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Verin

Sending demos and info to publishers

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I'm about to start sending demos and info about our game to publishers and I am wondering how I should work the NDA. Should I just send them the demo with some type of NDA saying something to the effect of "by looking at this cd you agree that you will not..."? I don't know how to go about this because this is my first time to try it. Are there any NDA examples on the web that cover this type of situation? Thanks for your time. David LaRocca ---------------------------- ClownKeep [edited by - Verin on April 29, 2002 11:01:54 AM]

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Many publishers will not sign or accept your NDA. You are better off contacting them and asking who to send the demo too and at the same time asking if they will sign your NDA. Most wont but you can then just ask them to send out a copy of their NDA for you to sign before sending the demo. That way you get the NDA issue sorted AND you know the name of the person to send the submission too.

You can find some more info on what to do here.....

http://www.obscure.co.uk/acquisition.shtml


Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

[edited by - obscure on April 30, 2002 6:10:32 AM]

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quote:
Most wont but you can then just ask them to send out a copy of their NDA for you to sign before sending the demo.
[edited by - obscure on April 30, 2002 6:10:32 AM]


How will me signing their NDA cover my game? Oh, and thanks for the link, I have added it to my favorites.

----------------------------

ClownKeep

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Because both your and their NDAs should be mutual (as in they bind both parties to keep discussions confidental and protect both parties) there should be no reason not to sign theirs. The only difference is that their NDA is theirs. It was created and approved by their (doubtless) very large and expensive legal department. Who, in order to justify their existence, don't let the publisher sign other people's NDAs without first spending ages checking it and suggesting changes. - It is just quicker to get theirs.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

[edited by - obscure on May 1, 2002 6:46:28 PM]

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My advice...

a) 1st find out who to send your demo to at the said publisher s.

b) Post a COPY of the same demo to yourself before you send it off to any publishers - this way you can prove in court (should it ever comes to that) that the demo/game/whatever belongs to you as it was postmarked if the publisher trys to steal you game or perhaps entire idea !.

c) Sit back and wait upto 8-12 weeks for a reply, and nag them every so often to actually look at it.

Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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quote:
Original post by Mutation
b) Post a COPY of the same demo to yourself before you send it off to any publishers - this way you can prove in court (should it ever comes to that) that the demo/game/whatever belongs to you as it was postmarked if the publisher trys to steal you game or perhaps entire idea !.



Hmm. I find myself saying this a lot lately, but I wouldn't want anyone to get burned...

Postmarks provide absolutely no legal protection for a copyright case. All it proves is that you mailed the envelope, since the post office is perfectly happy to deliver an open and unsealed envelope.

The correct procedure is either to register with the library of congress (in the US, anyway) or visit a notary public (or you local equivalent) and have him/her place their seal with a date across the back of the envelope, such that you can't open the envelope without disrupting the seal.

[edited by - cheesegrater on May 7, 2002 9:33:50 AM]

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Hmmm thats not quite strictly true as I meant to say (and should of done in my post of course) that you send yourself a COPY via ''recorded/special delivery'' - that is binding in UK law at least - not sure about overseas !?.

Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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quote:
Original post by Mutation
Hmmm thats not quite strictly true as I meant to say (and should of done in my post of course) that you send yourself a COPY via ''recorded/special delivery'' - that is binding in UK law at least - not sure about overseas !?.



It doesn''t work in the United States Courts.

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quote:
Original post by Mr_Confused
What is an NDA???

---------------------------------------------------------

Until you''ve failed, you don''t know what success is.


Non Disclosure Agreement


Basically a secrecy contract ("I Mr Blah promise not to tell anyone outside my company any secret information you give me..." "...and if I do tell anyone I agree to let you sue me for lots of money").


You sign NDAs for all sorts of things within the games world - with publishers, with PC hardware manufacturers who are going to tell/show you their unreleased chips, with console manufacturers (Sony, Nintendo, MS) when they give you documentation required to develop on those platforms etc.



--
Simon O''Connor
Creative Asylum Ltd
www.creative-asylum.com

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Recorded post, registered post or pidgeon post, sending stuff to yourself does not prove anything. The envelope could still be empty and the contents added after it was delivered.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

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Hehe OK then go lodge a date stamped copy with your bank then and ask them to put it the vault for a small fee.

Or... dont do anything at all and when/if you actually do get ripped off down the line then it''s yer own fault for being a lazy feckwit for not doing ''anything'' about it at all in the first place !.

The most important thing anyway surely is finding a publisher you can trust with your project - and it''s not that easy of course first time round being a chicken and egg situation.


Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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I'm surprised nobody in this thread brought up the idea of hiring an agent to put you in contact with publishers.

www.red-la.com
www.octagon1.com

Agents can be helpful since they already have relationships with decision makers at publishers, while you may not. It can be much easier for an Agent to get you an audience than if you try to make contact yourself.

I've found that agents are also willing to sign your NDA, although eventually any publisher might not (as was pointed out earlier).

Also, I'd suggest looking at the GDC archives for business sessions:

www.gdconf.com/archives/

Graham Rhodes
Senior Scientist
Applied Research Associates, Inc.

[edited by - grhodes_at_work on May 9, 2002 2:58:42 PM]

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Good idea but by no means safe either in ''some'' cases...

I HAD an agent... he/they ''ripped me off''... took me a lot of extra time & work to sort it all out 2-3 years down the line regards royalties.


Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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quote:
Original post by Mutation
Good idea but by no means safe either in ''some'' cases...

I HAD an agent... he/they ''ripped me off''... took me a lot of extra time & work to sort it all out 2-3 years down the line regards royalties.


Did you hire a reputable agent? And did you also have a lawyer that you trusted? Whew! The legal and business management problems are surely mind-boggling and energy-draining...you can''t let your guard down for a second.



Graham Rhodes
Senior Scientist
Applied Research Associates, Inc.

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We also used an agent for a number of years, but we let our contract with the agent expire and didn''t renew. Our agent was able to help us get deals, but I found the whole developer-agent-publisher relationship to be fraught with peril.

Since the agent has a different agenda than either the developer or publisher, using an agent can tend to complicate an already complex relationship-building process. It''s like trying to make a marriage work between three people (it''s hard enough with two). During the years we worked with an agent, every deal the agent brought us ultimately fell apart. Once we let go of the agent, things went much more smoothly for us.

I also found that many publishers are completely turned off by agents because they feel the agent is there just to jack up the price. Because of their greater experience, some agents can be far better negotiators than their equivalents at publishers, and this can put publishers on the defensive. I saw this happen on several occasions.

I think that if a developer is in it for the long run, it''s important to develop your own contacts and learn how to negotiate your own publishing deals. It can take a long time, but in the end it will really pay off. When we terminated our agency agreement, we were cut off from many of our publisher contacts, since they all knew the agent, not us. Building contacts on our own worked out much better in the long run though, and it''s much less risky.

Now that we''ve entered publishing ourselves, we''d be unlikely to work with developers who come to us through agents. Our plan is to build strong long-term relationships with a tight group of developers, and agents get in the way of building direct ties with the people behind the games.


Steve Pavlina
Dexterity Software
www.dexterity.com

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Steve/Dexterity tells it how it is for sure and totalyl agree.
Since signing direct with a previous publisher it''s been like a big weight has been lifted - utter bliss !.

I don''t think I''ll bother with an agent or middle-man type setup again it''s just to taxing on the old brain worrying where everything is and how it''s all going (something they are supposed to stop you thinking about really for the cut they take !).

DIY direct to the publisher is best for sure in the long run.

I don''t expect eberybody to agree either that''s just the ''informed'' choice I have nade after doing this for about 13 years - so there you have it.

Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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Hi,

I develop both games for my own online budget label and through trusted publisher(s), plus occasionally I work as a freelance developer for larger companies from time to time. This is all documented on the Mutation Software history page on my site.

Basically I''m into everything so that I ahve all my bases covered so to speak. Sometimes there is not much work about so I concentrate on my own indie label products, then sometimes there is so much outside work I that I go and do that instead.

Hence the name Mutation Software (always changing into and doing something else really). A of now I am currently developing an all new game featuring the Dweebs, whcih is for release in August 2002 on our own budget label and budget retail.

That''s about the top and bottom of it.

Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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Since you guys seem to have experience in doing this stuff, I have a few questions to ask you:

1) What would the royalties be for a completely finished game (using the publisher for distribution only) in comparison with a partially finished game?

2) Would publishers be more likely to want to pick up on a finished game, rather than an unfinished one?

3) Would companies be discouraged if the project manager was only 15 when he started the project (I have been programming for 4-5 years now, and I know what I''m doing - I believe I can get the project completely done with the exception of audio content)

4) Where would I be able to find information on past negotiations (contracts, etc) between developers and publishers?

5) Where would I find information on past project team sizes, budgets, etc?

6) Once a reputation has already been established for one''s company, what are the chances a publisher would let them manage the internet part (ie. payment plans, servers, etc) of a game, and keep 100% of the profit made from it?

7) What are the chances a publisher would want rights to any sequels in the future (not expansions)?

I probably won''t haveto deal with this stuff for at least 2-3 years, but it''s never to early to start, right?

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Hi,

I''m going to ''try'' and keep my answers brief here OK.

1)This is almost impossible to quantify beacsue it''s normally all based on royalties from sales, not many ''budget'' publishers will stump up up from cash these days either. Basically the bigger money is in the consoles and AAA title market, but then you''d be playing with the big boys !.

2)I would say yes from past experience.

3)Er, that is possibly not going to help - not sure !?.

4)As a seasoned developer who has already done it

5)As 4) but nobody normally likes to discuss budgets from my experience - on bigger deals it usually top secret information for the suits to know and for you to guess at !.

6)Very high if you are going to be for real about your business activities and can show you are up or it.

7)Good to very high if the original title did well for them of course.

Remember publishers are in it to turn a profit and are usually less bothered about the stuph you are going to be botherd about You make them a good game you get payed accordingly - unless you get ripped of that is, but then thats another ball game (some consider in this business at least that it''s a right of passage into the busines if you''ve been ripped off ! - I don''t, I think anybody that takes anybody for a ride should have their bum cut off !!!).

These are my opinions only and hope they help a bit anyway

Adrian Cummings (Proprietor)
Mutation Software
EMail: arc@mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.mutationsoftware.com
URL: www.dweebs.info

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Well I was thinking that if I make good on this game, I might take it to the console market (it''s $100k for the XBox SDK, right?)

Also, I didn''t really get what you meant in #1. Are you saying they wouldn''t pay me more? Because if they won''t, I''d rather have them take care of the audio.. simply because I don''t think I''ll be able to find anyone for it :\

And one more thing.. I would really like to have someone I can ask questions in the future (when I''m in the stage of actually pitching my game), would you by any chance have ICQ, MSN, or AIM? If not, then I guess e-mail will haveto do

Thanks for you help, it''s really appreciated.

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quote:
Original post by hello2k1
1) What would the royalties be for a completely finished game (using the publisher for distribution only) in comparison with a partially finished game?


This varies heavily. We pay 35% of the retail price to developers (i.e. $14 out of a $40 sale), but this is largely because our profit margin is so high with electronic distribution. With a typical brick and mortar publisher, I''ve typically seen royalties of 10-20% of net revenues, which is the wholesale price minus lots of publisher-favoring deductions. You might see something in the range of $1 to $5 per copy sold. Again, this varies heavily. Very hot developers may see higher royalties than this. There are limitless ways to structure a deal.

For a completely finished game, there may be no advance to recoup, and the publisher''s risk is lower. So you''ll generally see more generous royalties, but the publisher still has many other risks -- they have to put up the cash to market the title, for instance.

quote:

2) Would publishers be more likely to want to pick up on a finished game, rather than an unfinished one?


Yes, of course, because the publisher''s risk is lowered. In our case we won''t even look at a game until it''s hit beta.

quote:

3) Would companies be discouraged if the project manager was only 15 when he started the project (I have been programming for 4-5 years now, and I know what I''m doing - I believe I can get the project completely done with the exception of audio content)


One major drawback is that minors can''t legally enter binding contracts (at least in the U.S.). There may be legal ways around this, but I think that''s going to make it hard to get a deal. I would also be concerned about the maturity level of someone that young. Technical skills are important, but there are other factors that are far more important to me as a publisher, such as personal management skills and professionalism. I also don''t know many teenagers who understand the big picture of the developer-publisher relationship very well (they tend to be very egocentric). Nevertheless, some people this young can be very mature and can do excellent work.

quote:

4) Where would I be able to find information on past negotiations (contracts, etc) between developers and publishers?


I think the best source for this is a good software industry attorney. I''ve picked up lots of good stories and advice from my attorneys over the past several years. A developer or publisher may be involved in only a handful of deals a year, but some attorneys have been through hundreds of such deals. An honest attorney isn''t going to give you the details of specific negotiations, but you''ll still come away with good advice.

quote:

5) Where would I find information on past project team sizes, budgets, etc?


Postmortems... you can find these in each issue of Game Developer magazine. I don''t know of any centralized source for this info.

quote:

6) Once a reputation has already been established for one''s company, what are the chances a publisher would let them manage the internet part (ie. payment plans, servers, etc) of a game, and keep 100% of the profit made from it?


This is question is too general, so I really can''t answer it. I can see it going either way depending on the details.

Based on this question, one piece of advice I will give you is to beware overgeneralizing. Game publishing is a very complex business, and there are limitless ways to structure deals. The key is to work out deals that are win-win for the developer and publisher (and ultimately the players as well). What the rest of the world is doing really doesn''t matter as much as people think -- when you work with a publisher, strive to work out a deal that meets your needs and the publishers.

quote:

7) What are the chances a publisher would want rights to any sequels in the future (not expansions)?


A very general question again... so no way to answer without the specifics. Some publishers will always want these rights. Others (like Dexterity Software) feel the developer should be allowed to retain this rights.

quote:

I probably won''t haveto deal with this stuff for at least 2-3 years, but it''s never to early to start, right?


I started learning to program when I was 10. I''m 31 now. When I look back I actually feel most grateful that I played so many hundreds of games growing up. As a publisher that game-playing experience gives me a good eye for what''s fun and what isn''t.

Technical skills will go obsolete quickly, so I wouldn''t worry about them so much at your age. What I''d focus on is learning personal management skills. If you can learned to be really well organized, for instance, that''s a skill that will serve you forever, regardless of technology.


Steve Pavlina
Dexterity Software
www.dexterity.com

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