Publishers, as businesspeople, focus a great deal of attention on risk avoidance. They sometimes even use it as an excuse to convince developers to accept terms in a deal that are, in reality, unnecessary or overreaching.
In a deal with a developer the easiest way for the publisher to minimize risk is to put as much risk as possible on the developer. So, back-end loaded budgets, long payment procedures and the necessity of the publisher owning the IP is standard "policy" for many publishers.
Well, as a professional negotiator, I'll tell you what I hear when someone says "it's policy" or "it's the standard deal in the industry." I hear nothing.
If the publisher cannot provide a realistic logic-based justification for an adverse contract provision, make them or don't agree to it. And if the best they can come up with is "reduction of our risk" be extremely skeptical.
I recently ran into a really clever ploy by publishers. In order to overcome the objection to IP assignment for original IP games, instead of demanding the IP ownership in the deal, publishers are now allowing the developers to retain IP ownership until after the game is released.
However, the publisher retains an option to buy out the IP (and in the process the developer's rights to a back-end royalty in the process) if the game performs above a certain level.
What level, you ask? Well, it is inevitably some time before the advance recoup point when back-end royalties would normally kick in if the game is a hit! You really have to admire their guile.
If the game sucks, the developer can keep the IP. But if the game is a hit, the publisher owns it and the developer gets screwed out of any back-end royalties in the process!
There is certainly a perception that there are more developers and games than there are available deals. There certainly are.
However, that does not apply to the right game at the right time. Each game is in many ways unique and if you are lucky enough to garner the interest of a publisher you can rest assured that they believe that your game will succeed.
It could be unique gameplay, your team's reputation in the industry or filling the right slot in the publisher's portfolio strategy. But regardless of why they want your game, once you pass that threshold, you no longer have one of the many games in the marketplace, you have the game that the publisher desires.
And, as I already stated, getting the right games to publish is the whole point of the exercise for the publisher in order to insure their ongoing success.
So, what does having a long-term vision for your studio have to do with your negotiations? Initially, the impression the studio makes on the publisher can make a significant impact on the course of the negotiations.
Conveying a coherent vision can instill a sense of competence in the mind of your contact at the publisher -- that the developers are serious-minded about the long term success of their business, not just their current game. This level of respect will usually have a positive impact on the process.
Also, having a long term vision for the studio can impact the sort of deal that will ultimately be acceptable to the studio.
After all, taking a deal that does not provide sufficient revenue for the studio to survive the development process and stay healthy in the post-release period is important, especially if the long term goal is to build a great studio, not just to make a great game -- which should be the long-term goal of every studio.