We continue the mini-series of interviews in the framework of the WN Dev Contest. In them, the jury of the competition shares tips on working in the games market. This time we talked with Tim Repa-Davies, a gaming lawyer from Sheridans.
Tim Rap-DavisApp2Top.ru Q: Do you think developers should hire a lawyer before signing a contract with a publisher?
Tim: I, as a lawyer, will be biased in the answer, but — of course yes! However, all lawyers are different. For example, you want someone to look into your publishing contract, an exclusivity agreement with Epic Games, or an Xbox Game Pass contract. In this case, you need to find a lawyer who understands the gaming industry.
A good lawyer should be trustworthy. The developer should feel comfortable discussing with him the possibilities and problems of the studio.
App2Top.ru Q: Are there points in agreements with publishers or investors that developers usually overlook, although in fact they should be looked at?
Tim: In general, publishers and investors don’t want to frame developers. But like any company, they also do not want to be left without profit. Therefore, the conditions set by the publisher/investor will always be in their favor. However, the developer has every right to discuss the details of the publishing contract. After all, the publisher wants to make money on him and his game.
A few key places to pay attention to:
- does the contract imply a delay in the delivery of builds / games if the deadlines were violated through the fault of the publisher? If there is no such item, add it. The developer should not be punished for waiting for approval or signature;
- how much does your publisher cost you? Do you know what expenses, what specific amounts the publisher intends to deduct from sales income to cover his publishing activities? If not, ask! In most cases, the developer will not receive royalties or other payments until the publisher reimburses all the costs he incurred when publishing your game.
App2Top.ru : Developers often worry that their idea or concept may be stolen. Does this happen often?
Tim: It happens less often than it seems. But there’s nothing wrong with being careful. It is necessary to conclude an NDA or other written agreements with publishing partners, freelancers and other outsourcers. Because it can help to keep the concept or idea of the game confidential.
A much more common problem is that developers do not sign agreements with all freelance employees: artists, animators, composers or programmers. In most countries of the world, copyrights to the result of a freelancer’s work are transferred to studios only if there is a written contract. Without it, the rights will not belong to the developer, even if he paid for this product. Therefore, having a sensible written agreement with a freelancer will save you nerves in the future.
App2Top.ru Q: What is the main mistake novice developers make when they are not satisfied with the behavior of the publisher?
Tim: They express their grievances publicly, and do not talk to the publisher first. Any relationship with a publisher is a commercial partnership built on trust. If you are dissatisfied with the publisher’s behavior, it is wise to discuss it with him first and try to understand his motives. So, perhaps, it will be possible to find a compromise. If you are tempted to write a tweet criticizing the publisher’s actions, you can violate the contract and, of course, damage the relationship. The gaming industry is small, and publishers are familiar with each other. Therefore, it is important to treat the publisher with respect, even if you disagree with him.