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I am producing a game pitch document for a university game design class, and I am looking for examples of licencing cost for using characters or ships from other IP holders in a game. For example:

  • cost of using an X-Wing in a game, licencing from Lucas
  • cost of using the Enterprise in a game, licencing from Paramount
  • cost of using the Space Shuttle (if any), licencing from Nasa

EDIT

The closest information I can find is from an article about Nights of the Old Republic, but isn't nearly specific enough for my needs:

What Kotick means by Lucas being the principal beneficiary of the success of The Old Republic is that there are most likely clauses in the license agreement that give percentages, points, or another denomination of revenue out to Lucas and his people just for the Star Wars name, and that amount is presumed to be a great deal of money. Kotick is saying that because the cost of the license is so prohibitive, as he has personally had experience with in his position as CEO of Activision Blizzard, that EA will not be able to be profitable because of the hemorrhaging of money to the licensor.

EDIT 2

Another vague source stating that FOX uses a "five-figure rule" (assuming between $10,000 -> $99,000)

It seems FOX, like most studios, will not license individuals to create new works based upon their products. They will only commission individuals of their choosing if they elect to branch out into expanded product lines related to those licenses. Alternately, they are open to making the licencing available to large corporations with access to global markets, but only if those corporations agree to what Ms Friedman called a "five-figure guarantee". Presumably this means that the corporation seeking the licensing must agree to pay a 5-figure sum for that license, and be confident that their product will sell enough volume to recoup that fee, and to produce sufficient profits to make the acquisition worth their while.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My sense is that every party you deal with will have different rules and prices, and that there isn't necessarily an "industry standard" for this. Part of it is the wildly variable value of the IP. An X-wing is part of a huge IP that's worth a lot of money, and thus is going to be costly. The spaceship from Mork & Mindy probably not so much.

Then there's the question of whether any particular licensee would allow their content for any amount of money. They clearly don't want it used in a degrading or other manner that is contrary to their brand and image. Every one of them wants to maintain as much control of their IP as they can and have the use of it be to advance their agendas.

NASA for example probably doesn't want the Space Shuttle to have lasers shooting whales. Lucas might not want to be in the same story world as Paramount IP, simply because they don't want Star Wars and Star Trek to be confused or otherwise combined. ABC probably isn't going to put characters from a FOX TV show in a crossover for example, unless there's some kind of special agreement between the two organizations.

Now that said, there is the whole idea of using the IP as part of a blatant parody. There are some conditions where you can use IP in that way (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody#United_States for example).

Though your question was about cost, I'd say in general the idea of combining a bunch of IP like this is not a good one - especially very high value IP. If part of your grade (assuming this is a class) is creating a realistic game design document that has some potential for success, I think you're creating some unrealistic dependencies here that make it less likely to succeed.

Can you make the game work without all this IP and have it still be good? If so, do it. Consider the ability to get this IP as "icing on the cake" that makes your great idea even greater.

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I did some quick searching and like you I found it very difficult to find any actual numbers though I did come across this useful article that explains some considerations you will want to think about when it comes to licensing all sorts of IP.

Your best bet would be to reach out to several studios, be them Movie, TV, Video Game, etc. and explain to them that you are writing a paper for school and ask what they do when it comes to determining cost for licensing and if they would be able to provide you specific examples (though I have a feeling those numbers are private - you might get lucky).

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Good link there –  Tim Holt Jun 8 '12 at 20:42

There's always the option of doing something like what Grand Theft Auto did. That is I believe instead of licensing actual cars, it used made up cars that were similar enough to real cars that people recognised them, but with different names. It's not the only game that has done that.

To be safe you'd need to take legal advice as to how close to the real thing you could get away with.

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