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Drawing talent to your indie studio when salaries aren't an option

"When you can’t pay people up front, you need to be able to convince them that you’re a good bet," writes Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, founder of independent studio Nine Dots.
"When you can’t pay people up front, you need to be able to convince them that you’re a good bet."
- Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, founder of independent studio Nine Dots. The founder of independent studio Nine Dots -- which is currently developing GoD Factory: Wingmen with publisher Bandai Namco -- continues his series of editorials at Polygon with a brief guide to staffing a new studio when you don't have sufficient resources to offer anyone a salary, much less a guarantee of success. The trick, according to Boucher-Vidal, is to market your startup to nascent talent and offer perks like a "no crunch" rule, freedom to work on side projects, and a guaranteed cut of your game's revenue. Though the deal with Bandai Namco now affords Boucher-Vidal the resources to salary his seven-person team, he says the studio still intends to keep a share of revenue from its game to split among the team, "for as long as the developer stays at Nine Dots." But where do you find talented developers willing to join an unproven studio without much in the way of material benefits? Boucher-Vidal found them in nearby colleges and universities, and recommends other would-be studio founders do the same. "Schools know that most of their students won't find a job in the field in which they studied, and it looks bad for them," writes Boucher-Vidal. "So when I tell them I have openings in a startup they are not only receptive, they will actually collaborate with you to great length if you show professionalism." He also cautions developers who might be headhunted in such a fashion to consider how committed a studio's founders are to its success by examining how much money they've invested in the project. "If they aren’t willing (or able) to invest at least $15,000 from their own pocket, chances are that they are not committed or prepared enough to succeed," writes Boucher-Vidal. "In almost every case, you need to invest that kind of money to get somewhere." The full post offers a complete breakdown of how Boucher-Vidal went about starting up Nine Dots, and it's worth reading for any developers contemplating similar ventures.

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