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How do you start a 'games studio'?

Hey all,

This is probably going to sound really naive, but hey ho.
Me and a group of friends were going to create some games & mobile apps.
We would like to do this under a collective name or studio.

Now is it as simple as picking a name, buying a domain and going for it? Or is there other things we need to do or look out for?

Is there somewhere we need to ‘register’ as the games would hopefully generate a small amount of money (be it donations or ads). I understand if we some miracle happened and we were the next ‘minecraft’ it’d be time to call in someone to deal with things but for the small time guy is it safe to just go for it?

Thanks,

If you’re serious about building a studio, get solicitors involved from day one, lay out who owns what, who is responsible for what, and set yourself up with a limited company and employment contracts for all involved. You want to get this all done there and then, as it lays out quite cleanly your respective situations with one another and will prevent future disputes.

I believe it cost somewhere in the region of £12,000 to set up our company - the vast majority of this spend was on solicitors fees.

Thank you for your response,
At this time everyone on the project is working in their spare time and have other employment, and we have no capital to make big commitments like that.

I suppose what I’m really needing to know, is if (for example) we make a game and right ‘GiraffePencils studios’ on it, and on ‘GiraffePencils.com’ we have the list of members of that team and their roles, would that be enough to move forward with the likes of app submissions etc.
Ignoring the legalities of if there was a dispute amongst the team over intellectual property.

For the most part you can make stuff up as you go along as there is not really anything you need to do as to the ideals of being a “company”

The one “MUST” do thing though is you have to have a signed contributors agreement from anyone on the team or wishing to join. The reason is simple as copyright is applied on creation so as part of the creation of a project code and content remains with the creator until it is conveyed by contract as work for hire or as a CC0 donation.

I don’t think you can really forgo it, it’s quite important when it comes to asserting things like ownership rights - some entity needs to own your app otherwise when **** hits the fan, you can have real problems. Whilst you could submit an app without doing so, you put yourself in a pretty bad position. It’s not just things like who receives how much money, and what happens if someone wants to pull their content / code out of your app - it also affects other things like who is responsible if legal action is taken against the team.

I’m not planning to forgo everything, It might sound bad, but I am trying to go down the ‘cheapest’ road as this is a casual arrangement at the moment.
I am just trying to move forward in the best way so that if we get to a customer facing release, we’re on good ground.

I’m thinking that a contributors agreement sounds the best to move forward, and then at the point we get to a customer release position discuss that it should be released as a registered company.

You can operate under a company name as a DBA (Doing Business As), which basically means just you as an individual operating as a company name. The next cheaper alternative would be to self register a corporation (assuming you do some proper homework about corporation types and requirements, taxes, etc.) and get a corporation setup kit for about $300 in most places in the U.S.

There are likely also companies local to you that will help set up new corporations and do corporate filings for you for reasonable prices.

Whether you go DBA and transfer ownership later to a corporation or go straight to registering a corp independently as always it’s preferable to hire professionals for the setup and guidance for good reason.

For publishing on Steam you need a company with a tax id number and a bank account. In the U.S. fees are around $300 depending on what State, but most companies also use an Attorney to help set everything up because the agreements you think you’ve made clear in writing may actually fall apart in court.

It really depends on the Platform you are publishing on, and who you need to pay taxes to depending on where you are. I tried to look into it on Steam, but only know the rules for a U.S. based company.

It’s a lot cheaper if you don’t involve solicitors. You can set up a registered company in the UK for less than $50 online.

There are a ton of legal issues related to forming a company. From filing taxes yearly for the company to making sure you are not breaking any laws about how to take care of your employees. Speaking with a lawyer is preferred. But if you absolutely can’t, you can usually get some basic guidance on Google, but the quality of such advice can vary wildly.

DBA or fictitious name filing is probably the easiest, but doesn’t provide the same protections as a LLC or Corp.

I definitely recommend getting at least some legal advice from professionals.

Regardless, you have to do it legally. If you just pick a name and run with it without going through the proper channels to register your business, you are just asking for trouble.

There is however nothing wrong with setting up a website for your game. Just don’t misrepresent yourselves as a company. For instance, in your About Us section on your site you could say “XYZ GAME is being developed by a group of hobbyists that consists of Person A, Person B, etc.”