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December 30, 2016 | EntertainmentFrom the blog

Independent Game Developers – What to Keep in Mind

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Updated: October 13, 2021

The independent game developer doesn’t need to be told how valuable it is to protect their work.  However, many choose to take shortcuts, use online contract generators, or proceed on handshakes.  Developers work hard to create complex worlds and innovative ideas in gaming, and now more than ever it’s important to be knowledgeable about the legal landscape.  Indie developers who are concerned with protecting themselves and their games should ask themselves the following questions:


New developers may have a firm grasp on what kind of game they want to make, but they may not be thinking of the business side of things.  When you’re putting out a product, you should have a company in place to protect your interests and limit your liability.  If you’re working alone, consider forming a single-member LLC.  If you have partners, perhaps form a multi-member LLC, or even a corporation.  Putting an entity barrier in place not only protects the individuals from liability but also gives developers the opportunity to think critically about ownership of intellectual property and investment in the business.  This will be crucial if you ever decide to sell or license your game.


Many independent developers are “moonlighting” – by day, they are working at big-name tech or entertainment companies.  If you’re living a double life, it’s important to review your employment documents with your development job.  For instance, are you allowed to use company materials in the furtherance of your own projects?  Does your current place of employment have a claim on anything you develop?  The most crucial things to consider are actions that could get you fired, or that could result in the company claiming ownership of your game.  Make certain that you are abiding by any restrictions your current job has in place.


Let’s say you’re helming a project that requires you to outsource, and you need different assets from certain people or extra hands to help code or design.  If so, make sure you have agreements with these individuals that very clearly outline your intentions before you start working – if you’re planning on being able to own whatever they put together, work-for-hire language is key.  A simple handshake among friends or a bare-bones agreement can land you in some hot water, so be prepared.


Half the battle of becoming a successful independent developer is to get your name out there.  Developing a website to showcase your work is generally advisable, but any website you develop should have terms of use and a privacy policy, especially if you are offering downloads of your game.  Another consideration is to protect any logos you’ve designed or are marketing under via federal trademark registration. Your logo and name may carry weight, but you’ll be kicking yourself if people start trying to cash in on your success.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list.  Making great games is a business, and there are always legal considerations in business.  If you’re serious about protecting your game, an attorney may be the greatest asset you develop.


The experienced attorneys at Romano Law are ready to help. Contact us at 212-865-9848 or complete this form to speak to a member of our team!

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