The Stargate TV franchise span out of Roland Emmerich’s 1994 blockbuster movie and went on to inspire three separate TV series. However, with the cancellation of Stargate Universe in 2011 and several large scale gaming projects falling apart, it seemed the brand had run its course.
Enter former movie producer Darren Thomas, who convinced MGM to let his start-up studio, Arkalis Interactive, revive the IP as an episodic mobile game. We asked him to share his views on budgeting wisely, winning over fans and projecting profit in an uncertain market.
What was your pitch to MGM when you first approached them?
MGM had just come off a multitude of failed attempts [to make a Stargate game] and people had all wanted to do it big, and big is not necessarily the right way to go. What I said was, well, we don’t always have to be big. We’d like to do something very small, something quick, something mobile. You’ve done all these other things, how about we just do something we know we can get done and delivered to the market?
How do you win over the fanbase of a show that’s been dormant for several years, and has already suffered several failed games?
If you want to make money on an IP, especially one with a big fanbase, you don’t go after it to monetise the fans. What you do is you go after the fans, give them what they want, and in return they’ll reward you with money. What we tend do, we see big IPs and we think, wow, there’s a pot of gold there. There might be. But if that’s your goal, to make money off the IP, the fans will smell it and they’ll walk away. With something that has a sensitive fanbase like Stargate, you can’t do it. You have to serve them.
Mobile gaming is a very volatile market. How do you sell that business model to a large corporate licensee like MGM?
MGM said “Can you give us a projection on what this thing will earn?” And I said “No”. We no longer pitch projections. We pitch probability. We talk to people very honestly about their IP. We don’t use the hyperbole of “Oh my God! This is going to be huge! We’ve got Star Wars here!” No you don’t. You don’t have Star Wars. You can put IP in one category or another, but it’s a sliding scale. This is my budget, this is my price point. I have greater probability of making a profit with this IP rather than that IP, because it’s known. What I tell investors, and what I told MGM, is you have a strong IP, you have an active fanbase, you know what my budget is and you know what your royalty is. We believe we’ll make a profit – it might be 20%, 30%, 50% or 500%. We don’t know. It was the most unorthodox pitch to a studio that I can think of.
Stargate SG-1 Unleashed is out now for iOS devices.