Why you have to sign an NDA


Randy Asks:

My name is Randy and also write video games. Problem is I don't do it for a living yet. I see that you have  been doing video game programming for quite some time now, and was wondering if you could lend an ear and maybe some advice. No don't worry I don't have any coding questions or anything like that. I have been a programmer for several years. As you probably already know this type of work is very suckful and boring.

My friends and I have put together a company so that we can make video games. The problem is that even though we have everything we need  to build a game and have started some. We simply can't get anyone to take us seriously. We have about $40,000 dollars in sound equipment, 3D Studio Max, Watcom Blah Blah Blah... We are not in need of musicians artist or coders. We simply can't get the attention of distributors/publishers. For example, PIE sent us a NDA and after our lawyers looked it over and asked for a couple changes they have been ignoring us. I have lots of stories like this, but you understand.

Sorry to cry on your shoulder, but I have seen that you have worked through these type of situations and was wondering if you could give some advice.


Yep, that sounds about right.

A couple of things come to mind.

1) You can't negotiate an NDA (unless you already have a hit product). For example, if you created Quake you might be able to negotiate an NDA or if you were selling the license for Godzilla or something but otherwise you'll have to sign it as is. On the otherhand, as far as I know, no idea has ever been ripped off in this industry. You do need to be aware though that ideas are a dime a dozen. If you are going to make a game about knights in armor and you pitch it to say, PIE, and they decline and then 6 months later release a game about knights in armor that doesn't mean they stole your idea. They probably get at least one proposal a week for something about knights in armor.

2) The pitch is the most important thing. If your pitch has awesome video, awesome storyboards and a salesman that could sell ice to Eskimos then you'll get the contract. My current company doesn't have that.

3) Barring that you need a demo of the game. That's usually pretty hard because the reason you want someone to fund you is because you need that money to make the game. Unfortunately, companies like ID and Raven have made publishers expect to be able to see a demo without having to pay any money to create it. It also makes them feel that you actually have the ability to do the project. If you can't create a demo then fake one. Either make a video of the game using 3DSMax or something like that or use someone else's engine. For example I know a company the used the Quake engine and made a one level demo of their game using that to pitch to the publisher.

4) If you can't create a demo then you've either got to know somebody or get really lucky.


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