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#58:

CONTRACTS IN THE GAME BIZ

Legal Stuff, Part Two

Originally written: December, 2005. Latest update: June, 2016.

NOTE: This article is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.


When you get into the games biz, either as an employee, a lone wolf, or a freelancer, you will encounter contracts. There are contracts for just about everything. That was the bad news. But the good news is: you can read them, and you can ask for changes to their wording (before you sign them, and only with some of the contracts, not all of them).

There are different kinds of contracts. You probably won't encounter all of them, unless you become a producer.

Employment Contracts

Development Agreements

License Agreements

NDAs and Confidentiality Agreements

Collaboration Agreements

This article has described the most ubiquitous types of contracts - the types of contracts you hear about the most and are most likely to be affected by, as you progress through your game industry career.

Contracts are a necessity of business. It's important, when starting a business venture between two entities, to have a clearly defined set of expectations for what the two entities will do for one another. Companies who do business without contracts, or with poorly-written contracts that don't cover enough of the necessities, quickly learn the importance of having contracts that are well written. The more a company learns (by having had bad experiences, unfortunately), the longer the contracts get. (^_^) That's the way the world works, so just deal with it.

In article 21 and article 35 I talked a little about the sort of contracts that go along with submitting a game to a publisher. And there are other kinds of contracts associated with games too. Like agreements with actors who provide voice for games, like agreements to use technology, and agreements between game publishers and platform holders, and distribution agreements.

Game attorney Jim Charne used to write a monthly column on the IGDA website, called "Famous Last Words." A lot of very important legal concepts for game developers. If a link doesn't work, try altering the URL to start with "http://legacy.igda.org/" (the IGDA website went through a massive redesign in the summer of 2013, and all columns went to the legacy archive - the columns are still there, if you can figure out how to find them. And you can also try using the the Internet Archive Wayback Machine).

Want to see sample contracts? These may not be game-industry-specific, but they can be darned useful. http://contracts.onecle.com/


Got a question or comment about this FAQ? Email your comments to - you'll get a response on the Sloperama Game Design bulletin board.

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© 2005-2015 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.