Instead Of Lighting Up The Indie Game Dev Community, Atari Pong Contest Raises Familar Questions About Ownership And Intellectual Property

 “Enter Game Development Contests At Your Own Risk!”

We’ve written about this in the past, both online and in our book The Essential Guide To Flash Games.  “Game Contests” are not always what they seem.   Not “all” mind you, but many “contests” are simple ways for sites and publishers to acquire free content without paying for it.

Now it looks like Gamasutra has taken a closer look at Atari’s Pong Development Contest we reported on earlier, and they don’t have anything good to say about the terms and conditions for submitting your game or game ideas.

According to Brian Robbins @ Gamasutra :

Atari’s Pong Indie Developer Challenge seeks to get all entrants to give away game ideas to Atari that Atari can then exploit, and the entrant relinquishes all further interest in the idea. Atari then selects 20 “semi-finalists” to put months of work into building out their ideas into playable versions that Atari has full ownership over. Half of those finalists will then receive a modest $5k payment for putting in even more work to complete their game. Finally the Top 3 “winners” will receive half of the advertised prize as a result of all their work, and are then subjected to a horrendous royalty structure as they seek to earn out the rest of their awarded prize.”

Since Atari contacted us directly to promote this contest, we would appreciate to hear back from them about this controversy.  Hopefully there is still a good way to make it worthwhile for both developers and publisher alike.

As far as we are concerned, as long as you know the terms of a contest, enter at your own risk.   From our perspective, we do think  the Pong contest asks a bit much of developers: the finalists have actually finish their game and make it a viable, polished product in order to win, yet they have no guarantee of any compensation and don’t own the rights to game if they lose.  Those are TOUGH terms for any developer, big or small.


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