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Subject: Can I trust in big publisher company? rss

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Peti
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Hi Everybody!

I have a big dilemma. I have designed a new card game, and more less finished the playtesting.
So I am ready to submit it to a game publisher company.
My question is whether I can trust them, or not. Will they "steal" my idea or not? Of course they promise, they won't, but is it true?
I have heard a story about a men, who send his idea to xxx publisher, they said nothing for years, and after 3 years, he realized, that they published a game, which is very very similar (but of course not the same)
to his game.


So how can I be sure, my idea won't be stolen.

Has anyone experience? Or have you ever heard something about it?

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Paul DeStefano
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szpeti wrote:
Of course they promise, they won't, but is it true?


This is a very common new designer paranoia.

They would LOVE to find a game good enough to steal. That's what they do. But why steal? Just buy the rights (you won't get a whole lot of money).

EVERYONE has that story. Just like people every year try to sue the Beatles for stealing their melody.

Very very similar is NOT the same. It doesn't mean at all that it was even slightly influenced.

In the long run it comes down to: you have to get over your paranoia. It shows as unproffesional and serves no one.
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Tim Stellmach
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What's the alternative, anyway? There's no use asking if the air is any good when there's nothing else to breathe.
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Matthew Kloth
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timstellmach wrote:
What's the alternative, anyway? There's no use asking if the air is any good when there's nothing else to breathe.


You could professionally publish the game yourself.

It would only eat up all your time and risk your finances.

What I have I done...zombie
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Mike zebrowski
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szpeti wrote:
I have heard a story about a men, who send his idea to xxx publisher, they said nothing for years, and after 3 years, he realized, that they published a game, which is very very similar (but of course not the same) to his game.


Common myth lacking any specifics that can be investigated.
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Justin Egan
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peep this article by Tom Jolly (maker of Wiz War) It covers, among other things, the subjects of approaching publishers and how to at least try to protect yourself against intellectual prop theft.
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Mr Pavone
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maybe someone should start a thread that answers this and the other 3 most commonly asked new design questions?

Do I write up a non-disclosure-agreement? NO.
Where do I get bits for my game? GOOGLE IT.
Where do I get my game printed? GOOGLE PRINTERS.
How do I...? GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE IT.
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Dave Z.
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I have starting searching for information on this subject and my limited research suggests that using an agent is the way things are usually done.

I have heard that big game publishers prefer to deal with an agent, rather than deal with hundreds of game submissions and deal with potential lawsuits acusing that they are stealing ideas.

I have heard that an agent will lay claim to 30 to 60% of any royalties you get, however.

Does anyone else know anything about agents? (Not trying to threadjack I just think it may be relevent.)
 
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Steven Metzger
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ruleroftheuniverse wrote:
I have starting searching for information on this subject and my limited research suggests that using an agent is the way things are usually done.

I have heard that big game publishers prefer to deal with an agent, rather than deal with hundreds of game submissions and deal with potential lawsuits acusing that they are stealing ideas.

I have heard that an agent will lay claim to 30 to 60% of any royalties you get, however.

Does anyone else know anything about agents? (Not trying to threadjack I just think it may be relevent.)
In my limited knowledge on the issue, using an agent is a waste of time and money.

Basically, using an agent or a broker or some other middleman only serves to complicate the process of a design getting published. Smaller publishers won't deal with them; the profit margin is too low when an agent is negotiating a higher rate. Bigger publishers won't deal with them; they don't need to waste their time with legal issues. Medium sized publishers should not deal with them simply because of the reasons why the big and small companies also don't.

Truthfully, you are asking someone from the outside to pitch your product for you, which can have a lot of success when done right and done through the right channels. In all honesty, you can pitch it yourself. You know the design front-and-back and can answer any critical questions about it, you should have it playtested and know how to answer the tough questions and concerns that come from the company.

Also, every time you throw another complication into your proposal to a company, you lower your chances of approval. How much? That's difficult to say - if you have the next big hit like Dominion was, an agent negotiating on your behalf to get you a very high royalty rate might not be such a bad idea. But Donald X.'s story (or at least what I've read of it) is very rare...in my opinion, you will be better off cutting out the middleman entirely to save yourself and your prospective buyer a chunk of change, likely bettering the relationship as well.

You have to remember, the middleman is there to find a potential consensus in a zone where two sides cannot quite make up the difference on their own. Case in point: Tim Lincecum (Cy Young winner for the SF Giants) is going into salary arbitration with the team, asking for $13 million/year, where the Giants are offering $8 million/year (side note: he's been making league minimum, about $400k, since he broke into the majors because he's won the Cy Young in each of his first two seasons - that's right, he's asking for a raise of 3150%. Pundits are actually surprised at how LOW his number is). The two sides will probably end up agreeing to $11 million/year.

How much does the arbitrator take out of that (not much because he is union-paid)? How much does the player's agent take out of that? How much of this could be avoided if the two sides just started inching their way closer in that age-old compromise of "8," "12," "9," "11.5, "9.5" etc...see my point?

Probably not.
Rant over.
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Paul Nowak
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pavo6503 wrote:
maybe someone should start a thread that answers this and the other 3 most commonly asked new design questions?

Do I write up a non-disclosure-agreement? NO.
Where do I get bits for my game? GOOGLE IT.
Where do I get my game printed? GOOGLE PRINTERS.
How do I...? GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE IT.


How do I publish my game?

Seriously though - there are some great resources stickied here.

To address something that no one else addressed in this thread yet - sure, the "big company" can steal your idea. Even if you published it yourself, or through another company, only the artwork, specific way of writing the rules, and any trademarks are protected. Otherwise, the mechanics and the game itself are always unprotected. Source

Case in point: Settlers of Cannan is a game published by a comapny other than Mayfair. They re-themed one of the Settlers of Catan variants and sold it as a boxed edition. Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything. One could make a settlers-like resource gathering game on any theme and publish it, as long as you do not use the artwork or the exact verbiage of the rules. The Settlers of Catan name may be a trademark by now though. (UPDATE: As Richard pointed out below, Settlers of Cannan was authorized by Klaus Teuber and Mayfair. But their permission, at least in the US, was not necessary.)

Another case in point: The one legal issue with this game is its infringement on the "Tetris" trademark. Other than that, they are within their rights to sell it.

You are much better off self-publishing these days. All a publisher does is front the money for the game idea, and keeps 95% of the gross (or more - rather like a loan shark). You can do better sourcing the parts separately using links here or alibaba.com, assembling and shipping the game yourself. Marketing is always the biggest expense and time-consuming phase, and can actually be done much more effectively by a small self-publisher than a big corporate entity.

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Mr Pavone
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those links are AWESOME.

Really, this should be made into a bold faced, 24 point, flashing red text post that is on every single page of BGG.
 
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Steven Metzger
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overtheboard wrote:
Another case in point: The one legal issue with this game is its infringement on the "Tetris" trademark. Other than that, they are within their rights to sell it.
WOW that's a good one

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Richard Irving
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Quote:
Case in point: Settlers of Cannan is a game published by a comapny other than Mayfair. They re-themed one of the Settlers of Catan variants and sold it as a boxed edition. Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything. One could make a settlers-like resource gathering game on any theme and publish it, as long as you do not use the artwork or the exact verbiage of the rules. The Settlers of Catan name may be a trademark by now though.


Case in point is you, at best, you don't know what are talking about

Settlers of Canaan was published with permission of both Mayfair and Klaus Teuber. Klaus's son Guido was credited as a proofreader and both father & son were both credited as playtesters.

Settlers of Canaan was not "stolen".

As for Blokus, I would suspect Mattel will sue their pants off (similarity of copyrighted artwork and design).
 
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Steven Metzger
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rri1 wrote:
Quote:
Case in point: Settlers of Cannan is a game published by a comapny other than Mayfair. They re-themed one of the Settlers of Catan variants and sold it as a boxed edition. Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything. One could make a settlers-like resource gathering game on any theme and publish it, as long as you do not use the artwork or the exact verbiage of the rules. The Settlers of Catan name may be a trademark by now though.


Case in point is you, at best, you don't know what are talking about

Settlers of Canaan was published with permission of both Mayfair and Klaus Teuber. Klaus's son Guido was credited as a proofreader and both fatehr & son were both credited as playtesters.

Settlers of Canaan was not "stolen".
He didn't say that it was stolen. Kinda rude...
 
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Richard Irving
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metzgerism wrote:
rri1 wrote:
Quote:
Case in point: Settlers of Cannan is a game published by a comapny other than Mayfair. They re-themed one of the Settlers of Catan variants and sold it as a boxed edition. Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything. One could make a settlers-like resource gathering game on any theme and publish it, as long as you do not use the artwork or the exact verbiage of the rules. The Settlers of Catan name may be a trademark by now though.


Case in point is you, at best, you don't know what are talking about

Settlers of Canaan was published with permission of both Mayfair and Klaus Teuber. Klaus's son Guido was credited as a proofreader and both fatehr & son were both credited as playtesters.

Settlers of Canaan was not "stolen".
He didn't say that it was stolen. Kinda rude...


Why don't you reread his post:
Quote:
Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything.


Of course, there is no recourse for Mayfair or Klaus Teuber. They gave Cactus Game CO. gave explicit permission & Teuber & son assisted on the modifications!

A lie by implication is still a lie.


 
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Paul Nowak
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Thank you for the correction Richard. No, I hadn't realized that Settlers of Cannan was authorized. I didn't mean that it was stolen, I said there was no claim, regardless of Teuber or Mayfair's permission, to call it stolen. I would appreciate it if you didn't quote me out of context and imply I said something I did not.

However, if they had gone ahead without approval, there would not have been any grounds for a suit, because legally nothing would have been stolen. At least in US courts.

A better example would be ASObrain's explorers.

From my linked source (the US Copyright office itself):
Quote:
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.


In fact, my experience is only in the US, I should have made that clear.

To get a bit more on topic, self publishing card games is getting very easy. I don't recommend Artscow for game production, but Guild of Blades and Superior POD are just two companies off the top of my head that can print your card game in small runs for about a $150-$300 investment (more or less).

To summarize: No, you can't trust the big publisher. You are better off self-publishing the game (even if it means hiring a graphic designer and selling pre-orders to fund it) and getting the game out to the world first. At least then, if someone "steals" the idea, you have evidence of going to market first. The company that "stole" the idea, if they did not significantly improve on the mechanic that was used, would generally look bad and have their reputation tarnished (like DealExtreme's strategy game vs Blokus).
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Paul DeStefano
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ruleroftheuniverse wrote:
I have starting searching for information on this subject and my limited research suggests that using an agent is the way things are usually done.


I'm guessing you found out that's how its usually done on agent's websites?

I've never heard of anyone doing any game through an agent.
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Steven Metzger
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rri1 wrote:

Why don't you reread his post:
Quote:
Mayfair, and the designer of Catan have no recourse to claim the makers of the new game "stole" anything.


Of course, there is no recourse for Mayfair or Klaus Teuber. They gave Cactus Game CO. gave explicit permission & Teuber & son assisted on the modifications!

A lie by implication is still a lie.
Why don't YOU reread his post?

He wasn't "lying by implication." He made a statement. About intellectual property in a legal sense. It had nothing to do with Cactus, Mayfair, KOS-MOS, or Teuber (aside from using them abstractly, as an example)...just about IP.
 
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Travis Worthington
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2010 Releases ........................................ The Resistance, Haggis & Triumvirate ..................................... Now accepting submissions for 2011 releases ........................................ www.IndieBoardsandCards.com
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Now back to the original message.

Regarding an agent - I know that at least two fo the larger german hobby game publishers are requiring all new game designers to go through designated agents. This is a little controversial but it in essence outsources the work of sifting through hundreds of new game submissions they would otherwise get directly.

For years the only direct way to get a game published by a Hasbro or Mattel was through an agent. So if that is the OP's view of big, then absoultely you should go through an agent, which one then becomes a good question. Any agent that makes an unreasonable amount of money from testing, development or encourages you to self produce any significant amount of games, file a patent etc is probably a sham - a good agaent will charge a reasonable amount of money to test your game ($100?) and then will make the rest of their money from the fees they take of the design royalties (40-60%).
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Travis Worthington
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To the OPs other question - can you trust the publisher.

Well speaking as a very small publisher I think the answer is yes for several reasons. First for a smalle publisher even the hint of bad behavior can cost significant sales and reduce submissions from good designers in the future. The hobby game market is very small, and with the internet news travels fast so publishers are very aware of the impact that "stealing" a game could have.

The larger publishers are interested in getting as many good games as they can to market. Designer fees are based on percentage of sales, whereas most of the other costs associated with producing a game are upfront costs - art, editing, graphic design, production and marketing so they are much more likely to be focused there and would like to have a designer involved in the process to ensure that the final result works. These larger hobby gzame publishers are usually just a handful of people, if that so the designer is a needed set of extra eyes well wortht he design fees.

The Hasbro and Mattels of the world are license and merchandisers, yes they have game expertise but they really aren't in the business of game design - they know what can sell in the quantities they produce and once they find something that will work they ride it like a pony express horse till it dies. They more than anyone else are making money in this business, have dramatically lower production costs and negotiating power over designer fees - so why are they going to try to rob you of a few pennies per game to delay the release a couple years and risk a lawsuit with merit.

So in short I think you can trust the publishers in this business more than you can an agent that you find on the web.
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T Worthington wrote:
To the OPs other question - can you trust the publisher.

Well speaking as a very small publisher I think the answer is yes for several reasons. First for a smalle publisher even the hint of bad behavior can cost significant sales and reduce submissions from good designers in the future. The hobby game market is very small, and with the internet news travels fast so publishers are very aware of the impact that "stealing" a game could have.

The larger publishers are interested in getting as many good games as they can to market. Designer fees are based on percentage of sales, whereas most of the other costs associated with producing a game are upfront costs - art, editing, graphic design, production and marketing so they are much more likely to be focused there and would like to have a designer involved in the process to ensure that the final result works. These larger hobby gzame publishers are usually just a handful of people, if that so the designer is a needed set of extra eyes well wortht he design fees.

The Hasbro and Mattels of the world are license and merchandisers, yes they have game expertise but they really aren't in the business of game design - they know what can sell in the quantities they produce and once they find something that will work they ride it like a pony express horse till it dies. They more than anyone else are making money in this business, have dramatically lower production costs and negotiating power over designer fees - so why are they going to try to rob you of a few pennies per game to delay the release a couple years and risk a lawsuit with merit.

So in short I think you can trust the publishers in this business more than you can an agent that you find on the web.


Travis,
Please post something similar to this statement at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/493249/mythbusting-game-... . I am guessing the other thread will be pinned on the design forum front page. This thread is about copyright, but I think a lot of newbies want to see this kind of statement from a publisher. New designers want to know about copyright because they want to protect there asset. The truth is that it is not an issue. Thanks.
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Paul Nowak
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I concur. I made a statement about NDA's being moot in my own opinion in that thread, but Travis explained it a great deal further here.
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Richard Prieto
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Rather than being worried that someone is going to come along and steal your idea, it is better to try and figure out how the heck you're going to get this baby to market. The enemy of the game designer (or any other artist) is not "piracy"...it's obscurity.
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Paul Nowak
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I heard the remark about obscurity being worse than piracy somewhere, and was going to mention it. So very true.
 
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I loved that link, Paul, hadn't seen that before. Pretty amusing.

But i think 8 out of the first 10 results deal in video/computer games, not board games.

Having tried the ol' Google search related to how to publish a board game, i can tell you that although the info is out there, it does take a fair amount of digging around.

Also, like any topic under the sun, you will find a lot of conflicting views/information/advice.
 
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