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What to look for when signing a games publishing contract?

When you decide to publish a game, you need to take into account all possible aspects and conditions associated with signing a games publishing contract. In this blog, I’ll talk about the different aspects to consider when signing a games publishing contract. This includes the rights and obligations of the publisher and the developer, as well as various legal provisions and agreements. I’ll also explain what special controls are in place to make sure you don’t get ripped off. However, this blogpost is just a supplement. With the help of the search function, everyone should find many more hints and tips. And if you want to be sure, just write me an email 😉

What to look for when signing a games publishing contract?

When signing a games publishing contract, it is important to carefully read and review the clauses and terms of the contract. It is also important to understand everything that is in the contract. Here are some of the key points to look for in a games publishing contract:

1. the release schedule: A good games publishing contract should include a release schedule that describes exactly when a game will be released. It should also be possible to change or postpone the schedule if necessary.

2. rights to content and trademarks: A games publishing agreement must also include the rights to all content and trademarks of the game. These rights protect both the developer and the publisher from unauthorized use of the game’s content and trademarks.

3. costs and fees: The contract should also clearly define what costs and fees will be incurred for the development, maintenance and support of the game. This is especially important to avoid financial surprises.

4. payment deadlines: Another important clause in a games publishing agreement concerns the payment deadlines for developer fees. It is advisable that this deadline is clearly defined and that the publisher ensures that this deadline is met in any case.

5. minimum sales figures/right of complaint: The contract should also specify whether there are minimum sales figures and whether the publisher is granted a right of complaint. This can help avoid unwanted risks for the developer and protect them from unexpected costs.

When signing games publishing contracts, it is therefore essential to ensure that all of the above points are taken into account and that all contractual clauses are clearly defined and understood. This is the only way to ensure that you have all the necessary rights and do not incur unexpected costs.


What are the key components of a games publishing contract?

The games publishing agreement is an important part of any publishing deal. It defines how the game will be developed, published and managed. Therefore, before signing the contract, it is important to learn about its components. A typical games publishing contract consists of various clauses that define the framework for the relationship between publisher and developer. These include;

– Publishing rights: The contract regulates the type of rights granted to the game. These include, among others, the right to publish the game on different platforms and in different regions, as well as the right to use brand names, logos or other brand elements of the developer.

– License fee: The publisher may charge a license fee for the game to cover its investment. The amount depends on various factors, including the popularity of the game and the number of platforms on which it is released.

– Profit sharing: In some cases, the developer must assign a portion of the profit it makes from the game to the publisher. This amount may vary depending on the contract and is often subject to certain conditions.

– Control: In some contracts, the publisher reserves the right to intervene in the development process and propose changes. These clauses should be carefully considered as they may limit the developer’s autonomy.

– Communication: The contract also regulates how the two parties are to communicate with each other, e.g. in writing, by telephone or by e-mail, and what information they are to exchange.

It is also important to note that each games publishing agreement is specifically tailored to the respective parties and there can always be variations in the details. It is therefore advisable to be thoroughly informed and to read and understand all clauses before signing a contract. This is the only way to ensure that you don’t overlook a relevant clause or sign something that is not in the developer’s best interest.

What rights does the publisher have compared to the developers of the game?

A game publishing contract can be complicated, and it’s important that all parties know their rights and obligations. A particularly important question for publishers is what rights they have against the game’s developers. The main issue here is whether the publisher should have control over various aspects of the game and whether it should also have the ability to make changes. Most contracts contain clauses that grant the publisher such control. These include the right to market the game, the right to new content and features, and the right to updates or bug fixes. The contract should therefore also contain provisions in the event of disagreements between the developer and publisher during the development phase or if the game does not meet expectations.

Therefore, it is important to carefully think through all the details of the contract and determine all the rights of the various parties involved – both for the publisher and for the developers of the game. This gives both sides the certainty that their rights are mutually respected and protects them from possible legal problems.

What licensing models are available?

The success of a game usually depends on its successful marketing. Negotiating a license agreement is an important part of this process. If you want to publish your game, you need to carefully review the different licensing models and decide which one best suits your needs. Regardless of which licensing model you choose, there are some basic clauses you should pay attention to. Some of the most important clauses are:

1. publishing right: A games publishing agreement should contain clear provisions on who has the publishing right and to what extent this right applies. This is especially important to ensure that your game is not published without your knowledge or consent.

2. copyrights: the contract must grant you, as the developer of the game, the necessary rights and contain clear provisions about the extent to which and the conditions under which other parties can access your work.

3. reimbursement: the contract should specify how much money the publisher is willing to pay and what reimbursement the developer will receive. In some cases this only covers the cost of producing the game, in other cases there may be fixed fees for supporting the game or a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the game may be distributed to the developer.

4. support: Since the publisher supports and markets the game as a whole, the contract should clearly define what kind of support the publisher must provide and what costs are associated with it. This aspect can include a variety of support options – from bug fixes to customer service offerings – but it’s important to understand what exactly was and wasn’t agreed upon in the contract.

How can you maximize and minimize contract revenue?

Many developers dream of publishing their game and making big money. However, there are many factors that must be considered when negotiating a game publishing contract to maximize or minimize revenue from the contract. It is important that developers understand the various contract clauses and consider which ones they accept and which ones they do not. It is important to know the details well and weigh what is best for each party. Another important factor in negotiating publishing contracts is control over the distribution channel. This means in which countries the game is offered and which platforms you want to use.

Publishers also offer exclusive deals, but remember, the more options you have, the better! Exclusivity should be “paid for”.

Another important issue when entering into a games publishing agreement is reimbursement. Often a publisher requires the developer to pay certain costs for advertising campaigns or other services. If this point is not properly negotiated, it can be very difficult to make a profit.

To what extent do milestone payments affect the success of the game?

Milestone payments can play an important role in the success of a game. They are often the main driver for developers to find the right balance between time and resources. This way, new features and content can be integrated into the game, which can have a big impact on its success. It can also be helpful if developers receive financial support for their work, as the audience always demands new ideas and expects more game content. When entering into a games publishing agreement, developers should therefore pay attention to certain clauses. First, it is important that milestone payments are appropriate. The contract should specify when which payments are due and the value of each. This allows developers to better plan and estimate the investment in their project.

They should also check whether these payments are only made if certain criteria are met or whether they can be accessed at any time, similar to crowdfunding campaigns. In addition, it is advisable to pay attention to which rights to the game you retain yourself and which rights go to the publisher. Some contracts contain clauses stating that the publisher has all rights to the game – meaning that the developer has no control over their product after release. Developers should therefore check in advance which legal clauses are included in the contract and whether they are fair or not.

To summarize: Milestone payments can have a significant impact on the success of the game and should therefore be considered when signing a games publishing agreement. It is important to understand what to look for and what clauses might be appropriate for you – to ultimately make your project successful and move forward.

When is it advisable to negotiate with several publishers at the same time and when is it not?

The road to owning your own game is tough, but negotiating a publishing deal is another step many independent developers have to take. Choosing wisely can help save money. On the other hand, unwise decisions can lead to significant financial losses.

If you decide to negotiate with multiple publishers at once, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you need to be clear about whether this is the right strategy for your project. Multiple publishers mean more negotiating opportunities, but also more risks. If you’re considering multiple publishers at once, you need sophisticated contracts and full reciprocity of terms. This means that every publisher has the same rights and benefits as everyone else. Also, the terms need to be reviewed to ensure that none of the publishers get better terms than the other.

There are also some drawbacks to negotiating with multiple publishers at once. For example, conflicts may arise or there may be a risk of being overwhelmed. Plus, it can be difficult to keep track of all the different contracts and terms and figure out which publisher is best for your project. It is therefore advisable to carefully weigh and decide whether it is better to negotiate with one or several publishers.

If both parties cannot agree on the same terms or are unable to enforce their interests in court, it may be difficult or even impossible to resolve disputes or take legal action. Therefore, items such as licensing rights (including metrics) and financial arrangements (including royalties) in particular should be precisely defined and recorded in writing in the contract. Professional legal representation ensures that all contract clauses are fair and legally binding – for both the developer and the publisher. Bottom line: whether it’s better to negotiate with one or more publishers depends on the project and the resources required by the developer or studio.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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