Licensing my characters to other companies


I found your material online and I hope you can spare a few minutes to give me some advice.

I am former writer and editor with professional credentials, garnered over 10 years, with the big boys of comics and fantasy fiction publishing.

I have started a character licensing company and the first property is just about ready for consideration from potential licensees.

The licensing prospectus consists of descriptions of the universe that the concept takes place in, half a dozen characters, and assorted creatures, vehicles, weapons, etc. I also have an outline of the first adventure. Visually, I have one character model sheet, done by a well−respected 25−year veteran of comic books (he's been published continually by the major companies for the 25 years and you'd know the name.) The remainder of the visuals consist of photo−reference of actors, actresses, vehicles, geographic locations, etc.

Because of the $ potential in games, I'd like to pitch it first to gaming companies, using the advance money to finish the character and other visual designs. While the game is in production, my plan is to package a novelization for a publishing licensee, and approach other licensees as well (ie: toys, trading cards, etc.).

My background in writing and publishing should make those discussions easy enough for me. But I know much less about gaming. Any guidance you could offer that will help me understand what I'm up against, what I can expect, etc. would by very helpful and greatly appreciated. Obviously I'm not coming to these companies with the ability to create the software or an established license. Am I dreaming?

−− ACS

Hello ACS,

I'm expecting this is the same in other industries but yes you are going to have a tough time. I'm sure it's the same in the movie business. You can get lucky and find somebody that's really interested in your idea but for the most part, unless your character is already a big hit why would somebody want to license your character, lose control of what they can do with it, not be able to exploit it themselves, etc, when it's not a proven hit. They would argue they have just as good a chance of making a hit character themselves (like say Lora Croft) which then they can license it to other people for movies, comics, books, toys etc and they don't have to ask for permission to make a level in a game (more later)

If your character is already a hit (i.e., XMen, Superman, Batman, Spawn) then it's another story because they expect that its popularity will help sell the software but before it's a hit it's a much harder sell. Especially if you are not coming to them with an actual game (i.e. you've got your own team making the game) instead of just coming to them with an unproven license and hoping they'll make a game and even if you did come to them with a game (i.e., team to make the game) and are just looking for a publisher it's also going to be a turn off that they don't own the license and can exploit it themselves. Of course that all changes if it's already a hit before they see it.

As for the "permission to make a level". When they don't own the license (i.e., they are using somebody else's like Batman, or Robocop, or whatever) then their team which is making the software can't just make the game like they want it. They have to get everything approved by somebody that "owns the license". I've worked on a game like that and I know that as a developer it's no fun. You come up with some idea you think is great ("Yea, in this scene Robocop gets really mad and breaks the law for righteous vengeance") and then you get told my the "approver" that "Robocop is not allowed to break the law. Design something else". Sometimes it's even more ridiculous. "The 7up spot is not allowed to do anything violent" "You are not allowed to show any food in M.C. Kids"

It makes sense that the "owner" wants to protect his vision of the character but it's no fun for the developers to have to have everything approved.

That's my 2 cents.


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