The Strength of Intellectual Property
What is an IP and a Brand?
Intellectual Property (IP) - the product you provide to the market. IPs create a uniquely emotional experience conveyed through gameplay, characters, story, art, etc.
Brand - the company and how they interact with the market. Brands communicate an IP's emotional experience to the market in a way that is impactful, stands out, and appeals to the target audience. They make a promise.
Building a Brand
Start with an IP and build around it. IPs need to have unique, artistic, and emotional intent. Create an experience that your development team can own.
Many of the best IPs are character based. Create an experience that is built around a character, or cast of characters.
Examples of Successful IPs Companies
Character focused IPs: Super Mario, Sonic the Hedghog, Tomb Raider, Hitman. Experience focused IPs: Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Madden, Civilization
Making a Marketable IP
Devs can get too invested in the game they make, but the market does not share the same sentiment. Unbiased Market Research will inform you if the market is interested in your game.
You have to think about how to communicate the experience of a new IP to new people. Your marketing material should showcase the experience players will have through interactions and game mechanics. Use A/B testing with your marketing material to determine the best way to communicate your IP to the market.
If your IP innovates too much, then people likely won't understand the experience. Make an IP that has a solid gameplay experience with a little innovation. IPs that try to innovate too much can become more difficult to market to a general audience.
Creating a Lasting Brand
Transition to selling emotional experiences through a series of games. Human beings prefer things they already have an emotional relationship with. That’s why all the top-selling games are sequels or spin-offs of existing IPs, or games developed by an established brand.
A strong IP can migrate to other media and become an Entertainment Property. Investors are thinking about this when you pitch an IP to them.
Sometimes the Dev Team becomes the Brand. People trust their capabilities to deliver quality games. Building an IP and/or Brand improves future market success. Indies that have to compete against IPs and Brands, are put at a disadvantage.
You need to balance creativity with business. Have a long-term sustainable goal for your game and company. Plan for success.
Examples of Successful Indie Companies
Strong IP: Shovel Knight
Yacht Club’s Shovel Knight is a successful character based IP. Continued success has been seen through the release of sequels, spin-offs, cameos in other games, and a figurine.
Strong Brand: Subset Games
After the success of FTL: Faster Than Light as Subset Games first IP, the trust in the studio as a Brand helped their second game,Into the Breach, become a successful IP.
Common Development Pitfalls to Avoid
A lack of playtesting.
People make things that can’t be tested until they are finished. Artists don’t want to share their work until it is finished and perfect. Start testing and iterating as soon as possible.
Not understanding the goal of playtesting.
What is the aim during testing? What is the goal? The game is fun, people keep playing it, and they invite their friends to play. The Green Card: you don’t need investors, you have a business. A game that keeps people’s attention.
Thinking that publishers or investors will save development.
Investors are business partners, not business savers. Investors invest in something that is already proven to make money or grow an audience. Then, the investor will help you take it to the next level.
The revenue from initial sales should cover initial costs. You will need investors if you want to make future investments or leap into a bigger market. Demonstrate that your business is already successful and stay successful. If the investor wants to help with the process, they can join. Nobody wants to get on a train that hasn’t started. They want to get on a train that’s about to leave the station.
Management and the development team are not on the same page.
If managmenet is making decisions about development but is not involved in the development process, then the developers will leave. You need the Brand to be built on the original artistic intent of the whole team.
- Have a character you own that you can build an IP around.
- Ask yourself, does this game have a unique emotional journey we can own? And how do we communicate it to the market?
- Let others playtest the game as soon as possible. You need external advice from people who aren’t as invested in the game.
- Test your marketing to figure out the best way to communicate your game's experience to your target audience.