The Pros And Cons Of Using Intellectual Properties

Like the Star Trek Online beta or not, you can’t deny that the game has a strong IP (intellectual property) behind it. Although I’m sure some people dislike Star Trek it is, without a shadow of a doubt, massively popular and it is going to help sell the game. Still, strong IP aren’t necessarily a given for the long term success of a game and come with their own drawbacks. Let’s pretend we care and list some of the pros and cons associated with it all.

I'm the guy at the bottom left

I'm the guy at the bottom left

Pros

  • Players get to play a game they’ve always dreamed about
  • The game world is familiar to players
  • The IP comes with an already established fanbase
  • The developers/designers have a clear path and establish boundaries for the game
  • A well-known IP helps hype the game and fuel initial sales
  • Fanbois will love it

Cons

  • Players realise the game will never be as good as they imagined
  • The game world is boring to players
  • The IP license is exceedingly expensive
  • The developers/designers are restricted in their vision and concepts
  • A well-known IP is no guarantee for long term success or good reviews
  • Fanbois will hate it

Can you think of anything else?

Oddly enough, even though it would seem like a well-known IP would be an in-the-bag winner and guaranteed success story, the history of such MMORPGs hasn’t been very good. In fact, it’s been downright abysmal. If we agree that Warcraft wasn’t all that well known when WoW came out, the more attractive and well-established IPs (such as Star Wars, Matrix, Conan and Warhammer) haven’t had nearly the success that the developers anticipated. Aside from Lord of the Rings, it’s been the ‘unknown’ licenses that have really cracked the industry.

Maybe this goes to show that there are more cons than pros associated with using a IP in a MMORPG or, more likely, it just goes to show that it guarantees nothing other than an initial hype boost and that the main success still depends on core game play more than anything else.

P.S. If you guessed that this entire article was an excuse just to post this awesome family photo then you were absolutely 100% correct.

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16 Comments

  1. Yetian says:

    I agree with your comments an personally I prefer games without strong ips.

    You could argue everquest 2 has a strong IP however it’s sonys and as a result they can take it anyway they see fit.

    The IP based games that I worry more about are the ones where the IP in question is licensed not owned and as a result I often wonder if the game is restricted with respect to amy new lore or storylime the devs want to write in.

    • Gordon says:

      I think now Warcraft and Everquest are strong IPs but they didn’t start out that way and, as you said, the developers can take them in any direction they want. I think this gives a lot more creative freedom and flexibility to developers.

  2. ogrebears says:

    I disagree with Warcraft not being well know. Warcraft 2, and starcraft where some of the most popular best selling video games on the PC market before WoW was even announced.

  3. Nelson says:

    I think the IP is a hindrance for Star Trek Online. IMHO it’s a terribly bad MMO for a lot of reasons, but one of the most disappointing is how poorly they use the Star Trek IP. It’s reduced to a bunch of ship models and in-jokes without the depth and humanism of the TV shows. Like the IP is just a costume to wear rather than something to bring to life via the videogame medium.

    LotRO shows how to use a strong IP well. They do a great job of setting you near the story without actually being in it. Killing 10 rats feels important because you’re doing it to help Frodo get to Weathertop, and thanks to the IP we all understand how significant that is.

    • rowan says:

      This being on the periphery of the story killed LOTRO for me. Maybe I just didn’t get far enough in, but what I was doing didn’t seem to matter. STO, with all its faults, is in the same universe as Star Trek, but doesn’t occur at the same time. I can “make a difference” there, much like WoW.

      Of course, in MMOs there will always be a limited ability to affect the world permanently, because the next guy has to come along and kill the same ten rats for *his* quest.

  4. Stabs says:

    One last con is that the IP might go in a less than desireable direction.

    I reviewed Stargate: Universe and was promptly berated by fans who assured me that earlier Stargate series had been much better. But from the point of view of launching a game now SG:U is what’s on telly and therefore is how a lot of people will judge the IP when the game launches.

    http://stabbedup.blogspot.com/2009/12/mmos-stargate-worlds.html

  5. Kiseran says:

    I think a well-known IP is usually a disadvantage for an MMO. I’m an avid reader and gamer since earliest childhood and I had my share of movies so I know a huge load of fictional worlds. Yet for nearly all of those I am quite content to leave them inside their home medium. I don’t want them to be a game. As long as games are not able to beat those images in my head in terms of realism, I don’t want them to defile my imagination by creating an interpretion of some IP with clunky graphics and robot-like NPCs. Every medium has advantages and disadvantages. If you take an IP from one medium and port it on another the disadvantages from the old medium will still be there (since you are forced to stay inside the boundaries of your IP) but you add the disadvantages of your new medium on top of it.

    • Kiseran quite nailed it!
      It is the same for me with movies and books!
      If I read a book I got the perfect imagination in my head! I see the characters like I want to see them – what also works for the world in general.
      So if a movie comes out which is based on that book I for sure wont like it since everything looks/sounds different than I thought.

      The other way round it is the same for me: if I saw the movie first and then want to read the book I for sure wont read till page 13.

      I guess you can transfer that effect to PC games as well.

    • Gordon says:

      I fee the same way about some things although I still can’t help but get excited about games like SW:TOR for instance :)

  6. shipwreck says:

    A fine list, there.

    With LotRO being the only MMOG I’m currently playing, I can kind of speak to one of your cons, “it will never be as good players imagine”. This is entirely true for LotRO; there are a lot of things I would change about the game, given a magic wand. That said, I think a true fan will set aside their own interpretations of what a licensed game could/should be and accept the developers interpretation, assuming the game is decent enough.

    Even though there are certain aspects about The Lord of the Rings Online that I still cringe at (I’ve been playing for a few years now) there is more than enough to keep me around and to keep me feeling confident that Turbine respect Tolkien’s work enough to keep producing a quality game that is mostly respectful to the IP. Even they’re own Epic story (fan fiction, really) is quite good and I think even cranky old Christopher Tolkien might give it a nod of approval.

    • Gordon says:

      Turbine have obviously spent a lot of time trying to true to the original IP and still managed to create a compelling game. I would even say that WAR and AoC were good reflections of their IPs, except that their implementations left a lot to be desired. I actually think Conan was a very good IP source because it was known but not too well known and different enough to provide something new from the cliched fantasty games we always see.

  7. Jonathon says:

    “the more attractive and well-established IPs (such as Star Wars, Matrix, Conan and Warhammer) haven’t had nearly the success that the developers anticipated.”

    I’m not entirely sure why Star Wars is in the list of IP MMORPGs that didn’t have ‘nearly’ the success that the developers anticipated.

    SWG averaged ~283,000 subscribers for over the first two years, and was the third largest MMORPG in the world for most of that time (it was eclipsed by Everquest II by ~25,000 subs for the last few months of its second year)

    I think something is wrong with our perception if SWG is labeled a ‘failure’ with 300,000 subs at its one year anniversary, while City of Heroes/Villains is labeled a ’success’ with only 130,000 subs at it’s one year anniversary.
    How is $4,497,000/mo more failing than $1,943,500/mo?

    I think Star Trek Online may be in the position to be the first IP in a while to draw in *new* MMORPG players. SWG was, I think, the first game to really draw new blood (gamers from other genres, and non-gamers) into the genre – I know I was one – LotRO would have been in a position to do so, had WoW not done so first. I believe that STO is in a position to grab non-gamers who have heard about WoW, but haven’t been interested because of the whole Elves and Swords theme.
    Is STO in a position to have 7-digit subscription numbers? I doubt it.
    Is STO in a position to have (and maintain) SWG-like subscription numbers? I believe so.

    • Gordon says:

      That’s a good point. I guess how we perceive success varies greatly. The problem seems to be that most Triple-A MMOs aspire to getting 500k – 1million subscribers over a long period of time and if that doesn’t happen, they are perceived as a failure. Of course, I don’t know what SOE was trying to achieve with SWG so you’re right that my statement is just a blind assumption based on the impressions that I’ve received from them and other sources.

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