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  • Cultivating A Healthy Publisher / Developer Relationship

    [02.13.20]
    - Ryan Sumo

  • Royalties and Recoup Rates

    Sections 8 and 9 deal with the numbers.  These sections get very detailed, and explain how much of the royalty goes to the publisher, how exactly those number are derived, and how the money will be transferred to the developer. There was a lot of clarifications involved in this section, as you can see from the comments. To protect the Developer, they will be given direct access to financial data (which we can do with Steam).  In absence of that, we promise to share documentation of funds received.

    Termination

    This is maybe one of the most fraught parts of a contract, but also one of the most important.  A publishing agreement is a relationship, and like all relationships, it can go sour. This section stipulates what should happen in that rare case, and it can be the key to an amicable separation or a messy divorce. There was also a lot of discussion here, but the basic agreement is that we can terminate the agreement if the developer continuously misses milestones.  The developer can terminate the agreement if we continuously miss payments. 

    The most interesting part of this is subsection e, which states:

    e) The Publisher agrees that Developer cannot be held liable for delays due to acts of god, sickness of key staff, and other events beyond Developer's control.

    This is something that the developer asked for specifically, and which I agreed to immediately.  While we're all in this business to make money, we must also remember that sometimes life happens, and we have to make room for that possibility.  

    Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

    If you leave this article with only one lesson, it is that you should negotiate. Contracts can be changed. There is no such thing as a one size fits all contract.  It is the publisher's best interests to not have changes made, because each change requires lawyers, which cost money. Any change in the contract may also affect their contracts with other developers, and so the costs cascade and increase.

    But as a developer you must be comfortable going into this relationship, so if there is anything that really jumps out at you that you feel is unreasonable, ask for it to be explained and if necessary, changed.

    Conclusion

    We are not presenting this contract as the perfect contract by any means.  In fact I suspect that the contract will be picked apart by developers, publishers, and especially lawyers for various reasons. Ruinarch is also still in the middle of development, so things can still go sour.  We have already agreed with Maccima to extend development because the initial time estimates were a little too tight. Here's hoping that we will still be friends come next year.

    Our goal is that having this out there can help prepare other devs and prospective first time publishers manage their expectations and offer at least one data point for what an actual contract looks like. We also hope that both developers and publishers understand that at the end of the day, this is a relationship, and both sides need to make sure that even as they look out for their best interests, they must take the time to make sure they are on the same page.  The best contract in the world cannot fix a bad relationship, but a contract dispute can be fixed by two people sitting across from each other and negotiating in good faith.

    Thanks for reading, and hope you found this useful! If you want to support us, please wishlist Ruinarch.

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