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You Can’t Get Rich Infringing On Others’ Intellectual Property

A friend of mine is starting a little online business. This post is partly to plug his site, and partly to talk about everything that he’s doing wrong.

The business

Are you a fan of classic video games? You know, the ones that were made before they started putting games on CDs? If so, then you probably know what a sprite is. If not, a sprite is one frame of animation for a pixel-based character model. My friend, and a couple others, are starting a business they call Bead Sprites. I think it’s a pretty cool idea, but it certainly has a few problems with the business model (I’ll go into that later). If you’re interested, check out some of his example work. I really like them, and I’ve already bought a couple:

Megaman and Cutman

Right now he’s taking commissions, so if you have a favorite character, feel free to ask him if he’ll make you one. I’m not sure what he’s charging right now, but my Megaman and Cutman magnets (pictured above) cost me $9 (that’s with no delivery charge and friend discount). They’re about the size of my hand.

Now, on to the problems.

Legal issues

Both Megaman and Cutman are trademarks of Capcom Entertainment. The Final Fantasy crews pictured in his example gallery are trademarks of Square Enix. Mario is Nintendo’s beloved mascot. See where I’m going with this? My guess is that it won’t be long until he gets a cease and desist letter from one of the big video game companies. I advised him to stay small and not make an official business out of it.

The labor

Let’s say he charges $8 for one sprite. Each sprite takes, oh, $1.50 worth of materials and 30 minutes to make. Then there’s the packaging and shipping for customers that are more than walking distance away. That cuts down profits to somewhere around $10-$14/hour. Not bad, but not something that’ll make you rich. If anything, it’s a nice hobby that he can make some spare cash off of. He’s told me that he’s really not concerned about that, so oh well.

The timing

College tends to eat up a lot of time, what with all of the studying and group projects. Add that to the fact that he’s only stocking really recognizable sprites (Mario, Final Fantasy characters, mushrooms), and you realize that commissioned sprites will take awhile to make. If customers are ok with that, fine. If not, there might be some problems.

The bottom line

I doubt his business will get huge, but it’s an interesting idea. Plus, it’s something he enjoys doing, so that’s always good. Go check out his site (still under construction at the time of this writing) and buy a few if you’re a big fan of classic gaming.

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2 Responses to “You Can’t Get Rich Infringing On Others’ Intellectual Property”

  1. Bylla @ Xavier Media Says:

    If one of the big giants will send him a cease and desist letter he will get famous and that may be profitable if he ads for example adsense or something on his site :)

    /Andreas

  2. C-Squared Says:

    He might also get tired of making the same characters over and over again, if one is more popular than the others.

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