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3 VITAL GameDev lessons from the YogVentures! Kickstarter
California game lawyer Zachary Strebeck looks at some of the lessons that game devs can learn from the YogVentures! Kickstarter, which raised over $500,000 but has ended development without shipping the product.
August 18, 2014
9 Min Read
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the potential legal implications of the much-publicized failure of the “YogVentures!” Kickstarter from the perspective of the backer. This week, I’d like to touch on some of the lessons that can be learned by developers who are using Kickstarter to fund their projects. Hopefully, these three lessons will help others avoid a similar fate in the future.
Get a team in place that knows the business you are in:
A team of qualified professionals can be a vital part of any entrepreneurial journey. This is particularly true when the entrepreneur is embarking on a project with little to no experience. However, sometimes getting just any attorney, accountant or project manager isn’t enough.
As with any other aspect of game development, it is important to hire the right people for the job. For instance, a lawyer who is familiar the game development process can help to anticipate some of the problems that may crop up throughout development. Knowing this, they can build solutions to these problems into whatever contracts are drafted before that development starts. Many of the major legal issues in game development are similar to those in other fields. However, there are plenty of GameDev-centric problems that may not apply to, say, film or television production.
Another example might be an accountant or manager who understands how Kickstarter works and the ins and outs of getting paid (such as dealing with the fees and with backers who don’t pay). This can help them to plan the financial realities of the project better and keep the scope within that budget.
Socrates was right. It is important to be very cognizant of one’s experience and limitations when embarking a game development journey. I often recommend that new developers start small and expand as they gain experience, infrastructure and confidence.
Similarly, this works with Kickstarter as well. A smaller crowdfunding project potentially has a better chance to fund and is an attainable goal. In the “YogVentures!” case, the project had the potential to be huge. Though a proof of concept early on seemed to show that the game that was envisioned would be attainable, this was obviously not the case. Had the parties involved had more experience, they may have better understood the amount of work that the project would take to get right.
Understand and plan for the difficulties of working with a partner:
Game development is often impossible to do all by oneself, particularly something on the scale planned for “YogVentures!” In that case, the theme of the game and many of the creative decisions were the result of a partnership between Winterkewl and YogsCast.
However, creative differences abounded from the start and would plague the project throughout development. Then there is the issue of the $35,000 that was paid to one of the artists, which seemed to be the jumping-off point of the real issues between the two development entities.
Having clarity in the roles of the partners, particularly when it comes to who is in control of the product, milestones that must be met and how decisions are made, can be a vital part of the partnership agreements. Rather than just skating by on trust, it is usually better to get all of this down in writing to ensure that all parties have the same understanding of the partnership going forward.
While some of these issues can be addressed in a “boilerplate”-type agreement that can be obtained through a site like LegalZoom, many issues are not anticipated in such documents. It is important to have a professional look over or draft a custom document for your uses. As I always say, spending a little money up front can help to avoid losing a lot of money later.
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