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Game Law: Competent Counsel
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Game Law: Competent Counsel

June 27, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 2 Next

Last March at GDC I had the misfortune of contracting the nasty crud like cold that was going around. The cold, combined with the usual late hours and less than normal sleep, made for some incredibly sluggish mornings. So, as I was sitting in the Marriott hotel restaurant having lots of coffee and some breakfast a few days into the show, I noticed the folks sitting at another table near me.

To be honest, I could not actually hear the conversation and have no proof that my impression of what was occurring was, in fact, true. But it sure looked that way to me and I tend to trust my gut. Besides, for purposes of this article, I guess it doesn’t really matter . . . I’ll just pretend I made the whole thing up as a clever way to make a point.

Sitting at the table were, on one side, a casually dressed young man and woman who looked like budding game developers. On the other side of the table was a nice looking fellow, not much older, wearing a suit, but no tie (publisher informal I presume). There were papers on the table and it appeared that tieless publisher’s representative was going through the document and explaining the elements of the contract to these rookie developers. It had 1st deal written all over it. It also had disaster written all over it as well.

I was horrified. I wanted to get up, go over there and make them stop. “What’s the big deal?” you say. After all, they weren’t signing the deal. There was no indication that they even believed what he was telling them or trusted what he was saying.

They could have a decent lawyer or business agent at their disposal and were really just having a little discussion so that they could get clear on the deal terms. Besides, the suit seemed like a decent enough guy and for sure knew way more than they did but this sort of thing. Who better to ask? No harm, no foul . . . right? Wrong!

Certainly anyone new to the business end of the games can gain a great deal from talking with folks with experience in the industry. And who does more deals than a publisher’s rep anyway? There is for sure a big difference between making a great game and making a great game deal.

So, it’s natural to want to acquire as much information as possible when looking at getting that first deal. It’s just that the publisher’s representative that you are looking to get a deal with is the last person you should be getting this information from, even if he or she is a great person and being really straight with you.

First - the obvious. No matter how much he may love your game (he would not be talking to you about a deal if he didn’t), this guy works for the publisher. That means that at the core, he is on the other side of the deal and has substantial responsibilities to their employer that he must honor.

More importantly, unless he has experience on the developer’s side of game deals (and some publisher reps do have this experience) even if he really wanted to help you out he still doesn’t have the developer’s perspective on a deal. The reality is that a publisher’s rep will not give you anything in a deal that you are not savvy enough to ask for, even if he or she could deliver it as part of the deal if you did ask.

Article Start Page 1 of 2 Next

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