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    • 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 Rafael Smeers
      Nice to meet you!
      First of all, it is a pleasure to be around and thank you for the available help!
      Basically, I am working on a new project and I would like to share some concept arts on my Twitter. The point is I am quite confused as to what I need to do to protect the general game idea, assets, and my company logo from being stolen/used unproperly by other people.
      I will definitely make great use of such information!
       
    • By James Britton
      Video game industry is at its best with $108.9 billion in global revenue for 2017, representing a 8% growth compared to 2016. According to Newzoo, there are currently more than 2.2 billion active gamers across the globe.
      In spite of this massive growth in gaming industry, the video game retailer GameStop has been struggling over the past few years as video game purchases from retail stores continue to decline due to the strong growth in the e-commerce and competition from online giants like Amazon.
      The Grapvine, Texas-based company, which had a total of 7,535 stores at the end of its fiscal 2016, anticipated to open about 100 new stores as well as close about 130 Video Game Brands stores worldwide and 55 Technology Brands stores in fiscal 2017.
      The demand for Nintendo Switch drove GameStop's sales up 15% in the recent quarter. https://news.alphastreet.com/gamestop-q4-2017-earnings/


      View full story
    • By James Britton
      Video game industry is at its best with $108.9 billion in global revenue for 2017, representing a 8% growth compared to 2016. According to Newzoo, there are currently more than 2.2 billion active gamers across the globe.
      In spite of this massive growth in gaming industry, the video game retailer GameStop has been struggling over the past few years as video game purchases from retail stores continue to decline due to the strong growth in the e-commerce and competition from online giants like Amazon.
      The Grapvine, Texas-based company, which had a total of 7,535 stores at the end of its fiscal 2016, anticipated to open about 100 new stores as well as close about 130 Video Game Brands stores worldwide and 55 Technology Brands stores in fiscal 2017.
      The demand for Nintendo Switch drove GameStop's sales up 15% in the recent quarter. https://news.alphastreet.com/gamestop-q4-2017-earnings/

    • By Ann Chufarlicheva
      Hey. I'm new on this forum. I and my friends create our first game. I'm drawing graphics and doing animation for our game. Well, I want to ask how much the artist or animator earns in the gaming industry. I plan to move to the US later this year. I want to try work in the gaming industry. I am from Russia.
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Financial Solo game development as feasible profit-oriented business?

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Hi guys,
I'm junior engineer and I have one goal in mind: I'd like to beat my current net salary (40-60k)  in the time frame of 24 months, by starting a solo part-time business, which would over time hopefully grow into full-time activity. Let me point out that the business would be primarily profit-oriented, which means that the 1st priority is to generate targeted amount of income, followed by "doing what I like to do".
I have thought about game development being one possible business to achieve my goals. And before you jump on me that I'm trying to do something without any experience,  I'm able to tell you, that I'm not entirely unexperienced in the field of game development. In fact, As a hobbyst I have developed handful number of small flash games, covering the art, programming, game design and sound production by myself, so the whole idea - at least from the standpoint of implementation of a small 2D game - might not be that much of wishful thinking. In addition, during my studies I was also developing C# apps in the scope of enterprise solutions, in order to earn some pocket money. 
In regards to game development I have done some googling, which suggested, that game development market is business-wise, almost the same as music production market - overly saturated, high entry barrier, high probability to fail, and for most of the producers, a mediocre payment accordingly to requirements. In business terms, this might be labelled under high-risk/low-reward business. Or in other words,in game development I might have as much chanches to earn 40-60k NET a year as I would have in music production.
What is your consensus about this?

CLIFFS OF THREAD:

If you are solely profit oriented, avoid the game dev business like the plague. /thread[background=#ffffff] [/background]

Edited by 2cents

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Sure, you stand about as much chance of netting $60k/a as a solo game developer/entrepreneur with little to no applicable experience as you would as a pro musician, pro sports player, or pro actor in the same boat.

I mean, you know, you might have played on your high school football team, tossed a ball around with some friends every day after school, own at least 3 Nikes, and watch Sunday Gridiron Shouty Extravaganza religiously for years making better calls than the coaches down on the sidelines, so the NFL should be offering you a contract as a starting quarterback, yes?

I guess it would be better to invest my time and effort anywhere else, but in game dev. Maybe I should go scam multi billion dollar off-shore oil companies with a black box solution, which can detect and locate a pool of oil just by pressing a red button.  

Edited by 2cents

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My advice is, keep your day job and spend your free time to make a game. This way you can see just how much your skills as a developer is worth, without risking it all.

I'd never quit my job without having a reliable business running first. That would be some seriously risky shit.
 

Games have very low entry barrier, all you need is a engine and you can get great ones for free. Because of this it's even more saturated than the music production. practically anyone can make a game and upload it to a online store these days.

Yes, and this is why there is so many games most of them being plain rubbish. But what I actually meant is, that for a game product, the requirements to meet some kind of industry standard and to be realistically competitive, are high:

1. game has to be working and functional. Apparently 90% of dev already fail here.
2. game has to have quality and polished graphics. No polished art and developer have just increased risk of multiple fold that game won't sell (I can tell you personally, that when I see cheesy graphics, I run for the hills)
3. game has to be fun. Not a fun game is not a game. It's a boring app without purpose. This is probably the most important element of a game product, and as you can guess, it cannot be derived analytically. So even if a developer fullfills points 1 and 2, which is already an achievent, ship will sink if the game is not fun.For instance, when I was developing business application in .net, client didn't give a damn how it looked neither how fun was it. All what he cared was that it solves a problem and therefore is functional. So in case of programming business apps, only point 1 has to be fullfilled.

Edited by 2cents

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Generally I would say that you are unlikely to set up a solo studio and make that kind of money without several years of development, and a couple of game releases - For one, the first game you work on will if you are aiming for a well designed game take like a year or so if you contract out artwork etc, but then youre paying for the art in the game (which can be pretty costly). Of course if youre good you can do the art yourself. Audio - Contract out or do yourself?

I mean I have friends who run an Indie studio, they were a couple when they started it and now about 2 years down the line they are making (between them) around 25 - 30k will a game released on steam and a second game being worked on, though most of their income is from freelance contract work still.

On the other hand, I work making business applications for a company, earn more and have pretty good career growth prospects ahead so likely for a fair while I will continue to earn more, just from a job and whether they hit the same income or not remains to be seen.

Basically, it is possible to earn that from a solo studio, though its fairly unlikely and will most likely take a long time to build up a reputation as a studio for having fun / good quality games unless you happen to strike a goldmine idea that people love.

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If you're an extremely talented game designer (most people are not) and a somewhat talented programmer, know a somewhat talented artist willing to partner up with you, both have enough savings to pay living expenses for a year plus marketing costs, and are able to network with publishers / leverage existing relationships, then you have a shot at making two above-average gamedev salaries.

I know a total of two people in that boat, and a lot of other people making way less than their living expenses, forced to work as contractors or full time to make ends meet.

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so without teaming up, having an actual talent and spending 6months of net time for a product and possibly sell it on a more promising platoform like steam, I can forget about my goals. Case closed. I knew that the odds were bad, but despite I got surprised.

Nevertheless, could you suggest me some fields which may be more prospective and realistic to achive the goals outlined in the OP? Edited by 2cents

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