I'm planning to develope games based on familiar to all of us games like Tetris, Snake, Mario.
The whole idea is to make profit on it so normally I should buy license right? However my idea is not exactlly the same as the original ones. There are a lot of simmilar games to written above in internet, they have diffrent names, designes but basiclly the idea is the same: for instance with snake, there is always sth moving which user controls and usually it eats sth:)
So my question is: are these replica games, while being named diffrentlly then the original, legal to sell? Or do I have to buy licenses for it? If so, maybe you know whre can I buy it from? For instance tetris is working quite well and you can find all essential information on the website. But SNAKE??? I've been googling for hours and I cant find where to read the licnese terms and where can I buy the rights to use they idea?
Thanks a lot,
IANAL, if the idea is the same, but the name is different, this is not usually enough to keep you out of trouble. Even if the look-and-feel is modernized.
The complicating factor is the fact that copyright and IP protections vary greatly country by country.
It is safer to try to get a license. However, for old titles, this may be difficult as there is no way to find representation unless it is too late. Companies have long since disappeared, been bought, etc. But, copyright can still be asserted by the originator or by the recipient of the assets of a company sale. And, look-and-feel gets grey pretty quick.
All in all, knocking off an old title with a few look-feel and game rule changes should be pretty safe, but licensing is the only way to be sure to not paint a target on your back should you actually start generating noticeable revenue. Look at Hasbro vs Scrabbulous for example.
PS: According to the book "High Score!", Sega published the original Snake, which means they likely control the rights to it, if they still do. So many variants exist that they likely have lost the right to assert copyright protection.
When it comes to games, just make sure you don't take content from another game such as artwork, names, things like that. It's too hard to prove look and feel and no one is going to bother with it with a game because they come and go too quickly, but in general, try to make your game look different and feel different so people will be more inclined to play it. Those old games like tetris and snakes have gotten pretty old and worn out, although I don't mind playing them once in a while yet. BTW, one of the best ways to learn game programming is to copy some old games like that. That's why there are so many around.
Thanks a lot for your replies:)