Programming Acquire GBA
Laffy Taffy GBA
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T1 work arounds
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Acquire for that Gameboy Advanced
Acquire for the Gameboy Advance (GBA) was based off of the original boardgame by Avalon Hill (1968). Avalon Hill is owned by Hasbro now. From what I understand Atari owns electronic licenses to all Hasbro board games. Don't bother asking for a list of these games. I asked and got a firm "No". Within the past year I've taken a liking for the boardgame. There seems to be a small following of people over the age of 30. To my amazement there hasn't been a really good computer version written. NetAcquire was the closest to being the best computer version. Ackwire for the palm was a fair knock off. There is a DOS version or two, but nothing that catches your eye these days. I thought that maybe writing a Gameboy Advance (GBA) version would be easier to get published. I say this because everyone and their dog writes software for the PC. It's a rarety when you know someone personally that programs for the GBA console. I also thought maybe on the shelf, sitting next to other GBA games, parents would go to buy their child a GBA game and see Acquire. Then buy it for themselves. A couple years ago I had heard that 25% of the market for the GBA is 18 years and older. After seeing my mother play Dr. Mario all these years, I thought there might be a niche market. To my amazement, things didn't flow as easy as I anticipated.
After I wrote GBA Acquire I contacted Saffire, a local 3rd party development house. It seemed like a good idea since they had the most published titles for the GBA locally. Atari had a demo I sent, but for a good 8 weeks I didn't hear a whole lot. I had been told that Nintendo reserves the right to publish for their consoles. This drives the prices up to $10.50 per cartridge. A CD on the PC is cheaper to manufacture. A whopping $0.25 per CD is what I've been told. Another downside of the GBA is that Nintendo only allows you to purchase in minimum quantities of 40,000. I've been told just recently Nintedo dropped minimum quantities to 10,000. This still equates to $105,000. Man, that's a big chunk of change for someone starting out. After writing this article the quantities dropped even more. Somewhere in the ballpark of 4,000. I was hoping to make the Christmas deadline. Obviously this didn't happen. Since the Gameboy DS is on the horizon, the window of opportunity is closing quickly.
Atari decided not to pick up this project. They said the game doesn't appeal to all audiences. Something was mentioned about how they don't think there is big money in the niche market of Acquire. This struck me as a little odd cause I had read in the book "Good to Great" about how Hasbro found it more profitable to re-release hits at the right time as opposed to aiming for another one hit wonder. Hits such as Monopoly and G.I. Joe. I can see how if it had been a PC version, this game would have had more of a chance. On the other hand, the development was basically finished. So there was less risk on the development side.
After Atari rejected the game I decided to try to call all 80 publishers that Nintendo has posted on their website. I had a couple of bites, but Bam Entertainment seemed like a good one to go with. The big obstacle was the copyright. I personally had a conversation with Atari's copyright lawyer. He told me that since Lord of the Rings copyright made at least $100,000 related to the movie, Acquire should do the same. This seemed odd to me since Lord of the Rings was so much more known then Acquire. The pricing structure was broken apart for sale, but they still wanted a lump sum up front. Later in Negoiations their requesting price dropped, but it still wasn't enough to get GBA Acquire published.
I've heard that you can't copyright gameplay, so originally I thought I had a way out. If Atari didn't play ball I was going to change the graphics and the game name. Well, my logic was flawed. Since I already approached them, they could trace the idea back to the original Acquire game. I'm not 100% positive, but I think the lawsuit Burten v. Milton Bradley set a presidence on copyright of gameplay.
Overall, this was an excellent learning experience. It's a bit weak that it never got published and there is nothing I can do about it. It's even weaker that I can't release it for free to the public, cause I risk getting sued by Atari. I can't really blame any of the companies for being the way they are. I don't hold a grudge against Atari. There is one person that works for Atari that was very good to work with on this. Unfortunately, I feel compelled not to mention his name. I understand Atari needs high profits and Acquire GBA was just small fries. Smaller companies seem to be easier to work with. Saffire and BAM Entertainment were both excellent companies to talk to. If I could do it over I would have not used the Acquire name. Copyright licensing seems to be huge on generating revenue for many companies. For instance, Atari wanted royalties for the Acquire name... Nintendo hides behind copyright to be the only manufacturer of Nintendo console cartridges. On a sidenote, There is one company that Nintendo never did sue in reference to copyrights. This company was Wisdom Tree. There is some mention about fear of public backlash, because of religious themes in the games. I still keep a copy of the source and ROM for my portfolio, just in case I find myself looking for employment in the future. I wrote this article to give insight to anyone that is planning on writing their own game in the future.
I'd like to make mention that I used the SGADE library to develop the game. I couldn't have made it as far as I did if it hadn't been for the SGADE library. I recommend anyone thinking about developing for the Gameboy Advance (GBA) to take a look at it. For the most part, it was fairly easy to use and understandable. I'd recommend it to anyone.