The Video Game Bar Association has launched with the goal of providing a dedicated forum for attorneys who specialize in video game transactions. Two of the group’s founding members, Patrick Sweeney and David Rosenbaum, teach at Southwestern Law School, which is one of the only law schools in the Los Angeles area with two dedicated video game law-related courses.
At the request of Biederman Blog editor Leo Young, Sweeney recently sat down to discuss the new bar group and current trends he sees in the video game industry. Gamasutra and the AmLaw Daily have provided great coverage of the group, founded in February, and its mission. To summarize, it is a forum for members all over the world to collaborate. It’s for experienced attorneys only and members must have practiced at least two years in the video game industry. Candidates must be sponsored by an existing member.
The professor said a major trend in the industry has been the rise of mobile and social gaming. The growth of these, along with the lower cost of evolving distribution platforms, have permitted developers who previously were barred to enter the video game market. For major, AAA video game titles, the traditional relationships between developers and publishers tend to remain as they were; the lower entry cost, with the emergence of “app stores,” has allowed mobile game developers to reduce their reliance on publishers.
With more companies entering the market, there are more opportunities for lawyers in the industry to diversify their client base. And consider what’s occurring with concerns such as the Weinstein Company, which specialized in movies but which in March announced it will partner with Beefy Games to develop games for social media, mobile and console.
The evolution of the video game industry will force attorneys, Sweeney forecasts, to reexamine old obligations, such as earnings models and consumer privacy issues. One such earning model, known as “free-to-play,” calls for allowing consumers to play a base game for free, though they can buy items and upgrades from a virtual store; this type of interaction, unfamiliar in many business models, requires a revisiting of the familiar and basic issue of who gets paid and how much. Meantime, the rise of social and mobile games, which allow companies to collect more and detailed information on players, will lead enterprises to ponder what they can do with that data and its collection mechanisms; this could result in new laws and litigation.