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Indie game publishers are sharing their contracts for developers to inspect

A gaze behind the curtain

Contract terms are one of those things that—no, wait, don't go. I promise this is important. Negotiating a contract is tough no matter what industry you're in, including publishing agreements for small game developers. The process of reaching an agreement is only made tougher by the lack of examples available. How do you know if you're signing a potentially bad deal if you don't have anything to compare it to? At least two indie game publishers so far have begun sharing the standard terms of their publishing contracts so that developers can see what they'll be agreeing to ahead of time.

Indie publisher Raw Fury, who've published the likes of Bad North and Call Of The Sea, posted a copy of their publishing agreement yesterday. They've also compiled other resources for developers on their site such as legal and financial paperwork samples that small or new studios may find useful.

"We believe having publisher contracts out in the open helps level the playing field, and allows devs to have a more intimate understanding of the machinations of different deals when they start looking for partnerships," they say of the choice to make this information public. "We hope sharing this knowledge can help combat shady practices where predatory people and companies fleece devs by virtue of this knowledge being so scarce, trapping developers in bad deals through the obscurity of legal jargon."

To that end, they said they hope other publishers will follow suit and make their own agreements public too. Whitethorn Digital, who published the recently-released Calico, took them up on that and shared their agreement too.

Interested parties and experienced developers have already begun digging into both agreements with comments and questions on rights sharing, revenue splits, and other important details. JW Nijman, formerly of Vlambeer fame and most recently Disc Room, has read through Raw Fury's agreement, explaining sections that are either noteworthy or potentially concerning. Nijman agrees that sharing the contract is a good move, but points out sections on advances paid to developers, non-competes, and more.

Regardless of how generous Raw Fury and Whitethorn's agreements are or aren't, having both visible to developers is inarguably a benefit to the industry. At the very least, the transparency will hopefully lead to updated terms from both of these publishers based on feedback and questions from developers. At best, this is a step towards more small teams finding the right publishing relationship to help release their games.

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Lauren Morton