from the finally dept
When it comes to fan-created video games utilizing established IP, the vast majority of instances tend to result in a narrow set of responses from the original creators or publishers. The Nintendo route is to go fully nuclear as often and immediately as possible, destroying any and all attempts. Take 2 follows a similar path, albeit one that also includes actual lawsuits. Sega, on the other hand, mostly ignores fans creating their own games using Sega IP, even occasionally slightly endorsing this behavior. And that’s… sort of it. Nuke or ignore.
But some developers and publishers out there are willing to try other avenues. Recently, Paradox, creators of the popular TTRPG and video game franchise Vampire: The Masquerade, rolled out a kind of fan-developer affiliate program called World of Darkness Unbound, in which fans can make licensed fan-games in the Vampire universe and even profit off of them.
Paradox said the Unbound program was inspired by the success of the recent Vampire Jam, in which nearly 90 developers had a month to create games based on Vampire: The Masquerade’s World of Darkness mythos. “While we could only award one grand prize to Heartless Lullaby, we knew we had to create a platform that empowered our community to work on the projects they love while giving them the support they need to be successful,” World of Darkness Community Developer Martyna Zych said in a statement.
Developers that take part in the Unbound program will receive “a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable, nonsublicensable, royalty-bearing right, and license” to the World of Darkness IP “to develop, localize, publish, sell, distribute, promote, and advertise” their game, according to an extensive license agreement.
Now, Paradox isn’t just doing this out of the goodness of its heart. The company will take a one-third cut of net revenue that comes in from any of these games. That’s a hefty percentage when you compare it to the types of cuts taken by marketplaces like Steam… but is a far healthier offering to developers of fan-games when compared with legal threats, lawsuits, and DMCA notices.
And what this really represents is a shift in how a gaming company can not only cease fighting with fans who want to express their fandom, but also a way to economically weaponize those fans instead. And the license Paradox is offering gives the company some quality control on the games that get released. The company has the right to review any games prior to publication and there are rules under which a game must operate, such as the types of settings in which they take place and that these fan-games can’t use confusing terms in their titles that would make the public think these were Paradox-created games.
So it’s not a full freeing up of fans to be able to create anything they want… but it really isn’t a bad compromise, either. And this certainly represents a paradigm shift in how a major publisher deals with the simple fact that it has fans who are also creative.
If this is successful, wider adoption in the industry could very much be a thing.