How much royalty/bonus for successful AAA video game?

Something like 90% of game developers NEVER get a royalty for their games, and almost as many never get a bonus.

But for the handful that work on titles where the studio negotiated a good deal (modulo the Publisher’s legal team using legal chicanery to make all royalties work out at “$0”) … it’s interesting to see what they get.

So, for Call of Duty, we have: Infinity Ward’s 2003 royalty deal with Activision.

NOTE: that doc *does not include* bonuses; it mentions them a few times, and says they’re taken out “before” the royalties. One of the publisher tricks is to award 100% of the profit to their own executives as “bonuses” – so that the external developer gets a royalties based off $0. You’d really want to see the bonuses doc too to check what the value of these royalties is…

Anyway, that aside, some headline points:

  • no upside limit (royalties aren’t “capped” – a sneaky practice I’ve seen publishers use before. A dev studio should NEVER accept a cap!)
  • NEW game series / IP created by the developer: developer gets 10% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels to the developer’s NEW games, or NEW games that re-use the developer’s game-engine, and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 2% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games by the developer: developer gets 10-15% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 4% of net income (profit)

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