What is the proper way to pay your team for a game development project? For example, how would you pay to a graphics artists or a musician for their work, especially in the context of today's app marketplaces like the Apple App Store or the Android Market?

It is better to pay in advance, or to share the incomes proportionally as an app becomes successful?


2 Answers 2


Each project will be different, and you may also find that your potential employees have a variety of expectations.

For example, many folks may prefer a salary because they have a practical personal need to pay rent/mortgage and put food on their table. Especially if there is a need to hire them for a lot of hours (e.g., 40 hours per week for 6 months), your employees will probably be more comfortable with regular paycheques.

If the jobs are really small (e.g., less than a week's work), then paying on a per-project basis may work better. They may wish to get partial payment up front, with the remainder after the project is completed (and with larger projects there could also be a number of payments in between as the work progresses).

There may also some employees who are willing to agree to a "hybrid" of these two ideas, such as in the form of a base salary plus a percentage of the profits after the game is released ("profit sharing" which is similar to paying royalties, except that you'll probably want to be the owner of the work they've done for you). The risk is, of course, that the game never turns a profit and they don't get to realize the potential benefits of profit sharing (you'll want to make sure this is explained clearly in the contract -- the "Advice from professionals" section below recommends getting legal advice).

The positive side of this "profit sharing" approach is that it can provide a subtle long-term marketing advantage because those who get a share of the profits [as long as, or whenever, the game is profitable] will likely feel motivated to do "word of mouth marketing" for you by telling people "I contributed to that game; you should try it!"

Advice from professionals

Hire an accountant (a CGA designation is highly recommended) to make sure you get all the payroll and taxation aspects of your employment arrangements set up correctly.

Hire a lawyer (one with experience in both contract law and employment standards is preferred) to make sure your employment and/or profit sharing contracts are set up correctly.

For the profit sharing arrangements, you will probably need to have one short meeting with both your lawyer and your accountant at the same time.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ interesting, and how do you manage so if people is in defferent countries, would yuo get based on laws and acounties on the country where the main project guy lives? \$\endgroup\$
    – arrrrgv
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 3:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @arrrrgv: Your lawyer should advise you appropriately, and if they don't know, then they may recommend someone who does know, or suggest that you find someone in that country who does, or just advise you that your contract need only specify the applicable legal jurisdiction (e.g., where you live). For that last option, you may wish to ask your lawyer what could go wrong if the employee's country doesn't recognize the legality of a contract that specifies a jurisdiction that's outside their borders. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 3:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @arrrrgv: As for accounting, there could be issues with payroll taxes from some countries (I've heard of this, but don't know anyone who has ever been requested by a foreign government to pay any taxes when hiring one of their citizens from afar). Hopefully your accountant can help you understand this type of situation, or will at least know who to ask (such as a lawyer who knows how international business works in the country in question). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 3:30

I'd think you have two approaches: you can hire them as contractors, or as partners.

As contractors, you are paying them one time for what they do - e.g., "I will pay you X for a total of 4 music tracks" You own what they make outright, and it's yours to do with as you please.

As partners, they may (or may not) be paid for their work on the project, but at the same time they also are given some kind of royalty or income based on the sales of your game.

My personal opinion is that if the artists are not deeply involved in your game's design, hire them as contractors. Pay them once, and never worry about it again. If they an integral part of the design process, then bring them in as partners so they feel a greater sense of pride (and ownership) in what they do.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And how much is usually paid for the graphics and music, for an android or iphone game? no idea about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – arrrrgv
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know what to recommend for prices, but a good approach would be to use a website like freelancer.com to look for bids. I notice a few game-related posts on there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Holt
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 5:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .