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We are small team which working on car racing game but we don't know about licensing process for branded cars like Nissan, Lamborghini, Chevrolet and etc.

Do we need to buy any licence for using real car brand names, models, logos,... or we can use them for free?

Second option we think about using not real brand with real models is it possible? If someone have experience with that, fell free to share it. Any information about that is welcome.

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Most licensing questions have to be directed to the owner of the material to be licensed. Pretty much any legal question on here is answered with: Talk to a lawyer. You may get lucky and someone will have experience with exactly what you want, but their situation was likely different and won't apply to yours. Good luck! –  Byte56 Jul 17 '12 at 13:19
    
Another option is to ask more precisely and for each brand standalone question. –  Miro Jul 17 '12 at 14:23
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@Miro No, I don't think that's a good option. That's dozens of questions that would be essentially the same. –  Byte56 Jul 17 '12 at 23:17
    
@Byte56 Why not? It is same as asking "Can I link closed source against opensource libraries?" It varies on library licence (GPL, LGPL, BSD,... ) and different car brands can have different licences. –  Miro Jul 18 '12 at 15:04
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@Miro Those aren't good questions either... –  Byte56 Jul 18 '12 at 15:16
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2 Answers 2

Yes. Their names, logos, and body designs are all trademarked and cannot be used in any capacity outside those explicitly allowed by trademark law, which almost certainly excluded use in your game. And expect to be completely incapable of acquiring those licenses for reasonable terms, as the licenses are generally very expensive and come with a mile long list of stipulations.

Even though you'll be paying them, the companies will be seeing your game as another advertisement for their cars. They will completely reject working with you unless they believe your game will make their cars look awesome and make your players want to buy them.

There was a "car czar" for the Forza 4 team. His full time job was to make sure their car models and car performance matched the various licensing agreements they had, to make sure the cars were modeled accurately, and so on. You need a full time guy just to do that if you want to license cars. And expect weird incompatible licensing terms to happen and look forward to wasting tons of time resolving them. E.g., two manufacturers who want their car to be the fastest car in your game, or who refuse to allow one player selectable color to be applies to their car, or to refuse to allow damage to apply to their car, or to demand that the car can only be used if you model every little mechanical detail to a level of accuracy that your artists or your engine possivly can't handle.

As with all things in the small game and indie space, you are far better off being original and unique.

Also remember that if you try to make games that have the same selling points as AAA titles (like having real cars like Forza does), your game is going to get compared to those games, and is highly unlikely to come out with high marks. Strive to be unique so your game can stand in its own rather than be compared to games with tens of millions of dollars put into them.

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+1 for the last paragraph especially. –  Nate Jul 17 '12 at 17:34
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As @Sean suggests, trying to go with real branding can be a nightmare, and is unlikely to serve you well.

An alternative is to use fairly true-to-life models, but omit any branding and use your own alternative names for the vehicles. A good example of this is the Grand Theft Auto series, in which the vehicles are modelled on actual "real-world" vehicles, typically don't have any badges or other branding, and have a unique "nickname" that isn't trademarked.

If you do this, you can probably* get away with having models that are fairly realistic copies of real designs. Even if it's clear that your model is a Lamborghini Gallardo (for example) just from the look of it, that's probably ok so long as you don't actually call it that without Lamborghini's permission.


* IANAL - if in doubt, its probably best to just dream up your own cars.

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