Legal side of GameDev. Core points

Ukraine has a large number of studios whose profile is game development. The industry has no longer been represented only by groups of enthusiasts, who love games. Now each video game is not just an IP work but also a serious commercial project.

Like any other business, game studios need legal tools that will significantly contribute to the proper management of the company’s activities and assets. In this article, we talk about useful legal features for game development companies.

What to note in a contract with programmers

Next is important in the contracts with developers: the quality of their work, assignment after all the intellectual property rights and payments for good service. This is obvious. However, there are some tricks, for example:

    • Intellectual property rights can and should be assigned to the game studio from the moment of creation of the deliverables, even if deeds of acceptance were not concluded.
    • The game studio may restrict the work of the developer as an independent contractor with other studios by stipulating a minimum number of hours of services providing under the agreement.
    • The contract shall contain a provision that allow reviewing the remuneration by the parties via email. Otherwise, the payment of bonuses to employees will be difficult.

What provisions to include in the contract with game designer


  • More strict conditions for termination of the contract because game designers often are responsible for the success of whole project.
  • The contract shall contain clause with an assurance of game designer that deliverables under the agreement do not infringe of intellectual property rights of third parties. The results of the work of a game designer are one of the most visible, so it is worth mentioning once again that he is obliged to cover all the costs of the company in the event that he or she violates the rights of third parties.

Trademark as a weapon of unfair competition


A common way to eliminate business competitors (especially during the digital distribution of games) is the registration of the name of someone else’s game as own trademark. After a filing complaint to Steam/Google Play/iTunes/others, your game will be blocked on the platform.

How to counteract this? It is necessary to register in advance the name of your successful games as TM in the country where most of the audience is from, for example, the USA (state duty – from 225 USD) and/or the European Union (state duty – from 850 EUR). Fortunately, today, residents of any country can do this via the website of respective authority.

If this situation has already happened, then a long legal process awaits you and you need the help of qualified attorneys.

How to work with the publishers

Publishers often do not want to make changes to their standard contracts. Practice shows that most problems arise after several years of cooperation.

The problem may arise from the old game. Over time, you concentrate all your resources on new promising projects, but the publisher thinks that the old game needs a new localization. Now, because of short-sightedness while drafting an agreement with a publisher, you will have to spend precious hours not where you want.

Thus, the game studio needs to plan and build relationships with the publisher for years to come. In the example above, it would be useful to stipulate in the addendum to the contract the list of languages for localizations that should be published during the first few years. Publishers usually agree on it.

Outsourcing – additional way to earn money

When we talk about the ways of earning money in GameDev, we cannot ignore the providing of outsourcing services, popular among Ukrainian game studios. Outsourcing brings cash resources to create your own games. Even if it is just a secondary way of making a profit, you may get additional benefits from it with the help of the correct contract.

  • Try to save time. It is better to spend time on the realization of your own ideas. We do not recommend to agree to the provisions in the contract with the requirements for working off a certain number of hours, and also you shall always set one iteration of the deliverables.
  • • Intellectual property rights. It is good when some features can be used in your own game, but for this, you need to draw up a clause on IP rights assignment correctly.
  • Name in credits. The author has the right to mention his name in the credits of the game. In this manner, you show the participation of the studio in a good big project.

In conclusion, good contracts with the team/publishers/customers = the correct management of all areas of the game studio. At the same time, you should not forget about organizational issues, such as timely registration of TM.

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