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8th July 2021

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Stainless: IP control is the holy grail of indie development

But Carmageddon developer has first-hand experience of the difficulty of holding on to IP when trying to raise funds

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 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 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.

Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

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Latest comments (8)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend9 years ago
It is not impossible to get an investor on board that does not want to take your IP. We managed to do it with our investor and have a pretty sweet deal, but I put most of that down to my awesome negotiating skills. :p

We have gone for a 6 game revenue deal which splits the game takings with the investor. True, this is not the norm and most investors won't go for this option.

It all comes down to how far you are willing to go to make your company a globally recognised brand. You can either take the slow and more difficult route that we have taken, but the benefits are far greater down the line. Or, you can take the quick option, but of course you have to give up something for the short term cash.

Remember, the decision is yours.....
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
News flash!

You do not need to own IP to control it.

That's called "creative control".

When a creator sells their IP, that does not mean they lose control of it, artistically.

The best entity to manage an IP is a marketing entity. If you are a game developer, make games. But managing an IP is a full-time job apart from making games. IP can go in many different directions: merchandise, spin-off games, films, tv, etc. Game developers are qualified to do only one thing: make sequels that look the same as teh original game. That's only one kind of product that can be exploited from an IP.

At the end of the day, creators want 2 things: 1.) to make a lot of money, commensurate with their work and risk-taking on a project; and, 2.) creative control.

You do not need to own IP to get both of those points. You can sell your IP but have a strong, iron-clad contract that rewards you very very handsomely and still gives you creative control.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
Another point: if the original Buckland admits that he didn't want to do Carma 3, but is still disappointed that the IP owner (the publisher) went ahead, then that proves he is unqualified to manage IP and should have sold it.

The publisher knew that if the game was a success they'd need to follow up immediately with a sequel. That's good business sense. If the developer didn't want to make Carma 3, BUT ALSO didn't want anyone else to make it, then they were being precious. If they were good business men they'd know that if they didn't want to drive the ship, they'd have to let someone else, because investors would always want the ship running.

When Spielberg made Jaws, he didn't get upset that it was made into a bunch of sequels, none of which he was associated with, all of which sucked. He just moved on to make the next films he wanted to make.

On the other hand, there is no reason why Buckland couldn't have gotten a clause in his IP sale contract stating that they were the only developer that could do the sequel. But even then, I doubt the IP purchaser would want to risk their investment that much. The best they probably could get was a first right of refusal to make the sequel.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 16th August 2011 5:15pm

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Show all comments (8)
Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
@Darren: If you work as yourself, you never have to worry about "making your company a brand". You just make your games and your brand develops on its own.
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J S Artist 9 years ago
One word: kickstarter.

This has always been the problem with the media industry: the application of capitalist property rights theory.

That is, the moneyed interests demand not only a return on their investment, but control of the IP and future profits. I think it's a shameful practice, that has been fundamental to the centralized studio systems of both Hollywood and the games industry, and has ultimately stagnated these mediums.

Personally, I don't see any reason to go to these moneyed powers for funding. Now that we have the opportunity, we should go to the market itself, the gamers, to fund and support development. I think that would be a much more wholesome arrangement, without the corporate middleman.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
About Kickstarter...

Only works in the US.

It provides peanuts.

Sooner or later those "crowdsourcers" are going to get cracked down on by federal regulators, because the potential for abuse is high.
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Charlie Cleveland Game Director/Founder, Unknown Worlds9 years ago
We've managed to get funding for our game (Natural Selection 2) through a variety of sources, without giving up our IP. We've gotten money from angel investors, our community (via pre-orders, this was huge) and through another source.

That's not to say that your IP isn't at stake of course (collateralizing a loan seems to be common), but when you're in a startup, you're playing for keeps. Heck, any business should be playing for keeps.
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Kieran MacGough Studying Computer Games Design & Programming, Staffordshire University9 years ago
[link url=

May help indie devs with this. :)
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