An essential but often neglected aspect of setting up a game studio are security, administrative and marketing plans. As a business, these are critical for long-term sustainability. Once again, it is short-sighted to focus only on your first game when setting up your studio.
In this final blog, we write about the ins and outs of this, in hopes of running your studio sustainably!
Index of Contents
When you’ve launched your game, your policy will need to elaborate on how your games collect or track information about your players. This extends from any in-app activity to third party advertisers (if you do any advertising eg. with Google Ads).
Work with your lawyer to make sure your policy is up to date and clear!
Cyber security policy
A cyber security policy is a document that outlines technology and information assets that you need to protect, threats to those assets and rules and controls for protecting them and your business. (as per government guidelines)
For a game studio, these policies could extend from detailing defences against in-game hacking, personal identifying information (PII) / credit card information leaks and more. Internally, the staff you employ should be on the same page about keeping sensitive internal information safe. This means anything from how your team manages passwords for GIT accounts to email security!
Work Health Safety policy
Work health and safety is managing the risks to the health and safety of your team, visitors, contractors, and vendors. Yes, WHS goes beyond just your employees but people who are engaging with your business as well. There are different regulators and variations of WHS laws so check here to see your state’s laws and contacts.
Okay, going back to nationwide laws, unless you are an exempt employer, you are required to have an active worker’s comp policy for your employees. We use icare which is a NSW government agency. After you get a policy, it will automatically renew every year and you will need to declare the actual wages paid to your employees. If you’ve underestimated or overestimated the wages, the renewal process will balance it out and you might get a refund or a bill.
Aside from having workers comp, you need to ensure that you have an active WHS policy in place for your employees and that it is accessible to them at all times. Here is our WHS policy which entails the responsibilities and who they are assigned to.
Insurance offers a safety net, so even if you may not use it in your first year as a business, you might find it helpful when you need it the most (especially since insurance doesn’t cover known claims or circumstances).
Now, there’s a few options out there so you’ll need to factor in the below items for getting an insurance plan that’s right for you –
|Industry||An insurance company’s underwriting appetite is basically a list of companies and industries that they are willing to insure. Some (or most) insurance companies do not include video games as part of their “underwriting appetite” as well. Since the videogame industry is quite new and has not established itself as a separate service or product, you will most likely fall under the Information & Communication Technology category for insurance companies.|
|Hardware||When you buy a product or service in Australia, you are automatically covered by the Australian Consumer Law, and most tech equipment come with insurance from the day you buy them. Some business insurance options also cover your tech equipment. You will need to speak to your insurer or broker to confirm this.|
|Location||If you have an office in the city, rent a coworking space, or work from home, then you most likely already have insurance to protect yourself and your equipment from fires and other force majeure events. You would most likely have home and content insurance if you’re working from home, and the building where your office or coworking space must have insurance for all their tenants. However, you can go on an extra step and speak to your insurer or broker if you feel that this is not enough coverage. You can also opt to get Income Protection as it also covers fires or other insured dangers.|
|Professional Indemnity||If you are providing a service, you could be in danger of a client suing you for negligence or breach of duty if they are unhappy with your service. Professional Indemnity protects your business and its reputation if a case like this arises.|
|Public and Products Liability||If your product or service results in a personal injury, damage to property, or advertising injury, you might face hefty bills to pay off hospital bills, court fees, and other fees that can arise.|
|Directors and Officers Insurance||As a business owner you will most likely be the Director as well. This position holds a lot of power as you will decide where the company goes and how it goes there. Because of this, D&O is needed to ensure that (1) you, as a Director, have your legal fees and liabilities covered in case the business sues you for wrongful acts, (2) the company’s legal fees are covered in the event that the Directors or company is sued by third parties, and (3) if you decide to be a publicly listed company then this will cover securities market conduct breaches.|
|Employee Dishonesty||There is also a separate insurance policy if you would like to toughen up your company’s security against potential risk from theft or fraud from the inside.|
Aside from the above options and the numerous other types of insurance you can get here, you should make sure your contracts and agreements are up to date and have mutually beneficial clauses that protects you from unfortunate events such as non-payment of invoices, stealing of intellectual property, and breach of confidentiality or privacy. Remember, the key in any type of business is to prepare for the worst, so make sure to cover your bases wherever possible by using the right insurance for you!
Whether you hire someone full time, part time or by contract, you should be adhering to the Fair Work Act. This checklist is useful for all the administrative aspects of hiring someone.
As a small business, it pays to set up a protocol for how you engage with applicants and potential employees. An employee, or even a contractor’s journey starts from the first time they hear or see your business all the way to after they leave. Having said that, you need to be prepared on what goes on in the hiring process from curating the job ad, assessing applicants, all the way to off boarding. This will ensure that your studio has processes in place for when teams change. You should jot down:
- How (or where) you are advertising or sharing the open role
- An updated job description with salaries
- Any types of assessments and interviews for said role
- The employee induction or on boarding process
- The employee off boarding process
For us, our hiring process involves the following:
- Initial resume/CV and cover letter submission
- Cultural assessment: An interview where we get to know the applicants values and whether they’d be a good fit for our team
- Technical assessment: A short practical assessment of the applicant’s skills
- Final decision and contract signing
- A well practiced onboarding process that follows an internal checklist for giving the employee access to relevant accounts + introducing them to the team and its norms/regular events or meetings
- Regular chat with manager
- Staff surveys and various engagement activities
- A smooth off boarding process that includes returning of all tech, deletion of access to softwares, and ensuring their contact details are active for any work they might fit in the future
Our studio values finding people passionate about the work they’re doing, as well as those eager to learn, hence the addition of Step 2. Depending on your own game studio’s culture (or what you aim to establish), your processes will no doubt differ!
Establishing Studio’s culture
Don’t be afraid to sit down with your team to consider what your studio values. There’s the “fluff”, but it’s critical that your studio’s workplace culture is actionable and tangible. In fewer words, make sure you walk the talk.
We’ve written quite a bit about establishing a game studio’s culture here, walking through the steps of defining it to creating policies surrounding it to keep yourself accountable.
Going from indie game development to being a business, it’s easy to tangle marketing your game with marketing your game studio. In Jason Della Rocca’s GDC talk about studio design, he talks about Kitfox games as an example of building a fanbase of their studio and its titles over time and across all of their new games (amidst a bunch of other useful tips!).
The short of it is: It’s easier to remarket your games to an existing audience that already knows you.Jason Della Rocca
Establishing a marketing plan
A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap for your game studio. It’s likely that you’ve already got a plan for your game title, but you should have a plan for your studio as well!
More specifically this marketing plan for your game studio should include:
- Your studio’s vision/mission: Step back from your game title and investigate what your studio’s goals in the long term are. Your studio’s values should shine through!
- Branding: Who are you as a game studio? What do you value? What’s your studio’s name and logo?
- Your website: This will be the home for all of your game titles in the future, and the landing page for crucial business relations and press.
- Content strategy and Community: As you grow, you’ll build a fan base and community beyond your first title, managing it will be critical for continued success. There’s often a debate amongst devs about things like centering the studio too much in its early years before game releases, with questions such as “Should I set up separate social accounts/discord servers for each title?”
The answer to that question depends on your studio’s goals. Are you planning to be a game studio that creates games with player bases that would benefit from separate social channels? Investigate and discuss it with your team, and don’t be afraid to experiment with your strategies.
Marketing is more than socials, paid ads, influencer marketing and press for your game title. Taking a step back to consider your business goals in the long term will be beneficial as you begin navigating the industry and its stakeholders as a business.
We hope you enjoyed reading this! Have a question or want to chat more about game development? Reach out to us!
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