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.
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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

5:30 PM ยท Aug 14, 2021

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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
You are naive but made the right choice. They would have forced a contract breach then taken your game from you. If you somehow evaded them doing that, they still force costs on you and put you in a situation you can't easily get your money from them.
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Seems a mite rude to call me naive for turning down a predatory contract, no? ๐Ÿค”
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
interesting
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
The sad thing is, they gave you this awful contract expecting you to have your own attorney, who wouldn't treat the awful contract like a personal affront, and then negotiate from there with a version just as awful but in your favor, and then meet in the middle.
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
Do you not have a lawyer? They aren't coercing you to signing the contract, they came to you, and you said you don't need it. It's not internet drama, its a business to business negotiation.
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
Bravo! That's a hideously abusive contact. I promise you their surprise at your concerns was an act. And they lied that you're the first to object.
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And they WOULD take advantage of those exploits. A.P.: "Boss, I'm going to have trouble approving Jake's build on time. What's the penalty if we're late?" E.P.: "If you miss this deadline..." (*glances at contract*) "... I'll give you a bonus and a promotion."
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
It's weird that people think to seem a lawyer would've have solved everything. Our team was in a similar situation, had a lawyer who gave us the same conclusion as Jake. We don't regret having one, but saving money by knowing your deal breakers isn't foolish.
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
Great write up, thanks for sharing.
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Replying to @jakefriend_dev
Seems weird. I've never been in negotiations where the other side were tied with no power to rewrite. If so, kick up? And when contracts been rotten to the core I've asked for complete rewrites and gotten it. IME this is not the norm.
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