Selling game designs/ideas

“I really think I am on to a great game idea and would love it to be published but none of the companies I have contacted are interested. They said they don’t take any outside ideas.”

Publishers and developers do not buy ideas or accept submissions from anyone who is not an experienced/established developer (that is an entire team that has a track record of creating games), for the following reasons.

1. Legal – Many people seeking to submit designs are under 18 years of age. This would cause legal complications that most companies would rather avoid.

2. From an industry point of view an idea is of zero value without a development team to actually make the game. It doesn’t matter if it really is the best idea in the world because until it is made into a game it can’t be sold and thus has no value.

3. At least 25% of the staff within any given development team have more than one idea they would like to turn into a game. This means that every developer already has more game ideas than they will EVER be able to produce so they don’t need yours. Because they don’t need it, it is of no value to them.

4. The people in control of game design have generally worked for years in the industry, waiting for the chance to make their game. They will not give up that chance in order to make yours, especially if you have no experience of the development process. Obviously they have faith in their idea, just as you do in yours, so they won’t want to take a risk on your idea when they “know” that theirs will be a success.

5. Most developers and publishers get piles of unsolicited game designs. They don’t have the resources to review them all and given that they don’t need your idea (as detailed in point 3 above) there is no reason for them to make the effort to sift through the pile.

6. From a purely business point of view it does not make sense for them to pay for your idea when they can use their own for free. – And no, offering it to them for nothing will not work either. If you are giving it away it can’t be worth anything. Besides many of them will not want to take even the smallest risk that you come back when the game is a huge success and try to claim the rewards.

7. Lastly there is the statistical probability that your game is actually of no use anyway. In the twenty years I have been in the industry 99.9% of the ideas sent in by members of the public fell into one of the following categories:

i. “I want to do game X but better”. – a clone of an existing game.

ii. A few pages of text that tell a little story, which provide no useful details from which a game can actually be made. (An idea not a design).

iii. Technically impossible to develop using current technology.

iv. So huge that it simply would not be commercially viable.

v. The deranged crayon scrawl of a ten-year-old.

vi. Plain old rubbish.

Yes there may be the .01% that are great but most publishers receive thousands of submissions a year and it isn’t financially viable to invest the time needed to find the jewel in the rough because even if they could find it they would still have to turn it into a game which brings you back to all the problems above.

The following is a quote from the Eidos Interactive website…

“Regarding design submissions by individuals

……….it is very unlikely that we would take an interest in a design or storyboard from anyone but a well-established developer with the programming and graphics resources to develop the title in question.”

Whether stated publicly on the web site or not, this is pretty much standard practice throughout the industry. If you don’t have a team to make the game no one will even look at your idea.

So what to do?

You have three main options;

1. Learn to make games (programming and art) and recruit a like minded team to help you make the game as a hobby project.

2. Get the necessary qualifications and then get a job in the industry. Work your way up doing other people’s projects until you get to the stage where you can propose your own game idea (this will likely take several years).

3. Secure investment funding or win the lottery and then hire an established development team to make your game for you.

If your game is as good as you think you will do whatever is necessary to get it made, but if you wont invest in your game then no one else is likely to.


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