Holding onto intellectual property is part of the "holy grail" of being an independent games developer according to Stainless Games - but CEO Patrick Buckland admits the reality of the business is that studios are expected to give something up if they want funding.
Last week the debate over owning IP reignited when digital publisher RebelPlay suggested it was necessary to give up properties in exchange for cash - prompting a debate on GamesIndustry.biz with contributions from Monumental, Ninja Theory, Setgo and Red Redemption, amongst many others.
The only way you can get a funding deal like that at the moment is by offering a lot of sequels and derivative rights
Patrick Buckland, Stainless Games
"It should be avoided if you can, but good luck with trying," Buckland told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview published today. "There are people we’re talking to at the moment, in terms of getting Carmageddon funded, who are saying 'no, no, we don’t want to take your IP from you anymore' – actually getting that into reality is a different matter.
"You've got to look at it from their standpoint as well; with my businessman hat on I can see their viewpoint. They're putting a lot of money into this, they’re going to market it – what they're doing is building up somebody else's brand. So I think the only way you can get a deal like that at the moment is by offering a lot of sequels and derivative rights and whatever, because otherwise why should they do it?"
Stainless knows the thorny issue of IP ownership well. After completing two successful Carmageddon titles for SCi, the IP was given to another developer for a sequel that flopped, before being passed around to Eidos and then Square Enix. The independent developer only regained the rights to the brand it created this year.
"That was a hard lesson for me," admits Buckland. "After we finished Carmageddon 2, SCi said to us – literally the day after – 'right, off we go then, Carmageddon 3' and we went 'woah, hang on a minute, we’ve been doing nothing but Carma for three years, give us a break a minute and a chance to work on something else'. So they went off and brought someone else in.
"They treated that as us turning down the option. Obviously if we’d known that they were going to get someone else, then we’d have done it, but the first thing we knew about Carmageddon: TDR 3000 was a press release on [trade site] CTW."
Buckland said that he's hoping that the in the future companies will offer purely finance deals, but he's yet to come across the right model.
"There’s lots of people trying to do this, and we’re talking to most of them. So if you can get the money in from that direction, then the IP is a moot point. They don’t want the IP. They want to make a higher percentage return than they will by sticking their money in the bank."
The full interview with Patrick Buckland, where he details how the company reinvented itself with Xbox Live Arcade and creating the perfect game demo, can be read here.