In the ever-changing world of high tech intellectual property law, the word “Platform” has special meaning. More often than not, you’ll find it in software licensing agreements to specify, and more importantly to limit, the computing systems that a particular piece of code—whether a video game or accounting program or iPhone App—are authorized to run on. But these days, Platform can mean just about anything.
A recent Game Developer’s Conference study found, unsurprisingly, that 53% of the attendees they polled identified themselves as indie developers, with nearly the same percentage saying that they work in companies with ten or fewer people. 
With the explosion of mobile and casual gaming, this has created exciting times for entrepreneurs, but the reality is that most independent game developers lack the legal expertise necessary to navigate this new publishing world. Many will make it through unscathed. Others, unfortunately, won’t be as lucky.
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Until recently, video game developers generally focused on the creative and technical aspects of developing an interactive game, while their publishers handled issues of sales, marketing, and legal. But in the world of direct-to-consumer digital distribution, indies do both. They build apps, and then manage sales and marketing through Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and inside environments like Steam and Xbox Live. While all this has created significant opportunities for thousands of emerging game developers, few realize the legal hazards they undertake when launching a game—risks that their former publishing partners often assumed on their behalf.
In this two-part series (find part two here), we’ll discuss what I consider the top six legal mistakes app developers make when launching a new game in the digital marketplace.
Dan Rogers is a practicing attorney within the video game and digital media industries. He’s also the author of several articles on the video game industry, technology, and digital law.