Taking the long view on the IP debate

May 16th, 2006

Scott Miller is one of the main advocates of game developers creating their own IPs as opposed to developing licences. His view is that this approach will generally result in increased revenues and long-term stability for the developer studio.

His last post, Brand new brands & E3 ’06 got me thinking, what if we make a comparison of the videogame market with other industries? Let’s take the portable music player industry, for example. Everybody knows the iPod has been a runaway success, with 51 million units sold, while SONY’s walkman (the mp3-player thing) had only 5 million units sold. I’d make a guess that it’s better to be a project manager for iPod than for the Sony walkman-mp3 today. I bet it’s better to be an engineer working on the next-gen iPod with all the cool features than being at a (any runner-up) runner-up trying to catch up (SONY has certainly got a lot of other cool and successful products, but in the mp3 field, they’re a runner-up).

Simple, right? Then let’s look at the numbers: How many engineers, managers, etc. work on the iPod, a hundred? And how many work on SONY’s products, Creative’s products and all the other companies that are out there? There was even a Dell mp3 player that almost made it to the market. These projects all occupy a niche in the economy and they’re all legitimate attempts on having a shot at making some money.
Of course some of them are not as high-profile, perhaps not as fun, not as profitable as being in the top as the iPod is, but they’re still legitimate players in the economy and fulfill a need. Or if they don’t then their products will eventually be discontinued.
Does this apply to the game market? I think it does to a large degree – perhaps not entirely, because the price differences in games are not as large as in, say mp3 players , but I still think that there is a market both for original IPs and franchises. Scott might prefer to work on original IPs and I agree with him on that, but that doesn’t mean everybody else has the same perspective – working on a franchise has advantages over working on an original IP and the important thing is that you consider all the pros and cons and make an informed decision on what you would like to do.

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