As part of our “2021 in Video Games” series of interviews, we talk to video games professionals about what 2021 meant for them and the industry. In this installment, we catch up with Tim Repa-Davies, games lawyer at media and technology law firm Sheridans.
Tim’s primary focus is on assisting independent game developers navigate the various commercial and legal issues that come with running an early stage games business, as well as providing specialist media finance advice concerning games development funding and video games tax credits.
Games Lawyer, Sheridans
How did 2021 treat Sheridans and yourself?
Despite the obvious challenges arising in 2021, for Sheridans 2021 saw our Games Team go from strength to strength. The core team of Alex Chapman, Alex Tutty, and myself remains and we have hired some truly great lawyers to bolster our expertise and ensure we continue to provide the gold standard of legal advice to our clients in the games industry all over the world. We also opened a new office in Berlin which has been fantastic.
Not only that, but we continue to be ranked by legal publications like Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 as one of the best law firms in the world supporting developers, publishers and other games businesses. We were also recognised as the “Best Games Industry Law Firm” at Pocket Gamer’s Mobile Games Awards, which was nice 🙂
From a personal and professional perspective, it was also wonderful to see in-person events make a come-back with Develop Conference in Brighton, UK and Konsoll Connect in Bergen, Norway both highlights for me this year. I’ve also been fortunate enough to provide pro-bono support to some very worthy causes working to make the games industry a better place including Safe In Our World, Limit Break, and GamesAid.
From a personal perspective, I was promoted to partner in June 2021 and was thrilled to speak at my first ever GDC (albeit online) over the summer as well. I also married my long-term partner (having delayed our wedding from 2020 due to covid), and was fortunate enough to purchase a house, so 2021 saw a lot of large life events all happen within a few months of each other!
What development or trend stood out to you in 2021?
This year I’ve made no secret about what I think about the state of most publishing agreements that are being used by publishers, and what terms and clauses contained in them are objectively unfair (see my “Contract Killers” series of articles available on my LinkedIn and blog). It seems like there are more publishers cropping up every day, and more complaints by developers about exploitative terms in the contracts that those publishers are using (one such case covered in Game World Observer here).
I am not opposed to more publishers being active in the industry, and the increased influx in cash is (hopefully) good for developers. However, as a developer-focused lawyer, who also acts for independent publishers, I would love to see more publishers follow the lead of Raw Fury and White Thorn Games by making their contracts available to the public. Neither of those contracts are perfect but they do give developers an idea of what they can expect, and it prevents this knowledge being hidden behind a locked-door.
I hope that my “Contract Killers” articles, and subsequent talks at GDC, are also helpful to developers in shining a light of what they should look for in their publishing contract, and have the confidence to ask for changes if they believe them to be fair and reasonable.
What are you expecting from the games industry in 2022?
I am expecting that 2022 will continue to bring more investment into the games sector, and for M&A activity to continue as investors pour money into the industry (albeit maybe at a slightly slower pace than we have seen in 2021). Regulation on mobile / free-to-play is likely to make things harder for mobile developers and publishers as UA costs continue to increase. Blockchain technology and NFTs, and the discussion around their applicability and suitability for games, are unlikely to go away anytime soon!
Which third-party titles were you personally excited about as a gamer?
I’m a huge fan of Arkane Studios, and Deathloop has not disappointed! Hitman III has also blown my mind. The level design is second to none, and I’ve had so much fun replaying them over and over again (especially Dartmoor!).
Overboard by Inkle Studios really took me by surprise (in a good way), and I’ve also really enjoyed Eastward (Chucklefish/Pixpil), Mind Scanners (Brave at Night / The OuterZone) and Last Stop (Annapurna/Variable State).