(Notably, milestone builds could take 30-60 or more days to approve - but you can technically be read as in breach if it's not approved 30 days past the due date, so there's comfortable room for a breach to be claimed on a technicality.)
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Oh, what happens if *they* breach contract you ask? I get to keep my game :-) Isn't that nice? :-) Good luck proving it anyway: All publisher responsibilities total maybe 5 vague sentences that they must only try their "reasonable best" to do... any part of their entire job.
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How about rev share? 50%/50% was on the high side for the funding I was seeking (5 figures, not 6), but still would've been very profitable for me. Except, pre-recoupment (ie. until they've been repaid about a quarter-mil), the terms are *100%/0%*.
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Again: You will be due literally zero residual income from the moment the final build is approved until after around *24,000 copies* are sold. And when I say "due" income by then, I don't mean that you'll be *receiving* it any time soon.
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They don't have to start paying you your share until *30 days after the end of the QUARTER*, ie. up to 4 months past when it's *due*, and can withold "expected returns" up to 3 months more. Keep in mind, there's also no legal obligation to show you any financial records.
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Oh yeah - and your (eventual) share is also expected to cover all global sales tax. Why would *that* be a burden the party responsible for handling sales covers?
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I'm an individual and they're a corporation - letting me earn literally any money pre-recoup doesn't affect the eventual full recoupment or hurt them in any way, at all, either as a business or as individuals.
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Catch them underpaying you? There's no penalty clause (you're repaid only what was withheld), and you're going to pay for that auditor even if you DO prove fraud. For the Nth time, the exploitation is not just penalty-free but also PROFITABLE if I don't opt to gamble that cost.
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Have a disagreement over being told to add advertising systems to your game, or over changing/adding content you don't agree with? Guess what - they can have a 3rd-party dev it anyway, and you're paying for it. (Also no defined budget/cost limit on this, as before)
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When I voiced heavy concerns with the contract, they were surprised. Like, very honestly surprised. Again, I don't think they *meant* harm or to exploit. But predatory behaviour has been normalized in the industry. I guess it just doesn't stand out anymore.
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GIF
They responded by asserting the contract *couldn't* be exploitative b/c top lawyers in the industry wrote it ๐Ÿ™„ and b/c other devs have signed it. The fact that they still easily sign devs on this is a poor reflection on the industry, not a vote in favour of the practice.

5:02 PM ยท Aug 13, 2021

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Important context: They approached *me*. I wasn't looking for a publisher, and already had enough (barely, but enough) Kickstarter funds to go without them. These were the terms offered with literally as much leverage as someone in my in my position can have.
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If you're reading this hoping to find a publisher to take your small project to the next level: Get the contract. READ the contract. Skip to the terms of termination and check what happens if something goes wrong.
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Check how often and how quickly you get paid, and what visibility you have into the accounting process. Check how disagreements are resolved, and what triggers penalization. Check that they actually have to launch your game. CHECK.
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No matter what you're told conversationally, and regardless of if the people you're speaking with mean well (which they probably do), the legal terms are the ONLY guarantees you have as to how the business has to treat you - and a business will never put you first in a pinch.
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You are a person. They are a business. Don't capitulate and don't indebt yourself. Me, I'm going to make the damn game anyways, you know? Be good to each other. Thanks for reading.
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Some follow-up - can't reply to all comments anymore.
No idea how to respond to all the positive support. Thank you #indiedev. I'm really glad this has sparked more conversation, and to to see a lot of comments from devs saying they'll approach publisher contracts a lot more cautiously now. Some questions/answers/thoughts ITT:
Show this thread
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
This bit is a huge red flag for me. Like contract negotiation 101 is "offer absurd terms with the goal to talk down to something that's still good for you but actually reasonable," and I could see such terms as that strategy, but for them to say "actually this is fine" is... ๐Ÿค”
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
Some lawyers are taught ethics requires them to represent their clients the best they can and maximize their client's position. But, this assumes a level playing field with a lawyer on the other side fighting just as hard. Very unbalanced when it's corporate machine vs man.
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Most lawyers know that writing a contract that's this one-sided is bad for the business long term. People walk away when the first offer is so far from reasonable that they don't even think it's worth trying to negotiate.
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
I wonder if they bothered to read the contract themselves.
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I'm sure they did. They're lovely terms for the company, and if devs (who often don't have their own lawyers), are signing them, then the market supports those terms enough to not change them.
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