Interested in making your own game?

We hope you find this information useful!
Do you often sit in front of your PC late at night thinking about what it would be like to design your own video game. We've all been there! You've thought it all through, and you are quite sure that you have a great idea, that will appeal to all gamers all over the world, and that it will sell. “Who knows...”, you think to yourself, “...I could be the next Gabe Newell!”
 
But your game doesn't start and stop with a great idea. To make this idea come to life you need to do some (or a lot of) work! First you might need to think about starting your own business, however you might know how to go about this. You’ve tried an online search, but you’re not sure what your supposed to be looking up, and most sites seem to be a collection of legal and technical jargon which you cannot seem to decipher.
 
Don't worry ... we’ve been through all of this, and have decided to prepare this short guide in order to share our experiences with new Game Development Start-Ups. If you’re seeking assistance with starting your own Game Development Company in Malta, then you are welcome to read on :)
 
Preliminaries: Before getting started allow us to highlight the key players:

1. You
“You”, in singular or plural, will be the central core of your future business. You can either be a single person, or a group of people. You will be the person/s making the administrative decisions in your business.

2. Your Team
These will be the people working on your project, but they will not be legally responsible for the running of the business. Since creating a video game requires a diverse set of skills, your team members are meant to complement your talent set. If you come from an artistic background, you might need to team up with computer programmers, or vice-versa. Please note that team members are not to be confused with work that is out-sourced. Outsourcing refers to buying the services on offer by other companies, for instance, a company which specialises in creating websites.
This is the one-stop shop you will be visiting most. Business First is a Government Agency and part of the services offered by Malta Enterprise. Their aim is to assist people to start, manage, grow or close down their business. These people are your friends. They are the persons you should go to first to ask for information. Their services include free sessions (there is a stipulated number of hours) assisting individuals with regards to starting up a business in Malta. Business First's offices can be found at the Ex-St Luke's Hospital Building in Gwardamangia. Their website provides you with free access to information related to the day to day running of your business. 

4. MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority)
The MFSA is the Government Agency which regulates financial services in Malta. Before you say "I don't want to open a company that offers financial services!" please know that  it also manages the country's Registry of Companies. Depending on the choices you make, you may or may not have to deal with them. The offices are located on the Mriehel by-pass. 
 
This is the Government Agency concerned with the registration and control of co-operatives in Malta and this is done in accordance with the Malta Co-operatives Act. If the 7 basic principles appeal to you, you may wish to visit their offices in Melita Street Valletta to obtain more information on how to set up your own Co-op. More information may be obtained from their website.

 
6. Notary Public
A Notary Public is a person legally empowered to witness and certify the validity of documents. You will most probably require the services of a Notary during the initial phases of your business. You are free to choose your own notary. Our dealings were with Dr James Grech who was very helpful.

 
This the Government Agency which administors Value Added Tax. VAT is a form of consumption tax, however if you buy items locally, which are purchased with the sole intention of being used in connection with your business, then you can benefit from a refund on the VAT paid on these items. Initially, you might either deal with them directly or through the Business First Offices.
 
This is the Government Agency regulating Income Tax. Monies collected by this Department depend on how much profit your business will make.

 
This is the Government Agency meant to assist business and facilitate trade. You will need to get a Trading License from them in order to be able to sell your final product. This can be done through Business First.

 
This is the Government Agency concerned with employment and enhancing employability. Your employment status determines your National Insurance contributions. This might need to be looked into prior to changing your status, especially if you are still a student.
 
 
11. MDGF (Malta Digital Games Fund)
This is a Fund, created by the Government, aimed at strengthening the games industry in Malta. The Fund Administration has recently be re-located to new offices and seem to be within the remit of The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (but we will have to look into this and post an update soon).


12. Other interesting support systems, take a look at their websites:
 
TAKEOFF Incubator, University of Malta
The Microsoft Innovation Centre, Skyparks, Luqa
The MITA Innovation Hub, Smart City, Ricasoli, Kalkara
 
13. Therapist
This is the person who’s services you will hopefully not require by the end of all this! :p
 
All the different agencies and entities might seem daunting at first. Hopefully, by the end of this guide you will have a better understanding of the role that each entity plays.

Legal Form of Business
There are four ways of carrying out a profit-making business legally in Malta:
 
1. Self-employed
This option is only viable if your business will consist of a single person, who then employs the services of others to create the final product. Being self-employed was not a sufficient criterion for being awarded the funding from MDGF when we applied in 2013. If you are interested in particular funding opportunities always make sure to read the guidelines carefully. Furthermore, a full-time self-employed person has to pay the ETC around €30 every week in N.I., while a part-time self-employed person has to pay 15% of his income, if it does not exceed a given threshold. It is not possible to be part-time self-employed if you do not have a full-time job.
 
2. Limited Liability Company
A company is a legal entity which has directors and shareholders. It also has its own property and its equipment, which together are called assets. In order to start a company, the assets of the company must be valued, at least, at €1,100. A minimum of 10 to 15% of this figure must also be deposited in the company's bank account of the company. The main advantage of having a company is that the owners and directors of the company are not personally liable if the company goes under. If the company is in debt, the creditors can only get their hands on the assets of the company, and not on the personal property of its directors and shareholders. The main disadvantage of a company is that the law requires each and every company to submit an audit to the MFSA at the end of the financial year. This is a very costly process. A company must be registered with the MFSA, and this process costs at least €245. Once registered the company will be given a 'C number'.
 
3. Partnership
There are two ways of forming a partnership under Maltese law: a registered partnership (or incorporated partnership, or ‘en nom collectif’), and a non-registered partnership (‘en commandite’). In both cases, the first step in creating a partnership is having all the members of the partnership sign a ‘Deed of Partnership’ in front of a public notary. The Deed is a legal document which states that the partners in the partnership are pooling resources in order to carry out business together. The deed states, amongst other things:
i) who the members of the partnership are
ii) how much (money) each of the members contributed to the partnership
iii) the purpose of the partnership
iv) the bank account number of the partnership
Once the deed is signed by the partners and the notary public, the partnership starts existing. A bank account number in the name of a non-existing company is set up by visiting a branch of one of the local banks and depositing money into a provisional bank account. This money will then be deposited into the account belonging to the partnership once it has been signed into existence. MDGF had requested that partnerships are registered by the MFSA. Again check funding guidelines if you are looking into such funding programs to finance your venture. When a partnership is registered with the MFSA it gains some legal value, such as being taxed itself, as opposed to the tax due being requested from the members.Registering a partnership with the MFSA costs the same as registering a company, that is a minimum of €245 euro. The difference between a Company and a Partnership is that in a partnership the partners are personally liable (i.e if the business fails each partner is responsible for the monies owed to creditors) however there is no need to present audited accounts to MFSA and the partners decide on the initial amount of cash with which to start up the venture (as opposed to a commpany's minimum requirement for €1,100. It is important to note that in order for a Deed of Partnership to be acceptable by the MFSA, it should also be signed by the spouses of the members of the partnership, in the case that these are married. Remember this when visiting the notary public. Registering a Partnership takes at least two working days. Once a partnership is registered, it will be assigned a unique "P number". This number you can present to the bank of your choice in order to change your provisional account into a fully-fledged account.
 
4. Co-operative
A co-operative is registered with the Malta Coops board, and not with the MFSA. A Co-op is a group of at least 5 people, each of which enjoy the exact same legal weight in the Co-op, who follow a statute and work towards a common goal.
Co-ops have the advantage of not having to pay a Tax on their final profit. Instead, they pay a 5% tax on profit to the Co-ops Board. Though we were seriously considering starting a Co-op at one point, in the end we decided against it because many of the legal requirements of Cooperatives seem to be not suited to a Games Development Company, such as the requirement to have the word “Co-op” in the name of the business.
 
We hope that this page has provided you with some insight as to how to go about starting your own venture. Should you have a specific question, and think we might be able to help you out, don't hesitate to contact us! We are focused on helping Malta and the Maltese get more involved in the video games scene.