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Activision Announces Independent Games Competition
Activision Announces Independent Games Competition
June 2, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

June 2, 2010 | By Eric Caoili
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    26 comments
More: Console/PC



Activision, typically known for its big budget releases like the Call of Duty and and Guitar Hero franchises, has announced the Activision Independent Games Competition.

This inaugural edition of the competition will comprise of two phases, the first of which invites individuals and teams in the United States to submit their projects. Activision will accept entries, which can be completed or in-development games (as well as concepts and proposals), starting today through August 31st 2010.

The publisher will then announce a first- and second-place winner, bestowing $175,000 to the former and $75,000 to the latter to fund further development of their games, in October 2010. The second phase of the competition will begin at a later date, with details on that round forthcoming.

By the end of the competition, Activision expects to have awarded $500,000 to support independent game developers and their projects. You can read the official rules for the Activision Independent Games Competition and submit your title at Activision's Sweepstakes page.

"This competition underscores our commitment to supporting the creative spirit and innovation of developers," says Activision's EVP of Studios Dave Stohl. "I started my career as a software developer, so this opportunity is something I'm personally very proud to offer to the industry's young visionaries."


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Comments


Daniel Martinez
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There must be a line missing somewhere which reads: "afterwhich Activision will have siezed absolute control over your IP and given you the shortest straw."

gus one
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This is my chance to make millions. It's easy money. First I copy a game I made for someone else that copied a game made by someone else. Then we create a follow up exactly the same. Having milked that we do a modern day version of the previous IP and then copy that with an exact follow up. All I need is a name for my studio. How about a name that reflects the fact I have no creative ideas and just copy the same idea over and over again. After all I can always blame Activision if it goes pear shape and cry that I was being forced to do something I did not want to do. The millions I will earn in the meantime is irrelevant. I know I'm going to call my studio 'Respawn Infinity Entertainment' just like the games I will make.. respawn after respawn after respawn.....to infinity. Where do I collect my cheque?

Lukasz Zawada
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There is nothing wrong with forfeiting your IP. Sure, on one hand, you are giving your great idea to another company. But on the other hand, many small dev teams actually thrive by selling IPs. In addition, you can always propose a sequel to Activision if the game does well. Besides, for any indie developer, just having to put on resume "designed a critically acclaimed game which won Activision publishing deal" already says a lot about your creative prowess. I see this as an opportunity, my team shall join, and I am quite sure we'll come quite close if not win this thing!

amir Jahan
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Now, is there any particular reason why this thing is for "United States" residents only?

what if some team wants to participate from another country? It's amazing, where I live right now (UAE) ain't even listed in this website, I had to choose US when I was making my profile. :)

Anyway for Activision, I am sure there is a way they'd review this policy somehow. any thoughts on that?

Robert Hale
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As I read it Activision won't just own the IP of just the winners but of every single entry. If you submit anything to them then you are signing the IP over to them for free. This is just an attempt to find some new IP without paying for any of it.

Chuan Lim
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From [ Page 3 ] of the submission form:



"Sending in a Submission constitutes entrantís consent to give Sponsor a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display such Submission in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis solely for purposes related to the Contest (including judging, advertising, and publicity related thereto). If requested, entrant will sign any documentation required for Sponsor or its designees to make use of the non-exclusive rights entrant is granting to use the Submission."



"In order to be a Finalist, entrant must sign certain Submission documentation provided by Sponsor, which may include some or all of the following: release of claims against Sponsor; acknowledgement of Sponsor's development of game concepts that may be similar to entrant's Submission; first right of refusal to Sponsor for any development or publishing of Submission; agreement to provide Sponsor with splash/title/credits and logo credit similar to "funded in part by the Activision Independent Games Competition Prize 2010"; grant of name and likeness publicity rights to Sponsor; and full representations and warranties regarding the IP ownership of the Submission."



^

Says it all really.!





-- Chuan

Andrew Wiggan
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...

Bart Stewart
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Hang on a second.



A number of the objections in the comments so far have been that Activision gets to "take" your idea if you choose to submit it. To some extent, that (as summarized in the "acknowledgement of Sponsor's development of game concepts that may be similar to entrant's Submission" section) is just Activision being sensible in protecting itself from legal claims of "you stole my idea!" if they ever develop anything even remotely similar to a concept that someone submitted.



But what gets my attention is the disconnect between the belief that seems to be behind these objections -- "my idea has value" -- and the completely dismissive attitude toward ideas that any number of experts have expressed here on Gamasutra, best captured in the frequent assertion that "ideas are a dime a dozen." (For evidence of the latter belief, see http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/15688/GCGs_Ask_the_Experts_Don
t_Steal_My_Idea.php, http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/20373/Opinion_How_To_Hire_Good
_Game_Designers.php, and in particular http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/614/the_idea_is_not_the_.
php .)



So which is it?



The one thing I suspect the "if you're a Finalist we own your submissions" clauses will do is guarantee that people tend to submit written concept documents, rather than prototypes, vertical slices, or finished/working games. If they own what you submit, there's little point in putting a lot of development time into a submission.



If so, that's actually good news for people who think they have great ideas for a game but don't have a 20-person studio standing by. If the competition is mostly design docs, rather than working games, that raises the chance of winning for entries from individuals who aren't personally able to implement their game ideas.



So perhaps the most important thing to look for in Activision's contest submission form -- if ideas really are a dime a dozen -- is whether there's a clause that limits how many ideas one can submit....

Robert Hale
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You are only allowed one submission per person and Activision don't just own the rights to the finalists they own the rights to every single entry.



While Ideas may be a dime a dozen this clause allows them to create a game based on the exact IP you submit including concepts, story, mechanics etc with no requirement to pay any royalties of any kind that burns.



This is equivalent to a studio pitching a game to a publisher with full documentation, concept art and schedule on the understanding that whether or not the deal gets confirmed the publisher will still own everything and they aren't allowed to shop it around to anybody else. That's something that no right-minded studio director would ever consider. While you may create the pitch documents off your own back you would at least retain ownership until somebody hands you some money for it.

Mark Harris
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"solely for purposes related to the Contest (including judging, advertising, and publicity related thereto)"



Did we all skip over this part? They only retain rights to your work for purposes related to the Contest. Full development of a new game based on your design doc doesn't relate to this Contest and that argument would never hold up in court.



While I acknowledge that the legalese shows this isn't just Activision altruistically throwing a pile of money at some good ideas so independents can develop them, I think we may be jumping the gun accusing them of setting up a scheme just to steal ideas.



Has anyone compared these terms and conditions with other indie game contests to see if they are just covering their asses from a lawsuit or if they have cooked up something more malicious then the norm?

Adam Bishop
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Mark's right. It's not at all unreasonable to sign away the rights to your game "for purposes related to the contest". Otherwise Activision wouldn't be able to do standard things like use screenshots from your game in advertising the competition. Did you know that if you have a blog with Blogger you sign over considerable intellectual property rights to Google? It's not because Google wants to "own" your blog, it's because without you giving them those rights, they can't even do simple things like store your blog on their servers or display it publically. It's the same thing here.



I think there are valid reasons to be concerned about this contest - I know I wouldn't want Activision owning my IP - but I think it's pretty unlikely that the competition is designed to "steal" ideas and concepts. More likely it's trying to ride the wave of popular indie games like Braid or World of Goo and get some good publicity out of it.

Eric Carr
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Eh. I'm with Bart. As a game designer I throw away a dozen ideas before breakfast. If you have some kind of "Super Idea" first of all, get over it. Second, don't submit that. Take a month, put together a prototype with an IP that you don't really care about and see what happens. I mean, as an indie I'll go for almost any funding I can get, whether it comes from the Empire or not.

gus one
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When Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit Fred Durst did something similar. He did a national tour auditioning for a new guitar player. They auditioned thousands of budding musicians. Every guitarist had to play original riffs/ music. As part of the audtion rules they auditioners handed over the rights to thier music they were auditioning with. Brilliant.

Bob Stevens
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Non-exclusive license to use the submission for "purposes related to the contest" for all entrants.



First right of refusal on publishing and distribution for all finalists.



I see nothing that prevents you from using your IP unless they give you money. But there are two types of indie... indie as in low-budget and risky but creative and polished, and indie as in unpopular and unmarketable.



I can see why people working with the latter category would balk at the idea of their game being bought and published by the largest 3rd party publisher but I'm not so sure why people in the first category would care.

Reid Kimball
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My memory is fuzzy at the moment, didn't Activision do this in 2009? Or was this contest announced prior to today? If they did this contest last year, I couldn't find any news in a google search.

Eric Carr
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@ Slade - "using MONEY as the main motivator for innovation will often make the attempt to innovate crash and burn" - Um, I like money. It works out like this - Money = Food = Not Starving to Death at my computer. I don't know about you, but I can't innovate if I'm hungry, or homeless for that matter.



Than again, maybe we have a different view of "Indie." Not to straw man you here, but it seems your concept of indie is as an 'artiste' a person that toils in obscurity and tries to hold on to some sense of their fabled "indie cred." No big Activision for me thanks. Nothing with the words "IP licensing" either.



My concept of "Indie" is somebody using the means at their disposal to do what they love. It doesn't matter to me if those means say, "Activision," "PAX," or "Seamus McNally" on the checks. If a prize, regardless of where it's from, keeps Hot Pockets in my fridge and keeps me working of my projects, that's good enough for me.

Lukasz Zawada
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As a declared entrant, and I hope I am not going to be flamed senseless by senseless users, I wish to point out that there is nothing wrong with this contest. Look at it from my point of view (sorry if it's a bit long):



You are an artist, a painter. You get up every morning, get your canvas ready, paint, and those 2 year old brushes. You paint, you get a nice painting to add to your collection, maybe you'll sell it. Now, 2 years later, the canvas and paint add up, brushes are getting old. And someone say "Hey there is a contest at local museum, they will display your painting, catch is, you can't claim it, only put your name on it."



Now will you curse the museum? Or will you sit down, think of 10 designs, pick the third best and go with it? I believe just because you are unsponsored and an "indie" artist doesn't mean letting a museum cash in on people seeing your art and going "Hey this guy has skills, I think I saw his other work somewhere" is necessarily a bad thing. Being an indie developer, you should know that getting noticed for your work and creating a path for the future is more important than letting pride get to you.



If you got to this point, thank you for staying with me throughout the long post and not flaming mid-read.

Achilles de Flandres
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So... if I submit an indie game I've been working on to this contest... does that mean Activision owns it entirely? What if Activision isn't interested in the game I submitted, will I get sued by them if I make the game myself later on? It makes little sense to participate in the contest if that's the case.

Jim Perry
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So is anyone here actually a lawyer and REALLY know what those two paragraphs mean or do you just like to whine and complain because you think it makes you "indie"?!?



I'm better the latter. Seriously, unless you know what you're talking about why are you wasting time when you could be developing a game?!?



I'll be entering and am happy for the opportunity!

Achilles de Flandres
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@ Jim Perry



So... umm... asking if submitting our game also means forfeiting any future oppurtunity to develop it, make any money off it, or sell it to another company is... therefor "whining." How stupid of us to ask.

Jim Perry
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I don't see too many people actually asking. : You were one of the few that actually asked a question instead of ranting.

amir Jahan
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Does anyone know who (or which department) is basically in charge of this competition, I am trying to contact the one in charge and ask for a opportunity for an outside US team to participate. Unfortunately their contact page only takes you to contact for different products, I couldn't find any link that I could actually contact :(.



Any help is highly appreciated.

A

Ben Kopec
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Hi,



I have high quality high energy orchestral music for video games. If your team is in need of a composer(s) than your search is over. For more information, contact me directly: www.BenKopec.com.



Thank you and we look forward to winning this competition with you.





Ben Kopec

Intricate Unit Studios

www.BenKopec.com

andrew stevens
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@ Lukasz Zawada



I like your point, and to piggyback on that, I'd like to address the issue of "indie game developers". When those of you who talk about the contest being all about money, I don't think that you are really seeing from a point of a true indie developer. You say that you don't want to submit the rights to your game to a big superpower like Activision because that defeats the "individuality" of your work. I won't claim to be "indie", because I'm not, but I imagine that getting your work recognized would be the point of concern. You developed the game and expanded on the original idea. The idea is your own, wether it was purchased or not. You sold it to someone else, but you still can claim the original idea. I really doubt that hoarding it to yourself and displaying it once or twice at an indie games convention is really going to give you the pride and recognition to make you feel like a real "indie developer". Maybe I'm wrong...but that doesn't make sense to me.



And another quick point...to those of you who say this contest is solely about money. Maybe the contest is, but seems to me that money is what is important to you if you'd rather keep the idea for yourself and try to publish the game on your own. Sounds like you think you could make more money on your own, and you're being greedy keeping it from this contest, hiding behind the excuse that you are trying to be "indy".

Jason Humpfrey
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This is great. I play this game all the time. One of my friends got me into Airsoft, and I think its pretty awesome that you can play games that use the same weapons and they look hella real check this place out.



http://www.airsplat.com/airsoft-video-games.htm

Jonathan Jennings
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i just hate when things like this are announced on such short notice, i have a two week deadline to come up with a game ? i assume most entries will be proposals or games / demos nearing their completion . [edit: yeah maybe i should have checked the article date lol, oops ]


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