July 8, 2007

I am the Steve Jobs of astrology

Posted in branding, history, licensing, Steve Jobs at 8:23 pm by mondhandy

One of my flaws is probably being too honest. So, to be honest, I personally am not even into astrology. It’s weird that I ended up doing an astrology application as my first commercial project.

At the time when I got the idea several people I know where interested in the moon calendar, including my physician and my dentist. Bookshops were devoting entire floors to moon calendars. Development of mobile applications also just took of, J2ME (Java for mobile phones) was pretty new, enabling private developers to develop applications for mobile phones. I am not sure exactly how long ago it was, perhaps 4 or 5 years, but I remember pondering about a black and white version of the moon calendar. So it must have been a while ago, because these days all mobile applications are in color, the black and white market is neglectable.

It seemed like a fun, not too difficult project with huge potential (given the size of the market for moon calendar books). It just didn’t make sense to me that people would buy moon calendar books, if having the calendar on the phone made so much more sense (it would be “handy” – “handy” is the word Germans use for mobile phones, too). I guess it was bit like Steve Jobs watching people fumble with bulky portable CD players or even vinyl – he just had to create the iPod and iTunes, because he couldn’t bear the thought of CD players. The same way, even though I am not into astrology myself, I couldn’t bear watching the senseless killing of thousands of trees (to convert them into moon calendar books), when a better solution was so obviously at hand. I guess that makes me the Steve Jobs of astrology! 😉

Um, right, on to the next topic… Actually, if I was Steve Jobs, I would have programmed the moon calendar for mobile phones right there and then, five years ago, and would be rich by now. As it was, several years passed on with it only being an idea. Each year I expected a competitor to appear, but none ever did. Eventually I programmed a prototype two years ago, and a few months later 3G Entertainment, whom I knew from a previous freelancing project, got interested and agreed to develop it into a market ready version together with me. Last year, they sold it as a branded version for a German TV series called “Verliebt In Berlin”. I think the sales were not bad, but I saw practically no money for it, because everything went into the pockets of PRO 7, the makers of the TV series.

So much for branding (and negotiation skills of engineers) – I suppose you can make very good money by licensing a brand, but for me, the bottom line is that I would rather not use licensing (at least not as a “first plan”). Think about it: you could be the Hollywood Mogul licensing the Spider Man brand from Marvel, and making millions of dollars. Or you could be the artist who actually invented Spider Man. Probably the Hollywood Mogul made more money, but only because he is much more experienced in negotiation. But in theory, the inventor of Spider Man could be in a much better position. Not only can he license the brand for a movie, he can license it to a game, he can give the license to other authors and cartoon drawers to create stories in the Spider Man universe, and so on.

So if I have the choice how to spend my time, I guess I’ll rather try to establish my own brand rather than go for a license. I guess Steve Jobs would be the same (more similarities).

Another example: while I didn’t get round to it yet, the probability that I will eventually try the Middle Earth Online Roleplaying Game is 95% – I just have to (and the reviews are favorable, too). So the Lord Of The Rings brand is probably a guarantee for success. However, I would expect the makers of the RPG to never make as much money as the makers of World Of Warcraft. Even If they sold as many copies and had as many subscribers, they will always have to give a share to the owners of the LOTR brand. What’s more, they will probably have to check back with the brand owners every time they want to improve their game (will it still be in the spirit of LOTR?) . So they won’t be able to be as competitive as Blizzard, the makers of World Of Warcraft. And by now, World Of Warcraft is a brand of it’s own, there are fantasy books set in the world of WoW and so on (the likelihood of a WoW movie is 100%, I would guess).

That said, I would still be interested in branding the moon calendar. But that is because I already have the product, and it is comparatively little effort to derive a branded version from it. Next time, I will ask for a better share, though.

To complete the story: the reason I saw so little money was because I had insisted on a percentage of everything the distributor gets per sale (specifically not what they earn, which would be income minus expenses, but from what they get per sale). However, what I had not expected was that they made the deal with PRO 7 that they would only get a small share themselves, in return for free advertising. So I only got a small share of a small share in the end. I wish I could say that I will be smarter next time, but I am not so sure. It wasn’t all bad for me, though – at least the moon calendar got finally made into a market ready product, and I had fulfilled one of my goals in life: to have a product to sell. Before 3G Entertaiment approached me, the mobile moon calendar had always lurked in the back of my head as “MAYBE it would be a good idea, PROBABLY I could earn some money with this”. But MAYBE wasn’t enough for me to really launch into action, also, I had to spend my time earning money in other ways. When I made the deal with 3GE, suddenly there were deadlines to meet, which helped a lot in finishing it. Also not working on it alone – I wish I was better at just deciding to do something and seeing it through to the end, but the truth is, at least back then, I wasn’t. It’s sometimes easier, and more fun, to do it together with other people.


1 Comment »

  1. […] to link to the actual article instead of the whole blog. Sorry about that – the article I meant is here. It doesn’t seem to be very popular anyway – I was hoping it would be amusing, but perhaps I […]

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