you aquire. Amateur single developers might not have been overly knowledgeable in the legality of the assets licenses they use. Stuff like using non-commerical items and such, for example.