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Non-disclosure for playtesting?

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Mollycat
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Joined: 07/27/2009

Hi,
I am about to plat test my game beyond family and friends and am pretty sure it is just about done. Is it recommended to use NDAs with strangers? What is the protocol? My game is easy in both concept and production so I am a little worried... Much thanks for replies.

Dralius
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Mollycat wrote:Hi, I am about

Mollycat wrote:
Hi,
I am about to plat test my game beyond family and friends and am pretty sure it is just about done. Is it recommended to use NDAs with strangers? What is the protocol? My game is easy in both concept and production so I am a little worried... Much thanks for replies.

I have playtested games for a number of companies and have never been asked to sign an NDA. Likewise as a designer I have never felt the need to ask anyone to sign anything.

For example I just spent the weekend testing a number of games at Protospiel. We had a total of 47 people present many of which I just met. Even those not playing could have heard my rules explanation or watch the games being played. I have no worries as I have done the same thing year after year.*

What is more likely to happen when you have a simple concept is someone else might have also thought of it without ever seeing your game. This is known as parallel development and happens more than you think. It has happened to me.

Besides most people don’t want to sign a binding legal agreement to play a game even if they are the most honest person on earth.

*Maybe I should have gotten that Worden guy to sign one. He seemed a little too interested in my Polynesian themed pick up and deliver game.

Brykovian
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Dralius wrote:*Maybe I should

Dralius wrote:
*Maybe I should have gotten that Worden guy to sign one. He seemed a little too interested in my Polynesian themed pick up and deliver game.

I no longer like that game since I got absolutely *crushed* by everyone else playing it ... and I also no longer like bananas, coconuts, taro, or fish ... ;-p

As to Mollycat's original question. I'll let the more experienced folks give the real advice on it, but I'll just say this: Try to avoid setting up your own hurdles and chokepoints to getting your game tested and finished ... I think that requiring NDAs for all of your testers is going to greatly slow down your ability to find testers -- and it may impact the quality of testers as well.

-Bryk
(aka "that Worden guy")

Dralius
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Spice?

Brykovian wrote:
Dralius wrote:
*Maybe I should have gotten that Worden guy to sign one. He seemed a little too interested in my Polynesian themed pick up and deliver game.

I no longer like that game since I got absolutely *crushed* by everyone else playing it ... and I also no longer like bananas, coconuts, taro, or fish ... ;-p

As to Mollycat's original question. I'll let the more experienced folks give the real advice on it, but I'll just say this: Try to avoid setting up your own hurdles and chokepoints to getting your game tested and finished ... I think that requiring NDAs for all of your testers is going to greatly slow down your ability to find testers -- and it may impact the quality of testers as well.

-Bryk
(aka "that Worden guy")

I glad to hear you were not put off from spice after i took it all

metzgerism
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I've read that establish game

I've read that establish game designers and developers will often refuse to sign NDA's, because it would create an unnecessary liability for them.

Imagine that you are an established designer and playtest several games in a day at a games convention. A side mechanic in one game piques your interest so much that you want to develop that as a main mechanic with a new theme, but don't want to suggest the game on the table for publishing quite yet.

You go off, make this new game off of that mechanic, re-theme it, and publish.
If you did not sign and NDA on the playtested game, no harm-no foul, you were "inspired" but did not out-and-out "steal" that designer's work.
If you signed an NDA on the playtested game, you might be considered liable. This 'shadow-of-a-doubt' possibility of legal action is too much risk for established designers.

Anyways, refusal to sign an NDA makes a lot of sense to me, at least in America. I believe that German game designers enjoy better IP protection, but it may be similar to the screenwriting business (here in the U.S., you can write a proper screenplay, pay $20 to some agency whose name I forget, and they protect it for you. Then you distribute freely).

Mollycat
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Joined: 07/27/2009
responses

Thanks everyone for your responses, you all have the same perspective, so no NDA. I appreciate your input and experience. This site is very helpful.
Mollycat Games

MatthewF
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Joined: 07/22/2008
metzgerism wrote:You go off,

metzgerism wrote:
You go off, make this new game off of that mechanic, re-theme it, and publish.
If you did not sign and NDA on the playtested game, no harm-no foul, you were "inspired" but did not out-and-out "steal" that designer's work.
If you signed an NDA on the playtested game, you might be considered liable. This 'shadow-of-a-doubt' possibility of legal action is too much risk for established designers.

Yes, but worse is if you already had the idea yourself and were already starting to develop something, at least in your head. Now all of a sudden this person can claim you stole it from them.

Publishers have it worse, as they may well have already received 3 game submissions that are extremely similar and have one in the production pipeline. Now you claim that it was stolen from you and have an NDA to back you up.

Near-simultaneous idea inspiration of multiple designers scattered all over the planet is surprisingly common.

mike-73
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Joined: 08/31/2009
NDA and play testing

Hello,
Yes: If you think your game has commercial viability and desire to patent it. If you make the game public without a NDA (play testing), you should file a Provisional Patent Application ASAP (around $120 if you do it yourself - see book "Patent Pending in 24 hours"). From the date you make it public or file the PPA, which ever is first, you have one year to file a Utility Patent for your game or else it becomes public domain and anyone may do with it as they please. If you have made it public, you are at risk until you file the PPA. However, others may not infringe on your copyright (rule book, game board) or trademark (logo) if you have filed ether of these in connection with your game. Note, the NDA should include a provision stating that you have not offered it for sale, individual games or the entire thing as a business to any of those play testing it. Patents are around $5,000 for a board game. Nope, I'm not a lawyer!

No: Forget the NDA if you are not concerned about others taking your brain child.

Someone once told me "To glean a small fortune from the board game business, start with a large one!" I payed no attention. So, I'm working on my second million... gave up on the first!

Follow your dreams!

Dralius
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$5,000!!!

mike-73 wrote:
Patents are around $5,000 for a board game. Nope, I'm not a lawyer!

To make the $5,000 expenditure viable you’ll need to sell allot more games.

If im self publishing my own game that costs me $4 to produce, including everything. (Yes this is cheap) I’ll mark it up to $24. I invest $40,000 in the print run so I get 10,000 copies.

Wow I just made $240,000 not bad.

I actually am selling them through a distributer at 40% MSRP so I’m making $96,000 If I sell all 10,000 in a year. Count at 1% as promotional copies and stock loss (Damage, Theft, etc..)

That still leaves you $95,040 – the $40,000 = 55,040.

From that I’ll need to advertise. One article I read suggested 10% so let’s say $5,000 upfront.

Still have $50,040. Then I need pay for

Office expenses
Business licenses
Warehousing
And a number of other Misc expenses.

Im not even going to estimate these but it will be thousands of dollars.

You can see that for small fish that $5,000 is a huge amount as our profits dwindle from the necessary expenses a business has.

In the end you’re going to have to split the leftover money with your partners unless you can do everything yourself.

bluepantherllc
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Joined: 07/29/2008
NDAs

Signed one once. Don't regret it.

But won't sign one again.

As a designer, it does not make my designs more attractive to a publisher. In fact, many publishers will not look at game designs that require an NDA. Why?

As a publisher, there is no upside to signing an NDA. It just opens up a can of worms - suppose I have a "Train Game" in development and your NDA is for a Train Game. The fact that a game uses trains means it will probably have a few things in common with other games that use trains. Maybe not alot - but probably some kind of pick up and deliver mechanic or building rails mechanic. So if my game requires you to build a railroad, and your NDA-protected design does, and I come out with a Train game next year, you may claim I "stole" your idea, when in actuality it was already in development at my place.

Ideas are cheap. All gamers have them. Developing ideas into playable games that people will want to play (and hence buy) - that's where it gets expensive in terms of time and money. An NDA won't just slow down your game's development, it can stop it cold.

Howitzer_120mm
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Joined: 03/04/2009
I signed one

It was for an abstract game that honestly didn't have much going for it. But I don't think I will want to sign one again. Perhaps if it only lasted for 2 months or something like that, then maybe.

MatthewF
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Dralius wrote:To make the

Dralius wrote:
To make the $5,000 expenditure viable you’ll need to sell allot more games.

Snipping all of the other good stuff, that $5,000 could be spent in marketing your game and would almost undoubtedly be better spent than on a patent. In fact, spend $500 of it giving away games through a contest that you publicize on your website, Boardgamegeek, etc., and you'll be $4,500 richer plus whatever few additional sales you make.

Yehuda Berlinger posts new game patents granted on the Purple Pawn blog every month, and they are almost always utterly hilarious. Here's this month's entry and June's entry. Want to make any bets on what percentage of those actually become games that sell and make even a penny? I'll wager it's a single digit percentage, if it's greater than 1%.

salish98
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Joined: 02/24/2010
Waste of money, impossible to

Waste of money, impossible to track, unless you get a host of lawyers, and unnecessarily expensive. Plus, noone will want to playtest for you anymore, in all likelihood...

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