I have been thinking about this for a while, so thought I should probably put it out there for the record. And the Games Britannia games design competition reminded me of it.
Anyway, Stephen King runs this thing called Dollar Babies. The idea being that a student film maker can option one of his short stories for $1. There’s is obviously much more to it than that, and a full explanation can be found on Wiki.
The thing I was thinking about was, what if games publishers trawled through their back catalogues and IP and made a select few of them available to a central body. Students and Indie developers could then buy an exclusive option, for a time limited window, to develop a title based on that IP.
There would be rules in place to protect everyone of course. For example, maybe the game can’t be a straight remake of the original, or it can’t be used for an FPS, or it must have a particular age rating…
The option period may mean that the developer must supply a demo or design by the end of the window that the publisher can then sign off. At this break point the agreement can be terminated, and the IP returned to the pool, or the developer is granted rights to continue with the product. The final game cannot be released without sign off, and any commercial ventures must tip up a royalty to the publisher or the central body.
I know there are lots of details that would need to be ironed out. It’s never quite as simple as it appears in one’s head. But as a concept I think it could be a great way for students and Indie developers to have a chance to mine a wealth of old Intellectual Property that is currently doing nothing at all. Imagine then, if other creatives put some of their IP in. For example, an author could add one of their old novels or short stories to the pool. Or even a film studio could add a film or film character.