Video game intellectual property has been a growing concern since the first gaming system came out in 1985 from Nintendo. The video game global industry is now estimated to be $65 billion. Video games continue to grow as one of the most rapidly developing segments of the entertainment industry.

Video games are unique in the creative industry as their production draws on both creative and technological worlds. Using computer code, a creative can transform their idea into an interactive visual art form. Video gaming is a worldwide phenomenon that stretches across the globe creating its own cultural impact.

Player Demographics

Over the past two decades, the face and demographics of the average gamer have seen a significant change. What first was a strong demographic of teenaged boys has now morphed into the average video game player being in their thirties. Additionally, the demographic is just as likely to be female as male, and now video games can be played on a wide range of devices.

Technology has also increasingly advanced as the imagination of game developers have grown. Developers can use this new technology to:

  • Create a range of formats
  • Produce multiple storylines
  • Design in different genres
  • Feature realistic graphics
  • Use motion capture technology
  • Employ the use of voiceover
  • Create musical scores

There are many large hardware companies that lead the way in terms of video game intellectual property including such major names as:

  • Nintendo
  • Sony
  • Microsoft
  • Apple
  • Samsung
  • Activision
  • Electronic Arts
  • King

While these companies dominate the billion-dollar industry, with the availability of newer technologies, independent developers are now getting further into the game.

Legal Issues Facing Game Developers

A recent publication called "Mastering the Game: Business and Legal Issues for Video Game Developers," released by WIPO was created to give developers information that they need to secure their intellectual property rights to their work, so they are able to distribute it securely. 

The guide includes everything a developer would need to know about both the business and legal issues that may be encountered at each stage as well as information on how to turn an idea into a marketable product. Some of the main things that developers will want to look for in the guide include:

  • The importance of negotiating contracts for intellectual property
  • The risks that come with development, such as the rising costs in the industry
  • The need to keep pace with evolving tastes of the target demographic
  • Understanding the different venues for marketing and selling your product

With the marketplace becoming crowded very quickly, it is extremely important to make sure your creativity constantly evolves to help you stay on top of the competition and continue to be profitable. Some of the areas that are consistently changing in the video game world include:

  • The look of the game
  • The hardware and software components that create the game
  • The business model used to distribute the game

To understand all of the legal issues that could occur, it is important first to understand all of the players that make up a video game development ecosystem. The primary parties involved are:

  • Developers
  • Financiers
  • Publishers
  • Distributors

Some of the main issues that those in the industry will face throughout the process include issues like privacy and data security, regulating and monetizing the content, and developing an intellectual property strategy that will ensure that proper IP rights are secured to make sure the enterprise is successful.

Creating a proper IP strategy is an essential component in the video game industry since intellectual property is the lifeblood that keeps that industry moving forward. IP rights will need to be secured for both the tools that were used to create the game, as well as the content of the game itself. 

Copyright protection will be needed to protect all of the artistic processes that go into the game such as the code and the musical score. If a developer is using existed copyrighted work they will need to secure licenses and releases from the original copyright holders to give them the rights to use some of the artistic properties of the game. For example, when developers make a game based on a movie, they will need to obtain use rights for the copyrighted images from the film.

If you need help with video game intellectual property, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.