Space Invaders—the video game that effectively set the interactive entertainment industry on fire—turned thirty-five this year.
And thirty-five is a magic number when it comes to copyright termination. Thirty-five is effectively Cinderella’s midnight for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of music, book, film, and video game publishers who believe they have secured the intellectual property rights to another’s work indefinitely.
What may surprise them (and you) is that in 1976 Congress amended Section 203 of the United States Copyright Act, allowing authors of works published after 1978 to reclaim the rights to their creations. And, in some instances, these rights extend to video games.
David Perry’s gone and done it again. The iconic, Irish-born video game developer and techno-entrepreneur has found another pot of gold at the end of the digital rainbow. This time, a company he co-founded, Gaikai, has been purchased by Sony Computer Entertainment for a reported $380 million dollars, just three years after Perry became involved.
The thing that gets me most, and yes, I’m green with Irish envy, is that I can’t even pronounce Gaikai correctly. I've know for some time what Dave's company was up to, but honestly until thirty seconds ago, I had no idea that the cloud-based video game company was named after a Japanese word meaning “Open Ocean.” If fact, I—like a zillion other folks who a month ago were aimlessly wondering the halls of the E3, the massive video game trade show held annually in Los Angeles—had to pronounce the six-letter combo with an uncertain, guttural, choking sound. More often than not, the sentence ended with, “You know, the company Dave Perry is behind,” as if his endorsement made the clumsy name a selling point rather than a fatal marketing flaw.
In 1794 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. If you’re a bit rusty on the American industrial revolution, Mr. Whitney’s agricultural device mechanized the arduous process of extracting cottonseeds from the plant fibers. Its promise of timesaving was revolutionary. Its simplistic design was ingenious. The cotton gin transformed the cotton industry, helping to establish it as a commodity, enabling America to emerge as a player on the world economic scene.
So what does this have to do with video game acquisitions, and more specifically to ngmoco?
Money…bum ba da dah.
I'm all right, Jack.
Keep your hands off my stack.
When trying to understand video game acquisition logic, Pink Floyd knows what to look for. Cash. Bread. Quid. Dinero. Acquisitions are motivated by the prospect of earning money.
Neal Young, president of upstart video game developer, gets out bed these days, he’s got a virtual world smile on his face. After all, the former Electronic Arts executive just sold his newbie iPhone development company to Japanese social gaming publisher DeNa Co., Ltd. for an earth shattering, body-slamming $403 million dollars. While questionable, big-dollar acquisitions are nothing new in the video game industry – few can forget Microsoft’s acquisition of Banjo-Kazooie developer Rare for $375 million – Young’s coup d'état is that ngmoco is barely two years. According to my iPhone calculator app, I figure Neal and is fun-n-games cadre earned a whopping half a million dollars a day, just for breathing, just for being alive.
Dan Rogers is a practicing attorney within the video game and digital media industries. He’s also the author of several articles on the video game industry, technology, and digital law.