Game Distribution (Bundling)
Question submitted by (16 June 1999)

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  I have a question regarding a small puzzle game that we have made. There is a compnay that is interested in buying the rights of the game and placing it on a CD (bundled software). We have about 40 hours in the game (man hours), we do not know what the going rate is for such a deal. We do know it is not much. But we were wondering if you could give us a little hint on what the going rate is on somethiong like this.  

  With any business deal you really have to understand what you want to get out of it. If you are looking at becoming game developers as a career, then often your first ventures in commercial software are most importantly to get your career going. Having a product which is being sold in stores, whether its stand alone or in a bundle, can be good for talking to publishers later as you can point to work that you have already done in the industry.

As far as price is concerned, there is no set price on these things. Its very much the situation of how much the buyer is willing to pay and how much you are willing to take. The way I see it, you have a good deal of freedom in this area as you have only put in 40 hours, instead of say 6 months worth of work, so you could look at it very much like you are just putting in some time to get a game on the shelves.

However, I always look to own all of my work, and I would suggest the same to everyone else wherever possible. One choice you have is to sell the company a license to use the game in this CD bundle, but retain all other rights over it so that if it becomes a popular game you can continue to benefit from it later.

Some companies may not be interested in doing this though and then it becomes just a choice over which you will choice you think you will profit over later. One issue I think a lot of people have is with the letting go of their first work, like it might make them millionaries if they keep it. While its possible you will make the next Tetris, its probably about the same chances of becomming a lottery winner even if the game is really good and fun, as there are a lot of good and fun games out there.

A very normal way of doing business though is to license your game for the bundle and then get a royalty on the sales. Which means, of the net profit they make off the CD you will get a certain percentage. For stand alone games this can be anywhere from 8-20% or so, depending on your bargaining position, the quality of the game, your track record, etc. Youd have to assume this would be split by at least the number of games on the bundle, unless yours is the star game. It doesnt sound like they are interested in doing this, but it certainly cant hurt to ask and appear that this is the way you wish to handle your deal. You can always revert to their original deal if they arent intersted in this.

So short answer: There isnt a set price for this sort of thing, youll have to price how much your time spent on it has been worth to you. You should also temper that with what you will get out of it in other ways, so if in the long term this 40 hours of work is less important than having a game on the shelves you can point to, then do it.

Response provided by Geoff Howland

This article was originally an entry in flipCode's Fountain of Knowledge, an open Question and Answer column that no longer exists.


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