Before kicking off a new project developers have many different decisions to make; which platform to develop for, what is the best business model to plump for, and – the most important choice of all – what kind of game to create?
It’s a fairly safe bet to assume that working with an existing IP is not going to be many developers’ first choice, but there are lots of very good reasons why it should be. We have been working with some of the biggest names in the games industry on some instantly recognisable franchises for the past five years. During that time, we've created some popular games and seen the company expand from 40 employees to over 300.
Here are five reasons why it’s worth seriously considering working on an existing IP:
1. A partner to share the risks and profits
An existing IP is going to have an IP owner/licensee who should be viewed as a partner. Obviously the level of their involvement, the basis of the business arrangement and the relationship between the two companies will be specific to that project.
However, it will be in both parties’ interests to ensure the finished game is as good as it can be. IP owners/licensees come in all shapes and sizes but most likely they will be a larger organisation than your studio, with more resources and experience so tap into that and use it to your advantage. We have transitioned from working as an outsourcer to working on a co-production basis as this type of partnership means that both parties are more invested in the quality and subsequent success of the game.
2. You don't have to create everything from scratch
The look and feel of an existing IP has already been established and there will be access to a whole host of assets – meaning a great deal of time and work has already been saved.
You may already have some existing content – movie art assets as references for game art, for example – and may have a story already mapped out, a soundtrack you can reuse, and so on. Pre-existing assets give you a development head start allowing you to dive into creating the best game you can far sooner.
3. A ready-made fanbase
A well-known and popular IP delivers a pre-existing loyal audience; players are more likely to download a game if they are familiar with the IP and the need for massive (and costly) marketing campaigns is removed. A good example of this is Star Wars, with its multimillion fanbase. The last movie didn’t need much marketing, as it was a shoe-in to be the top grossing film in 2015.
A large fanbase leads to more traffic – more free traffic – as well as lower costs of user acquisition, higher virality, lots of additional opportunities to attract players (fan pages on social networks and simply word of mouth), higher click-through rate and lower cost per install. This gives your IP based game a massive advantage at launch.
4. Stand out in a crowded marketplace
The competition – especially in the mobile market – is tough and it is not getting any easier. Kabam’s Marvel Contest of Champions, Glu’s Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and Zynga’s Wizard of Oz Slots are all great examples of successful use of intellectual properties. Great in the sense that without an IP these games wouldn’t stand out, but with the proper use of a brand they’re able to become super successful.
In the App Store alone, there are over half a million games on offer with over 4,000 new games being submitted to Apple every month. Basing a game on an established IP will give it a much stronger chance of being noticed.
5. An impressive addition to your studio's portfolio
Working with an instantly recognisable franchise will impress future partners and give your studio some gravitas. ILogos’ association with some big name IPs has definitely led to the studio winning further business. Psychologically being associated with a successful and well-known franchise means some of that fairy dust rubs off on your studio. When looking for funding, collaborators, staff and work being associated with a successful IP can give your studio the edge.
Most developers think about movie- and book-based games when searching for IP-based projects but there are a lot of other IP types. Games based on celebrities from the world of music, sports, entertainment and social media have grown in popularity and profile, as have games based on TV shows. IP is everywhere and for game developers the possibilities are endless.
Working with an established IP may not seem as exciting or as creatively fulfilling as working on an original concept. But in terms of creating a game that has a stronger chance of commercial success it can be the wisest choice.
If you do decide to venture into working with this kind of property, just don’t forget to choose a really strong IP. Match it with the right genre, have an experienced development team, start with the pre-production, set the pipeline based on the other productions, and provide the infrastructure for perfect collaboration between developer, publisher and IP owner. And hopefully we’ll see your amazing I- based hit game at the top of the charts.
Elena Lobova is CEO of games development co-production firm ILogos.