Kickstarter is an interesting microcosm of personalities; especially from a developer standpoint. You’ve got scammers, industry professionals, amateurs, kids, dreamers, and everything in-between. The ones that I find most interesting, though, are those that ask other people for money so that they can violate someone else’s’ copyright. Believe it or not I’m not talking about the failed Half-Life 3 campaign; even that guy eventually admitted that his was going to be his vision of Half-Life 3, and wouldn’t ship with that name. Even the developer behind the failed Naruto project mentioned several times his desire to obtain the appropriate rights to make his dream game. No, I’m talking about projects like Jazz Jackrabbit, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon gambling app; projects that tread on the intellectual property of others without addressing the elephant in the room.
Another of these “curious” projects launched a couple weeks ago on Kickstarter and somehow it’s still active. Battletoads, from Ben Tolliday, is exactly what it sounds like; a remake of the classic 16bit platformer. The pitch video is decent, and even mentions the need to get the appropriate licenses… for software. At no point is the need for obtaining the rights to Battletoads covered. In the “Risks and Challenges” section of the woefully incomplete campaign page Ben addresses the burning question by stating that he hopes to avoid the whole licensing issue because his remake, which will include original game art assets, will be free and not contain in-game advertising.
Unfortunately we’re not in the early 2000’s anymore. Those golden days when people could start projects based on the intellectual property of others and hope to get by. If you feel like making an homage to your favorite game, or even remaking it in the privacy of your own room, that’s not right; but it’s between you and the lawyers. However, once you start asking people to give you money to make your illicit dream come true, with no assurance that their money is safe, then you’ve crossed over from being naive to a scammer.
If you really want to make your dream game based on an existing series then follow this handy timeline :
Contact rights holder -> Make proof of concept -> Launch Kickstarter
Seem overly simplified? It is, and yet a lot of these campaigns, like Battletoads, skip the first two steps and go straight for the money.
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