It is no secret that video games are big business. Last year, gamers in the United States spent more than $20 billion on mobile, computer, and console-based video games. Accounting for a large chunk of that pie is EA Sports — the undisputed king of sports video games. In the last fiscal year, EA Sports netted $3.8 billion in revenue thanks largely to the popularity of its Madden, FIFA and UFC games. Even despite its severance with the NCAA in the wake of the O’Bannon lawsuit, EA Sports is still on pace to break $4 billion in revenue this year.
Yet while EA dominates the sports market, it has failed to appreciate the popularity of one the world’s fastest growing sports — lacrosse.
Enter Carlo Sunseri, an entrepreneur armed with a sports management degree and a passion for lacrosse. Having dodged defenders as an offensive star at Robert Morris for four years, Sunseri set out to clear enormous licensing, funding, and intellectual property hurdles en route to making his first lacrosse video game, College Lacrosse 2010. Since that first game, Sunseri’s company, Crosse Studios, has created two more college games and scored a deal with the National Lacrosse League.
But Sunseri’s biggest project is currently underway on Kickstarter. Despite not possessing the clout of a company like EA, Sunseri successfully sealed a partnership with Australia’s leading game maker, Big Ant Studios to build Lacrosse 14 for Xbox and Playstation. Sunseri is seeking to raise $210,000. To date, Sunseri has raised more than $103,000 from nearly 1,000 backers.
Sunseri took a break from fundraising and shaking up the gaming industry to provide some insight into how a project of this magnitude gets off the ground and how lawyers, surprisingly, actually play a positive role.
Why choose Kickstarter to fund your project?
I struggled to find support from publishers. . . They seem to think the lacrosse market is still too small. . . So that’s why I’ve been creating games for the last five years, to try and give the lax community a game of their own.
Do you think the reward incentive crowd-funding is better than the traditional equity-based fundraising? Would you consider equity-based crowd-funding for a future project once regulations are in place?
I think anything that promotes entrepreneurship is awesome. Crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding are fairly new concepts but I think they will continue to grow and help create awesome ideas, projects, and businesses. . . It’s a cool time to be a startup!
You have now been making video games for 3+ years in an area that is packed with intellectual property like copyrights, trademarks, and patents. How do you protect your IP?
Good lawyers (we swear we didn’t pay Sunseri to say this).
How do you choose platforms for your game, such as XBox360 and PS3?
It is an easy decision, Xbox and Playstation have a user base of over 160 million and at the end of the day, those are the systems lacrosse players own.
What did it take (and not just dollars) to acquire the license to make your NLL game?I
I called them up and they were interested from day one. It was an awesome experience. George Daniel, the commissioner of the NLL, is awesome to work with and has a deep understanding of sports marketing. He took the time and interest to work out a deal that made sense for both us.
Do you think an NCAA license is possible? What kind of hurdles are involved with dealing with such a massive entity as that?
The NCAA and school licenses are most definitely possible. The NCAA and the schools work with third party companies that manage their trademarks and licensing agreements. From my experience, you apply to those companies and they present the opportunity to the schools and the NCAA. Individually they decide if they want to be involved.
Are there any unique issues you’ve faced working with Big Ant in Australia rather than a developer in America or has it been a smooth process?
They are a complete day ahead of us so its difficult but manageable. If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it work!
Overall, what have you learned from this endeavor?
It’s very time consuming! I had to put all my other work on hold. Picking the right investment level is important. Also, being able to get press is extremely important. That’s something I’ve struggled with since day one.