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I have an idea for a game that has potential, but I'm not a programmer.

How do I tell this to development companies without having my idea stolen? All I want from the company is for somebody to watch a three minute long video presentation about my idea and if they see potential in it then we can talk about the details.

I have already sent an e-mail to several big companies that have the expertise needed to code the game, they haven't answered me. Actually the idea is nothing fancy, no 3D, but fun and unique.

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Read this question. Your idea isn't worth as much as you think... –  Cyclops Jun 12 '12 at 10:52
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On the one hand I want to vote down this question because this mentality is really off-base. On the other hand, I want to vote this question up so that other newbies will see it. dilemma –  jhocking Jun 12 '12 at 11:39
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I say we keep it at a 0, as a warning for others. –  knight666 Jun 12 '12 at 11:51
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It's not a bad question. The games industry is actually unusual in not considering outside pitches - books and films both do, for example. So it's useful for us to explain why games are different. –  Kylotan Jun 12 '12 at 15:40
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How about you try approaching a small company instead? –  Byte56 Jun 12 '12 at 16:44

5 Answers 5

First things first: ideas are worthless. Nobody is going to steal your idea, because everybody comes up with them all the time. Get that into your head.

Here's a flow chart:

  • Come up with an idea for a game. Discuss it with everyone you know, especially its flaws.

  • Summarize your idea in a single sentence without comparing it to other games.

    • Bad: "Like Mario but with guns."
    • Good: "Side-scrolling platformer with level-bending physics gun."
  • Write a pitch. This is a three-minute presentation that will convince someone to invest in your idea.

  • Make a demo. As you now have a pitch, you can convince developers to invest in your idea.

  • Get a bag of money. With your demo, show publishers that your game is awesome and if you only just had a bit more money, you could make them so much more in return.

Did you see that idea I had for a game? I literally came up with that three minutes ago. Do you feel like you should steal it? Probably not. That's why I told you that ideas are worthless in and of itself. Only when you can see the idea working do you feel tempted to steal it.

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This is a good answer, but it doesn't apply here, because the OP isn't a programmer, and doesn't want to actually write the game... –  Cyclops Jun 12 '12 at 10:56
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It does apply, because OP feels his idea should be enough to get a bag of money for development. This is the classic "We both get 50% because I came up with the idea." style of posts asking for help. –  knight666 Jun 12 '12 at 11:00
    
I don't want to participate in the development. I mean, not in the classical sense, as I have very little technical knowledge and once the concept is finalized, I could not help in anything. –  Balázs Dávid Jun 12 '12 at 11:06
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Game designers are not done after writing the original idea. Afterwards, they flesh out the world, design the characters, help with the art direction, work with the programmers around technological limitations and some even do scripting and level design. Nobody wants to work with an architect that wants to build the tallest building in the world, but doesn't have a clue where to start. –  knight666 Jun 12 '12 at 11:10
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@BalázsDávid the point here is that no matter what the game idea you have is, it is of literally no value until you've fleshed it out completely. If it is draw something: then you need to actually draw out all the interfaces, you need to detail technical limitation and how one would overcome the network architecture problems, how would it be monetized and crunch the numbers on how many sales you need to make of colors and bombs before you break even.. After all that, you still only have a slim chance of getting funding if you want to lead the project yourself. No chance if you want to sell it. –  DampeS8N Jun 12 '12 at 11:49

While @knight666 is absolutely correct in his answer, this technically being a mobile application you might be able to game the system a little bit.

One approach you may consider taking is to reach out to consulting companies that build mobile applications for other companies. And you should approach them as a potential customer looking for them to build an application for you.

The biggest thing about this approach is that the company will listen to you. You are coming in as a paying customer and they will likely meet with you at no cost to see what your needs are and to see if they will be able to provide you with the services you need. They will likely put together a quote and at this point you may haggle for royalties but I doubt you are going to to get them to do it for completely free + royalties, but maybe you'll get lucky! If you can't come to terms, you just take your business else where.

The biggest disadvantage with this that I see is you are no longer necessarily dealing with game companies and as such the mindset may not be there for the developers to properly build and test game.

You may have to go to 100s of companies before you find someone willing to work with you on terms you deem acceptable but there is a (very very small) chance that you'll find one.

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Literally the only known methods of getting your raw idea made into a game are:

1) contract a developer, there are many service shops that do work behind the scenes
2) start your own company

and read this

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You can't really go to a game development company and have them make your idea. Unless of course you have a ton of money to pay them to make the game for you, in which case you aren't so much getting another company to make your game as funding a game company.

Besides what people have said in other answers, refer to this page on Sloperama: http://www.sloperama.com/advice/idea.htm

Near the end of that page is this great explanatory metaphor:

Newsgroups: comp.games.development.industry From: gerryq@indigo.ie (Gerry Quinn) Subject: Re: What if I had an idea... Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 08:33:10 GMT

darin_mosch@hotmail.com (Darin Mosch) wrote:
>I have had an idea for a game for about 1 year now, and we've got
>whitepapers and diagrams on the entire thing... where do I go from
>here?
>Do I talk with developers?
>Do I start coding with my familiar languages?
>Do I do more on the design?
>
>If it makes any difference, it's an "RPG-oriented" game.
>
>Experts, let me know your thoughts.
>Thanks in advance, 

Imagine you have an idea for a new building in your city. You have made some drawings and floor plans. If it makes any difference, it's a square building.

The situation is analogous (except that you don't need planning permission, so you're ahead in that respect anyway).

Do what you would do in order to get it built. IE. either build it yourself, or convince people to help you build it. If you haven't the money to pay them, you must convince somebody to give or lend you lots of money, or persuade the helpers to help you without payment.

If you go for the latter, you had better be very persuasive, because if the people who help for free are not very talented, and the building is more than a one-storey shack, it will probably fall down. Even more likely, if they lose interest, it will be left half finished.

So, how are you going to convince people to give you millions to build your dream building? If I knew that, I'd tell you, just as soon as I had collected my own cheque. (Actually, I'd cash mine first...)

If the 'building' of something big is what really attracts you, you could join a construction company. Maybe you would pick up contacts along the way that will help a few years down the line when you have money and experience of your own to invest. If you just want to build something of your own, get a day job and build it at weekends, alone or with like-minded others. If the long term career prospects are your meat, you could consider taking a degree in architecture or civil engineering.

Hope the metaphor clarifies matters a little by distancing it ;-)


As kylotan points out in his comment though the situation is slightly different in games than in books or movies so I want to address those differences. First off, there is massively more work to the development of a game than the writing of a book. This is actually a fairly minor factor here, and doesn't apply at all to movies, but I want to mention it.

The main thing is that pitching a book or movie is generally not just "pitch the idea, then you leave while other people do everything else". For example, after you pitch a book to a publisher it is up to you to actually write the book. Similarly, with a movie you are the producer; no you're not acting or directing or anything, but you are very involved with the production and are doing lots of work to get the movie made.

Meanwhile the primary situation in which people just have an idea for a book and someone else writes it (ie. ghost-writing) is when the person is already really famous and/or important.

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Summary: No-one will buy an idea from you and do all the work. If you want to see your game realised, you must provide additional value beyond the original idea. This can take many forms. I suggest that the value you provide come from programming. But, as I mention in the alternatives, there are other ways in which you can provide value.

Knight666 hits it on the head. It doesn't matter how good your idea is, it's the execution that matters. So grab a big marker and write this somewhere you'll see it every day:

Ideas Are Worthless

You MUST read the question mentioned by Cyclops in the comments. Another way to think of the above statement is that since there is no demand for ideas, there is no market, they therefore have no value.

However I'm going to give you a different answer to Knight666:

Provide value with programming (Learn to code)

It is not as hard as you think. It is comparable in difficulty to getting your driver's license. Even if you know nothing right now, you'll be able to create a demoable prototype of your game within six month if you apply yourself dilligently.

If you're not willing to put six month of effort part time to see your idea realised, it isn't worth anyone's time.

Besides the fact that it's a useful all round skill to have, it will also allow you to interact with the people who make games. And this will be invaluable if you ever manage to get your idea off the ground. It's a no-lose scenario. You'll gain a valuable skill and insight even if you fail.

A major bonus is that while learning you'll build contacts with people who will be able to help you.

Then, instead of coming up to a company with some presentation, you can go:

Hey, I've built this in six month without knowing how to program. Do you think it's cool?

Even if they don't take on the idea, you're bargaining from a stronger position. Instead of needing the company for your idea to survive, you're looking for a partner to create something awesome with.

Have a look at This tutorial and see if you can understand what's going on. If you can, pick the one that looks clearest to you and start playing around. When you get stuck, ask here or on Stackoverflow for help.

Alternative ways of providing value

Another way to turn your idea into a reality is to get a programmer on board. To do this you'll have to build a personal relationship with that person, so that you're able to communicate your vision to them adequately. You will also have to Provide significant value. Contractors simply don't cut it for this kind of creative development unless you have enough cash to get great people.

I get ideas all the time. I could probably list off the top of my head 20 game ideas that haven't been made. The only reason for a programmer to work on your idea is that your involvement will significantly improve the chances of success.

If you're not going to program, then ask yourself this question:

What do I contribute to the success of the game besides the initial idea?

If your answer to that question is one of 'more ideas' or 'nothing' then give up.

If, on the other hand, you're able to things like:

  • Drum up a storm on twitter
  • Make crazy cool art
  • Pitch to investors so well they beg to throw money at you

Then sell those abilities to a partner who can code.

Change the question from

What can I get someone to do for me?

to

What can I contribute to the success of this idea?

and you'll be in a much better position moving forward.

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"Seriously, dude, it's not that hard" yeah I would dispute that. It's not hard for some people, but it's really hard for most people. –  jhocking Jun 12 '12 at 15:54
    
@jhocking What's easy isn't worth doing. If you are not willing to put in six month of part time effort to learn basic javascript and processing.js, then frankly, your idea isn't worth anybody else's time. –  brice Jun 12 '12 at 15:58
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I would agree with that comment, but in your answer you said it's not that hard. –  jhocking Jun 12 '12 at 16:02
    
It's hard enough to require diligence, not hard enough to be inaccessible to anyone. That's what I mean. Things that are hard compared to programming: Compilers, OSs, 100 pushups, A high school diploma, running a 10k. Enough programming to get a prototype going is about as hard as learning to drive, so no, not that hard. –  brice Jun 12 '12 at 16:13
    
Yeah I agree with jhocking 'learning to program' for some people is much harder than you give it credit for. After all for most games you also have to be pretty good at basic -> advanced maths. Some people could spend 6 years learning to program and still not get it. But agree 6 months of JS and you #should be set, but the point is that's not a good business decision. –  Steve H Jun 12 '12 at 16:17

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