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GDC: Developers need to carefully consider big brand licenses - Sony Pictures

Speaking to an audience of developers and producers in the mobile gaming industry, the vice president of Sony Pictures Digital's game studio warned that licensing big brand mobile content carries more risks than it does potential reward.

Shalom Mann, vice president of Sony Pictures Digital's game studio, has warned that while licensing big brand mobile content can reap rewards, it also carries many potential risks.

In a speech at the Game Developers Conference, Mann said that there are many complex issues involved with negotiating and securing a big name license - for instance, developers can be asked to front "minimum revenue guarantees" and deal with the loss of both creative control and royalties of between 15-30 per cent on sales.

In addition, producing licensed mobile games can be a potentially devastating gamble if, for example, the film is a box office failure. "The audience is expecting something from your game before you've written one line of code," Mann said - which means developers have tough demands to meet whilst remaining true to the brand.

Mann highlighted poor sales of Bode Miller Alpine Racing, the mobile game based on the US ski champion and 2006 Winter Olympics hopeful, to illustrate his argument: "The problem was that Bode didn't win any medals. He showed an attitude of not caring."

"If you're working with someone who doesnât care about their own brand, why would the audience care?"

However, Mann went on, there are of course major rewards to be had from securing movie licenses, such as the free publicity generated by Hollywood studios. "Not only does the free publicity help sales, it can also spur mobile carriers to market the game as well, as a way of associating themselves with a major publicity event," he said.

Mann heads up a division which produces around 15 games per year, and has access to 40 per cent of the Hollywood movie library following Sony's acquisition of MGM Studios. But he hinted at expanding SPD's portfolio beyond movies, stating: "There are a ton of great brands out there - it doesn't just have to be film," he stated, adding: "Personally, I'd kill for Monopoly, if I could get it."

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