Maybe you’re a budding entrepreneur looking to establish a foothold in the game industry. Maybe you’re a seasoned vet who’s just tired of doing new and interesting things. Maybe you found a good idea and think that it should rightfully be yours. Or maybe you’re just an angry douche who wants all the monies to himself. Irregardless, you’re here now, and you’re going to learn to capitalize on the hard work and creativity of others.
There’s a rift in the industry when it comes to stolen property – some of them are wildly successful and some are complete failures, floating along the bottom and feeding off the ignorant and uncaring players. You want to make sure that your property is a runaway hit, much more successful than its original creator, so that you have enough money to squash any legal claims brought against you. Making money by the yachtful provides you with the flexibility to delay legal battles ad inifitum while you are busy stealing other great ideas from less noteworthy people. Follow my advice and don’t coast near the bottom.
So let’s get started. First things first: Pick a market to exploit. Markets with low barriers to entry such as the App Store and Flash game websites are popular targets to minimize the risk/reward. Facebook also provides some nice direct-network effects, providing a vast number of unwitting players that will do whatever their friends do. Awesome, now we’re cooking with fire. A word of caution: Stolen game ideas tend to work better on different platforms from their original game. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a Flash clone of a Flash game, but you’ll have better luck making an iPhone game of the same.
Next you’ll need the meat and potatoes of your game. This is actually the easy part – this is the idea you are borrowing from your fellow game developer. It’s important when you’re looking at the idea to determine what you can change and what you should keep the same. Don’t be afraid to steal even more ideas while you’re making your modifications to the original game. Ideally, you should make slight changes to the art style, characters, settings, and game balance but not the underlying mechanics. Another word of caution: Don’t go after the ideas that are already blockbusters in their markets. They’ve tapped the market for their product and chances are higher that your product will be a flop.
Getting a dev team together could be tricky though. Look for recent graduates from nearby colleges – they are eager and willing to do whatever it takes to get into the industry and will work in abysmal conditions to do so. Perfect, because rents on dungeons have been going down in the Recession, and that’s what you’ll need next: office space. It’s important to legitimize your business by having a brick-and-mortar office, where your dev team can meet and discuss progress on the game from their prison cells. Set an aggressive schedule and shackle your team to the walls between each milestone. It’s important to give them a day off after each major milestone to keep morale up and prevent revolution, which can hamper business efficiency.
Marketing the Idea
A few months later, you’ll have your crisp new game ready to build you a mansion of solid gold. This is the hardest part of using someone else’s idea because if they catch on, you could be dead in the water before you’ve had time to move into your ivory tower. Start with the name – you want something vaguely reminiscent of the name on the original game, but not too obvious. Don’t settle for simply changing a few letters or one word – grab your thesaurus and start trading out words in the title for their more pedestrian synonyms. If the original title has a character’s name or specific place, there are a few ways to approach it. Using the name of something in your game is a risky move but can pay off, also just scrapping the original name and giving a vague description of the game is a good way to go.
The next steps
Congratulations on your blockbuster hit which might be hailed by critics as, “derivative and unoriginal” but definitely not “stolen,” and your brand new company cruise liner. So what’s next for your company? You can’t build a business entirely based on stealing ideas because sooner or later, someone’s going to catch on. Luckily, you now have the resources to circumvent this problem entirely thanks to the egregious profits you’re still making on the original product. Start by firing all of your original dev team, thanking them for their few months of work and wishing them all the best on their future endeavors, since you won’t need them any more. Next, start buying up the companies that own the ideas you want to steal. This is actually encouraged by the tax systems in most countries!
Cunning entrepreneurs realize that having all of the separate teams creates a lot of unnecessary overhead in management and marketing teams. After you’ve bought up a bunch of dev studios, you can pick out the talent from their marketing teams and fire the rest, since all you need to do now is market the games they produce for you. Now, you’ve got a lean, mean, multinational conglomerate with a steady flow of cash coming in to fill your swimming pool with.
[Happy April Fools! I don't condone stealing ideas. Don't do it. It's not cool. Really.]