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Games Industry Law Summit – who's coming & some data to share

Games Industry Law Summit
Games Industry Law Summit – who's coming & some data to share
By Sergei Klimov • Issue #54 • View online
It’s been a while since the last issue of this newsletter!
How are you all doing? Here’s hoping that the approaching holiday season is here to distress your work environment, and that your Slack channels are more festive than, say, those of “Away” (I find that story to be relevant to the games industry, too, where sometimes a similarly harsh approach may take all the joy out of working with what is essentially just a fun product).
Today, we start with a coupe of news items, and then dive into a bunch of updates on the Summit.

Discord's 90/10 game publishing platform
About a year ago, the wonderful folks at Discord had this to say on the topic of digital distribution:
So, starting in 2019, we are going to extend access to the Discord store and our extremely efficient game patcher by releasing a self-serve game publishing platform. No matter what size, from AAA to single person teams, developers will be able to self publish on the Discord store with 90% revenue share going to the developer. The remaining 10% covers our operating costs, and we’ll explore lowering it by optimizing our tech and making things more efficient.
I haven’t really seen any news on this topic since then, so I assumed that the idea got ditched: I no longer even have a “Discord Store” tab in my Discord app, which used to be somewhere next to the main menu… As I was writing this update, though, I did a bit of a search and found out that it is, indeed, still possible to sell your game through Discord – if you set up a “store channel” on your server.
The example used on Discord’s sign-up page shows FTL from Subset Games. The search for “Subset” or “FTL” on Discord’s discovery portal, however, returns zero results. My next stop was CDPR’s Cyberpunk 2077 Discord server: they have over 100K users, but no store channel.
But then I asked myself about who is probably the smartest indie dev team that I know of, and hit gold with Unknown Worlds Entertainment – the developers of Subnautica. Not only do they have a Discord server with 50K users, but they also have two store channels where they sell their games (here’s a web link if you don’t have the app).
My takeaway here is that Discord’s ‘publishing platform’ turned out into something that doesn’t really compete with Steam or EGS, and is not even a “platform” per se, but rather became a nice additional option for mid-sized US/EU-focused game developers with an already existing Discord community.
And the irony is… it doesn’t even matter if the split is 90/10 or 70/30, because the key feature is simply the fact that the game’s audience that you have on Discord can purchase the game right there, without leaving the app. For dev teams, this means an easier time converting “fans” into “owners”, regardless of the distribution fee.
Launching on Steam as "unlisted app"
If you know something about my own dev team, Charlie Oscar, then you are probably aware that we spent the last couple of years working on an experimental game called Spire of Sorcery, which we recently released on Steam as an “unlisted app”.
Launching a game as “unlisted” is really an extension of Steam’s Early Access program: you get to use all the features of Steam, but you’re safe from the over-exposure because the only way for someone to access the game is to actually find the exact URL of the store page. Here’s our public Steam page, and here’s our unlisted Steam page, for a comparison.
At the time of release a few weeks ago, our game had a Discord community of 4,000 users and we ended up with 1,200 sales at launch, which is about 30% as far as conversion rates go. The reason why I bring this up at all is that, in theory, using Discord’s store channel could have been a killer move on our part with a possibility to make the conversion to owners even higher, since our audience is on Discord – so adding a “store channel” sounds like a no-brainer.
Yet in practice, it works differently: our biggest audience with Spire of Sorcery proved to be in Japan, followed by Russia and then by China; and there, using Steam’s features of regional pricing and local payment methods was crucial for conversion.
We must be able to take ¥2,000 from our Tokyo-based players, ¥80 from those in Beijing, and 500 руб. from those in Moscow, and they all must be able to use whatever they normally use to pay those amounts – digital wallets in China, local credit cards in Japan and street kiosks in Russia, for example.
So in the end, I think Discord’s “store channel” feature is really neat specifically for US/EU-focused game developers, and like Humble Bundle, they add to the palette of tools available to independent studios – which is a great thing. As to whether this channel will become a core part of someone’s publishing strategy… I don’t really see that happening.
Valve gets better at comm w/developers
The best feature of the Epic Games Store, to me, is the motivation that it provides to the Steam Team at Valve to get better at what they do.
After years of slumber, we’re seeing a lot of new faces on the business development team in 2019, a brand-new Library, and a new system of events and announcements.
Valve even got better at communication, which historically has been its weakest point! Three things happened recently:
(1) Valve got @steam account on Twitter, transitioning there from their previous handle @steam_games.
(2) Valve started using a separate Twitter account for its developer program, @steamworks (according to the registration date, it only took them one year to post their first tweet).
(3) The Steam Team is now regularly and actively communicating about new features with every registered developer via a newsletter of sorts – and despite using the platform for years, we still find these newsletters useful (and their double sign-off rather endearing).
Summit 2020 in numbers (so far)
And now let’s run through the real reason for this issue, that is – a few updates on the event. First off, here’s the updated list of sponsors who make it possible for us to improve the Summit with every new edition:
Secondly, we’re eight registrations short of 200 attendees, and we think that we’ll wrap at about 220 overall, which would be a 10% increase over the last year.
I know that a number of people are still waiting for their next year’s budgets to confirm their registrations, and we’ll hold the space for everyone who contacted us on that, but we’ll be generally limiting all new registrations just to in-house / games companies from here onwards unless a law firm attendee comes highly recommended by someone in the existing community.
Here’s how the Summit grew in the last five years:
Originally we thought to cap it at 140 people, and then at 180, but 2019 has proven that as games companies mature, there’s more and more in-house counsels who join the industry, and we just need a larger venue to accommodate everyone who’s qualified.
Here’s a look at the number of countries where the attendees come from:
And here’s the current split between attendees from games companies and attendees from law firms:
Finally, 29% of the currently registered attendees of Summit 2020 will attend the event for the first time and 71% have attended at least once before. Among these, 49% will attend for their 3rd time, 31% for their 4th time, 15% for their 5th time, and 10% for their 6th time. All these numbers, of course, add a touch of pressure
Who's coming?
We list attendees on a dedicated page, though we might be somewhat late with updating it.
Below is the list with the games companies that are currently represented at the Summit in 2020:
AB Games (UA) Awem Games (CY), Azerion (NL), Backpack Games (TR), Bandai Namco (JP), Bungie (US), CCP Games (IS), CD PROJEKT RED (PL), EA DICE (SE), Epic Games (US, UK), ESL Gaming (DE), Fingersoft (FI), Fnatic (UK), Focus Home Interactive (FR), GAME (DE), Game Insight (LT, RU), Gameloft (ES, FR), Gearbox Software (CA), GOG (PL), Google (US), IMI.VC (US), Innova (RU), Kama Games (AE), Lazy Bear Games (RU), Navatron (UK), Pearl Abyss (KR), Playgendary (CY, BY), Playkot (CY), Playrix (IE, UA, RU), Pokemon (US), Rebellion (UK), Riot Games (US, IE), Rovio (FI), SEGA Europe (UK), Square Enix (UK), Supercell (FI), SYBO Games (DK), TaleWorlds (TR), Valve (DE), Vizor Games (BY), Wargaming (CY, LT, UA, CZ), ZeniMax (UK).
If you’ve read the above, and you thought of a studio that’s missing from this list – please let us know! We’ll be happy to approach them, and invite their business/in-house people to attend (there’s about 6 more companies that are in the process of confirming who’s going to attend from their side, and who are not yet listed here).
And here’s the list of law firms:
Allen & Overy (FR), Baker McKenzie (RU, UA, DE, PL, ES, UK), Banner & Witcoff (US), BEITEN BURKHARDT (DE), Broad & Bright (CN), BTG Legal (IN), Chrysostomides (CY), City-Yuwa Partners (JP), CMS (DE), DCA (BR), Debevoise & Plimpton (US), Deloitte (CZ), Dentons (RU, CN), DLA Piper (RU), DZP (PL), Fenwick & West (US), Fierst Bloomberg Ohm (US), Fondia (FI), Frankfurt Kurnit (US), Gabnys (LT), IHDE (DE), Insight Studio Legale (IT), IP. TECH-LEGAL (TR), Karanovic & Partners (RS), KGT (TR), Kim & Chang (KR), KLM Law (PL), Leegal Oy (FI), Linklaters (PL), LMO Advocaten (NL), Lupsa & Associates (RO), Miller Thomson (CA), MSK (US), Nordx Legal (EE), Osborne Clarke (DE, UK, FR, IT), Perkins Coie (US), Pillar Legal (US), Purewal & Partners (UK), Reed Smith (UK), Sheppard Mullin (US), Sheridans (UK), TaylorWessing (DE, PL, BE, UK, UA, CN, NL), Tyz Law (US), (RU), Vlasova Mikhel & Partners (BY), Wiggin (UK, BE), WINT (LT), WSGR (US), Y. Karamanolis & Associates (CY).
Basically, once you attend the Summit, you’re well set for almost any kind of a cross-border deal.
Hotel update: standard singles sold out!
If you haven’t booked a hotel, the time to do this is now. Vilnia, Kempinski, Artagonist and Shakespeare are sold out of standard rooms and PACAI is close to that. Please ask Alma for an updated hotel map with the event rates, and she’ll connect you to the booking manager at the specific property.
Currently, roughly ¼ of all attendees stay at PACAI, ¼ at Kempinski, ¼ at Vilnia and the rest – at Shakespeare and Artagonist.
The Attendee Book 2020
One of the (several) new things that we try in 2020 is creating a proper Attendee Book of the Summit. Why? To help you make the most of the Summit during, and after, the event.
In a nutshell:
  • one page per attendee
  • lists current position as well as two previous jobs
  • lists location, languages spoken
  • lists 3 key proficiencies (e.g. M&A, Litigation, Privacy)
  • shows the name, and graduation year, of the last 2 schools
  • has a 5-question personal Q&A to understand the person better
On the one hand, this is a really labour-intensive project as we need to contact each of the 200-220 attendees and verify their information individually. On the other, once this is completed, it will help you to identify the people whom you want to meet at the event the most, as remember them once the event wraps up.
We currently plan to produce only the printed versions, and we already started the project by sending the first 5 pages for approval.
Please keep an eye on an email from me or Alma: you will have 2 weeks to respond, and if we don’t hear back from you, then we’ll exclude your page from the Book as we’ll consider it to mean that you’re unwilling to be listed.
Specialty Tea Corner
Two years ago, we introduced for the first time the (complimentary) Specialty Coffee Corner at the Summit, manned by Arnas and Mindaugas of Kavos Broliai who import and roast their own coffee beans from all over the world. It’s been a great success in both 2018 and 2019, and it’s coming back in 2020 (with some extras, more on this later).
At the same time, we kept looking for a way to improve the attendee experience of those among us who don’t really drink coffee, and we’re happy to report that in 2020 the Summit will have its first Specialty Tea Corner:
Pictured above is Ernestas Klevas, whose lifelong passion is tea and who, like Arnas and Mindaugas, imports the tea himself, working directly with the actual producers.
Over the last two months, working together with him, we’ve gone through a number of options for what can be brewed during the event, and here’s the result:
Komorebi Sencha (Japan)
“This remarkable sencha from Mie is grown and picked in early spring. Our Komorebi sencha is 100% hand-picked and made from a single cultivar (Yabukita varietal)” – depending on the harvest in 2020, we might be in luck to enjoy the very first fresh sencha of the year.
Amber Oolong (Thailand)
“Exceptional roasted oolong tea cultivated at altitudes between 1400 m and 1600 m. A nicely crafted, lightly oxidized oolong dominated by an olive-green appearance. A spicy, slightly wooden, roasted flavor with flowery notes.”
Black Assam (Nepal)
“The full-bodied, malty quality of Assam is often the backbone of popular European blends such as English Breakfast. Our Assam is a hearty robust brew, yet exhibits a mellow, woodsy character with a comforting, malty and fruity finish.”
[caffeine-free] Fresh Ginger (Nepal)
“The infusion combines the intense flavors of licorice and mint which blends well with ginger, lemongrass, lemon peel and black pepper. The tea is made without any artificial flavors.”
Summer White (Nepal)
“A white tea, with its mellow and delicate flavor. Classic mellow and delicate flavor, alongside unusual and long-lasting sweet aftertaste.”
Summer Muscatel (Nepal)
“A signature tea highlighting the exciting flavor profile of teas produced during the summer flush in the highland Nepal. The soft, yet lively, fruity notes of peaches and plums start off the cup and give way to sweeter floral aromas and flavors which is so unique for a summer made, high-grown teas from Nepal.”
The Tea Corner will be located in the lobby of the Palace, just in front of the main hall, and we’ll serve the tea both in recyclable double-walled paper cups and in ceramic cups – with the exception of sencha and oolong, that will be only served in ceramic cups.
Working Lunch – call for topics!
The last thing I need to detail today is another new concept for 2020: that of a Working Lunch on Day 2.
Previously, we organised all the lunches as a full buffet at the Kempinski, and people were organising themselves into conversation groups on their own.
In 2020, the lunch on Day 1 will stay the same, and will allow you to roam around with your plate to catch up with friends from other countries; for the lunch on Day 2, though, we’ll try to split everyone into 2 groups: one group will continue as before, and another will occupy up to 10 tables (x10 people each) dedicated to specific topics, so that their lunch will turn into a moderated conversation.
How this might work:
  1. Each of these 10 tables will have its moderator, and a specific topic to discuss. For example, “EULA” or “Consumer litigation” or “Trademarks”.
  2. Those who would want to join a particular table, must contact the moderator with a proposal on what they can add to the topic. If the moderator approves, you’re in.
  3. The lunch lasts for 60 minutes, which is enough for everyone to contribute to the discussion.
What’s important: this is not meant to be a one-way presentation where one person delivers some insights and the other people just listen. We had this a few years back, during so-called “pre-Summit Work Groups”, and we realised that the recipe for a great discussion is limiting the groups only to those who have something to contribute.
If you would like to moderate one of the tables during the Working Lunch, please let me know the topic and its brief description (e.g. “Esports events and taxes” or “Unions in the games industry”) and I’ll share the list in one of the future newsletters when we’ll open the sign-ups. If you already have in mind other attendees whom you would like to invite to your table… please list them!
The topics that get traction, will get the tables. As this is just a test launch of a new format, it doesn’t really matter if we’ll complete 2-3 or 9-10 of such tables, and the number of people around each such table is not strict (10 is the upper limit to talk and listen comfortably). What we’re looking to confirm is whether a Day 2 lunch structured in this way will provide additional beneficial experience.
And this is it for today.
Please don’t forget to send us your ideas for whom else we should also invite to the Summit, please find the time to comment on your personal page for the Attendee Book, please sort your hotel booking (if you haven’t already) – and please do let me know if you’re up for moderating one of the tables during the Working Lunch.
Have a great rest of the week!
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Sergei Klimov

A newsletter about games industry's legal side, written for the benefit and entertainment of the folks attending (or considering to attend) the annual Games Industry Law Summit in Vilnius.

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