Amazon Drops ‘Draconian’ Policy on Making Games After Work Hours

Amazon.com Inc. withdrew a set of staff guidelines that claimed ownership rights to video games made by employees after work hours and dictated how they could distribute them, according to a company email reviewed by Bloomberg.

The longstanding policies within Amazon Game Studios had drawn criticism on social media over the last month after a Google engineer posted about them. Some game developers described the rules as “draconian.”

The old policies mandated that employees of the games division who were moonlighting on projects would need to use Amazon products, such as Amazon Web Services, and sell their games on Amazon digital stores. It also gave the company “a royalty free, worldwide, fully paid-up, perpetual, transferable license” to intellectual property rights of any games developed by its employees.

Amazon said Thursday it was immediately eliminating the rules. “These policies were originally put in place over a decade ago when we had a lot less information and experience than we do today, and as a result, the policies were written quite broadly,” Mike Frazzini, the Amazon Game Studios boss, wrote in the email to staff.

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on the email.

The games division has struggled practically since its inception in 2012 and can hardly afford another reputational hit. It has never released a successful game, and some current and former employees have placed the blame with Frazzini. Bloomberg reported in January that Frazzini had hired veteran game developers and executives but largely dismissed or ignored their advice.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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