Maestro Interactive Games has started doing more work for hire development and I felt that this merited a blog post from myself. Many studios are faced with this tough question, as to whether or not they should do work for hire. It pays the bills which is certainly appealing, but it can also be a large distraction from the reason you started the company in the first place.
A little backstory is needed to explain our decision to do contract work. When I started Maestro Interactive Games as a solo developer, I was an iOS developer and I created some cool games for the App Store. As a result, O had offers to work for hire projects and I had dismissed most of the offers because of my mindset that you can fall into the Work for Hire trap. I did take a few of them however.
This is a story of how we are doing more Work-For-Hire however so what happened? Well I started getting offers for projects that I was really interested in. I got an offer from Jimmie JJ Walker to develop a mobile app for him which I thought was awesome. He even talked about it on the David Letterman show which I was in attendance for. The temptation was too great so I started to take some of the contracts. Let me explain what I did to make the Work-For-Hire work for me and now the whole team.
The issue I have seen is that most studios do the work for hire because they need capital and end up losing focus so when I started doing the contracts I set out with a few rules in mind.
1. They should be projects that do not take away from the main goals of the company
2. Keep development team happy
3. Have work for hire more than pay for itself
4. Add value to the company
So how do we do hold onto these four values?
We established a new division within the studio. This has the advantage of minimizing the distraction from the main goals and allowed us to establish new standards for work for hire. This allows us to allow certain developers to jump onto the work-for-hire projects and not have everyone in the project, especially if they are not up for it. When I tell a client that Maestro Interactive Games is going to develop something, I do not believe in total sub-contracting the work out. I believe the quality of the work and the dynamic of the team is better in house.
Luckily for us, we do not rely on work for hire to survive as a company. I have seen many studios take projects because they had to pay developers. I am very careful about what projects we take. I ask the team if anyone is interested in a certain venture to see if the team is excited about the project, and if they are and I think we can do it, I tend to accept the project. We have a client that we helped deliver a great product for, that I see a long term partnership with as the entire team is really into the projects this client has. I feel that by developers enjoying the work they do, it makes it easier to get done and the quality of work is higher.
The company has actually approached our newest client. We were sitting around at lunch and we had said "Wouldn't it be great to develop products for this company" to which everyone said yes to.
I want to look for work for hire that adds value to the company beyond what it pays. In some cases this means building a tool that we use on other projects, in some cases it means hiring a new developer, in others its establishing good relationships with clients.
In conclusion, while we are going to do more work for hire in the future, we will focus on projects we like that we think others will too.
Maestro Interactive Games was one of 17 developers invited to show off their latest game. The event was hosted by SxSW gaming and the Austin Chronicle. It was great to show off Percy's Predicament to Austinites and we look forward to others playing it in the very near future on the Wii U eShop.