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    • By Court
      Hi there, I am currently studying a diploma of screen and media and want to move on to the bachelor of game animation and design after this course finishes. I was just wondering if there was any advice anyone had on landing job interviews and finding work in general for this field. I was also wondering how hard it is to find a job in this field for females as well?
      many thanks
    • By RyRyB
      I got into a conversation awhile ago with some fellow game artists and the prospect of signing bonuses got brought up. Out of the group, I was the only one who had negotiated any sort of sign on bonus or payment above and beyond base compensation. My goal with this article and possibly others is to inform and motivate other artists to work on this aspect of their “portfolio” and start treating their career as a business. 
      What is a Sign-On Bonus?
      Quite simply, a sign-on bonus is a sum of money offered to a prospective candidate in order to get them to join. It is quite common in other industries but rarely seen in the games unless it is at the executive level. Unfortunately, conversations centered around artist employment usually stops at base compensation, quite literally leaving money on the table.
      Why Ask for a Sign-On Bonus?
      There are many reasons to ask for a sign-on bonus. In my experience, it has been to compensate for some delta between how much I need vs. how much the company is offering.
      For example, a company has offered a candidate a position paying $50k/year. However, research indicates that the candidate requires $60k/year in order to keep in line with their personal financial requirements and long-term goals. Instead of turning down the offer wholesale, they may ask for a $10k sign on bonus with actionable terms to partially bridge the gap.
      Whatever the reason may be, the ask needs to be reasonable. Would you like a $100k sign-on bonus? Of course! Should you ask for it? Probably not. A sign-on bonus is a tool to reduce risk, not a tool to help you buy a shiny new sports car.
      Aspects to Consider
      Before one goes and asks for a huge sum of money, there are some aspects of sign-on bonus negotiations the candidate needs to keep in mind.
      - The more experience you have, the more leverage you have to negotiate
      - You must have confidence in your role as an employee.
      - You must have done your research. This includes knowing your personal financial goals and how the prospective offer changes, influences or diminishes those goals.
      To the first point, the more experience one has, the better. If the candidate is a junior employee (roughly defined as less than 3 years of industry experience) or looking for their first job in the industry, it is highly unlikely that a company will entertain a conversation about sign-on bonuses. Getting into the industry is highly competitive and there is likely very little motivation for a company to pay a sign-on bonus for one candidate when there a dozens (or hundreds in some cases) of other candidates that will jump at the first offer.
      Additionally, the candidate must have confidence in succeeding at the desired role in the company. They have to know that they can handle the day to day responsibilities as well as any extra demands that may come up during production. The company needs to be convinced of their ability to be a team player and, as a result, is willing to put a little extra money down to hire them. In other words, the candidate needs to reduce the company’s risk in hiring them enough that an extra payment or two is negligible.
      And finally, they must know where they sit financially and where they want to be in the short-, mid-, and long-term. Having this information at hand is essential to the negotiation process.
      The Role Risk Plays in Employment
      The interviewing process is a tricky one for all parties involved and it revolves around the idea of risk. Is this candidate low-risk or high-risk? The risk level depends on a number of factors: portfolio quality, experience, soft skills, etc. Were you late for the interview? Your risk to the company just went up. Did you bring additional portfolio materials that were not online? Your risk just went down and you became more hireable.
      If a candidate has an offer in hand, then the company sees enough potential to get a return on their investment with as little risk as possible. At this point, the company is confident in their ability as an employee (ie. low risk) and they are willing to give them money in return for that ability.
      Asking for the Sign-On Bonus
      So what now? The candidate has gone through the interview process, the company has offered them a position and base compensation. Unfortunately, the offer falls below expectations. Here is where the knowledge and research of the position and personal financial goals comes in. The candidate has to know what their thresholds and limits are. If they ask for $60k/year and the company is offering $50k, how do you ask for the bonus? Once again, it comes down to risk.
      Here is the point to remember: risk is not one-sided. The candidate takes on risk by changing companies as well. The candidate has to leverage the sign-on bonus as a way to reduce risk for both parties.
      Here is the important part:
      A sign-on bonus reduces the company’s risk because they are not commiting to an increased salary and bonus payouts can be staggered and have terms attached to them. The sign-on bonus reduces the candidate’s risk because it bridges the gap between the offered compensation and their personal financial requirements.
      If the sign-on bonus is reasonable and the company has the finances (explained further down below), it is a win-win for both parties and hopefully the beginning a profitable business relationship.
      A Bit about Finances
      First off, I am not a business accountant nor have I managed finances for a business. I am sure that it is much more complicated than my example below and there are a lot of considerations to take into account. In my experience, however, I do know that base compensation (ie. salary) will generally fall into a different line item category on the financial books than a bonus payout. When companies determine how many open spots they have, it is usually done by department with inter-departmental salary caps.
      For a simplified example, an environment department’s total salary cap is $500k/year. They have 9 artists being paid $50k/year, leaving $50k/year remaining for the 10th member of the team. Remember the example I gave earlier asking for $60k/year? The company cannot offer that salary because it breaks the departmental cap. However, since bonuses typically do not affect departmental caps, the company can pull from a different pool of money without increasing their risk by committing to a higher salary.
      Sweetening the Deal
      Coming right out of the gate and asking for an upfront payment might be too aggressive of a play (ie. high risk for the company). One way around this is to attach terms to the bonus. What does this mean? Take the situation above. A candidate has an offer for $50k/year but would like a bit more. If through the course of discussing compensation they get the sense that $10k is too high, they can offer to break up the payments based on terms. For example, a counterpoint to the initial base compensation offer could look like this:
      - $50k/year salary
      - $5k bonus payout #1 after 30 days of successful employment
      - $5k bonus payout #2 after 365 days (or any length of time) of successful employment
      In this example, the candidate is guaranteed $55k/year salary for 2 years. If they factor in a standard 3% cost of living raise, the first 3 years of employment looks like this:
      - Year 0-1 = $55,000 ($50,000 + $5,000 payout #1)
      - Year 1-2 = $56,500 (($50,000 x 1.03%) + $5,000 payout #2)
      - Year 2-3 = $53,045 ($51,500 x 1.03%)
      Now it might not be the $60k/year they had in mind but it is a great compromise to keep both parties comfortable.
      If the Company Says Yes
      Great news! The company said yes! What now? Personally, I always request at least a full 24 hours to crunch the final numbers. In the past, I’ve requested up to a week for full consideration. Even if you know you will say yes, doing due diligence with your finances one last time is always a good practice. Plug the numbers into a spreadsheet, look at your bills and expenses again, and review the whole offer (base compensation, bonus, time off/sick leave, medical/dental/vision, etc.). Discuss the offer with your significant other as well. You will see the offer in a different light when you wake up, so make sure you are not rushing into a situation you will regret.
      If the Company Say No
      If the company says no, then you have a difficult decision to make. Request time to review the offer and crunch the numbers. If it is a lateral move (same position, different company) then you have to ask if the switch is worth it. Only due diligence will offer that insight and you have to give yourself enough time to let those insights arrive. You might find yourself accepting the new position due to other non-financial reasons (which could be a whole separate article!).
      Conclusion/Final Thoughts 
      When it comes to negotiating during the interview process, it is very easy to take what you can get and run. You might fear that in asking for more, you will be disqualifying yourself from the position. Keep in mind that the offer has already been extended to you and a company will not rescind their offer simply because you came back with a counterpoint. Negotiations are expected at this stage and by putting forth a creative compromise, your first impression is that of someone who conducts themselves in a professional manner.
      Also keep in mind that negotiations do not always go well. There are countless factors that influence whether or not someone gets a sign-on bonus. Sometimes it all comes down to being there at the right time at the right place. Just make sure you do your due diligence and be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
      Hope this helps!
    • By CocoaColetto
      Can I get in trouble for naming my game similar to one that's not in the same genre? For instance, if a game is named Playarada and I name my game Playarade, can I get in trouble? Be mindful that the games would be in two completely different genres. Thank you!
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  • 09/29/17 04:09 PM

    Indie Marketing For N00bs: Lesson 4 - Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail

    GameDev Unboxed
       (1 review)

    Welcome to the fourth entry to Indie Marketing For N00bs. This week, we’re going to talk about some things that most developers fail to really follow through on: Marketing Plans. These are both fundamental additions to any successful game on the market. We’re going to take the time here to really explain the importance of these tools, what they’re used for, and how to create them yourself.

    PLAN? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ PLAN!

    You’ve designed a game. Go you. What is the first thing most developers do before they make the game, though? They create a game design document, which entails the plan for what’s going into the game, how it’ll be implemented, and something that can be followed through or be utilized by a publisher that wants to take your game under their wing. In theory, you already know how to do exactly this, so why aren’t you designating time to do the same thing for other aspects of the process?

    A marketing plan is your personal guideline to what needs to be done early on, as well as in post-development when it comes to marketing, public relations, social media, and community management. It’s big, generally. But, it helps developers know when they need to make a post or a blog, or when they need to make an announcement due to hitting a target. This includes when you should do “Dev Diaries” or how often you should tweet. Make a plan and stick to it.

    I Love It When A Marketing Plan Comes Together!

    Everyone has a different method for their own versions of a marketing plan. Some people do a simple outline with key points and some people go above and beyond for a true precision strike outward (For instance: My plans tend to be between 9 and 11 pages, including a title page).

    I mentioned earlier that the plan can be for a publisher. If you ever plan to get picked up by a publisher (even the indie publishers), they want you to be as impactful as you can be autonomously. It’s less work and hassle for them if you come equipped with your own knowledge and tactics.

    But, maybe I don’t want a publisher. Why do I need a plan? Making a plan for yourself keeps you on a strict regimen to get your game out there. Will it ensure a 100% success story? Of course not. But, it will ensure that you are following my rule from previous entries to this series: “Every eye possible”.

    Know Your Audience And They Will Know You

    A plan should include two major sections, split into explanations for each one: Information and Marketing Tools.

    In the Information section, include a quick description of your game, maybe one or two paragraphs. This is to guide anyone other than yourself that may read this document. If you have any current statistics or analytics about your game or company, include a section for them. Set your goal here, as well. Make an attainable goal based on similar games on market. Knowing what you’re up against and adjusting your expectations to adhere to logic is a perfect way to set yourself up for a win.

    Additionally, do some research and figure out your demographic. Come up with a range of people that you believe your game is targeting. Include:

    • Age range
      • Is your game more mature themed? Would it appeal more to a nostalgic retro audience? Is it cartoony and kid-friendly? These aspects matter.
    • Gender(s)
      • With women taking to the industry in recent years, more women are likely to play your game. Take this into account here.
    • Languages
      • For instance, if you game is only in English and you have no plans to localize the game to Chinese, China might not be your demographic.
    • Systems
      • Is your game only on PC? Probably shouldn’t focus on console gamers too much then and vice versa. Is your game mobile? Why are you contacting people that only play PC games?

    Know your audience and it’ll help with future endeavors and needs.

    List Out All The Tools You’ll Use

    Marketing Tools should include Social Media, Video platforms, Game’s Website, Community Presence, Press, Paid Advertisements, and Software and Services you plan to use. This section is a lot bigger than the other, but it’s where the majority of the plan is laid out.

    What social media are you going to use? List them out here. We’ve discussed social media in a prior lesson, so add in any that are going to be linked to this game, no matter how small. Think of this as your reminder to post on Google+ or Instagram. How often will you be posting to each platform? Do you plan to tweet daily? Are you hitting other platforms often? Make sure to include even game developer specific platforms here as well. Any presence needs to be noted and should have a guide for how you handle each one.

    Do you plan to make videos for your game? Have you made a trailer? Will you be streaming the game during development or post-development for people to see progress or features? Make sure to include if you’re using YouTube, Twitch, or any other video platforms. How will you post these videos and how often? Will you be live for most of it on Twitch and then upload it to YouTube after? What’s the plan?

    Most indie developers don’t utilize their own website for promotion, but it’s a powerful tool to have a simple domain to send potential eyes to. This looks great on business cards, promotional materials, or any shout outs you make need. Some people even go a step further and implement a dev blog into their site. This can tie to the videos, as well, showing off aspects of the game that may not have been apparent. Dev Diaries, which can be shown on your site, are one of the easiest ways to keep community involvement during the creation of your game.

    Utilization of the forum structure is always a good way to keep community involvement, in both the traditional sense and the more modern takes. Reddit is ridiculously popular to show off progress and several sub-Reddits (specific sections dedicated to particular topics) are designed specifically for indie developers. Additionally, the use of Discord could be considered a “modern take” to the forum structure. Taking on an old-school IRC style mixed with vocal capabilities like Teamspeak or Ventrillo, Discord is designed for gamers and widely utilized as a community tool for the game industry.

    Media Shower: Wishing Among The Stars

    As we’ve discussed in an earlier lesson, the press and media are your friends. List out your plan to contact them and how you plan to keep them notified in your plan. This includes a guideline of when you plan to write press releases to get out to the media and press sites. Figure out what kinds of streamers and “Let’s Players” you want to try to contact and set a target.

    Include a full plan for a customized “press kit” in your marketing plan. I’m going to be setting “press kits” aside as its own lesson at a later date, but expect a much more substantial detailing of what should be in a standard press kit.

    Software, Services, and Ads

    As with any other game-related step out there, tools can and should be used when marketing. This can be a number of things, from minor social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, all the way to full analytics reporting programs like Google analytics. A popular free tool to use is Google Alerts, which can set keywords and have Google email you when something comes up in the search engine. If you intend to have people play the game in Let’s Plays, websites like Gamesight can be very helpful in tracking your game. After the game has been published, it’s important to try to get your game on such aggregates as Metacritic, not for any other reason than Twitch and other websites pull from that site for their content.

    This section should also include any paid advertising you, your publisher (if applicable), or third party will intend to use. Be concise. Since this uses real money, you can utilize the demographics designed in the first section of the marketing plan to focus the impressions and clicks. Ads can be Google, Facebook, Twitter, or a number of other platforms.

    Understand the difference between sponsored advertisements and "like" purchasing, though. It's the difference between having real eyes see your product and having some company in a click farm boost your numbers in a fake way. Fake followers and "bots"can completely mess up any intended reporting and realistic charts. You'll never know if you're actually doing good.

    Don’t forget to think out of the box, though. Marketing is only limited to your own mind. Be creative and sometimes it will pay off. Some people get a proper Wikipedia article put up for their game. If you intend to make a commercial, YouTube and Twitter can be tapped for a video-based ad. Heading to small events in your area can help get more eyes. Just make sure you have it all in your Plan.



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       1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member

    You've got me there. Absolutely helpful article. In fact I recently had some talk about "motivation" when developing long-term projects (Slides) and I mentioned some of the points listed above. Especially breaking apart your vision into milestones, which compares to making a plan, and connecting to people early by using social media. I like your references to the other platforms, especially Gamesight.io and Metacritic.com. Thanks for you writing.

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