The games industry is full of horror stories of bad publishing deals that developers have signed. One man who has over 30 years of experience in working with publishers is Jon Hare of Sensible Software fame.
Speaking at Games First Helsinki 2018, Hare advised developers looking for a deal to have faith in themselves and believe in what they are doing. Though these devs also need to have documentation for publishers to see to back up their beliefs.
Hare’s biggest advice was “don’t sign a bad deal”. While an obvious statement, he said if the money, the terms or the people involved look like it could result in a bad deal, developers should just “walk away”.
“There are plenty of publishers out there”, he said.
When signing a deal, Hare also had some key tips on what rights to give away and how to put together a contract.
He said developers can sell by platform or territory and they don’t need to sell the rights away to all platforms.
Hare added the early mistakes he made with contracts was to give publishers worldwide territory rights, which would then go unused. In this case, there isn’t much a developer can do.
However, he said, developers should make sure they implement a “use it or lose it policy” in their contract instead to help stop this from happening.
"Treated us like dirt"
As well as advice, Hare shared some concerns about current publishing models on mobile.
While perhaps not as bad as working with mobile operators back in 2004 to 2005, which he said “treated us like dirt”, a number of publishers, particularly in Asia, now require a finished game before agreeing to a deal.
He blamed the glut of games being released on mobile and said this publishing model left developers with all the risk.