Are You Ready For Funding?
Wouldn’t it be sweet if real-life had some of those infinite money cheat codes? Good gravy, that would make things so much easier. Unfortunately, fantastic ideas don’t fund themselves. So, unless you have a rich uncle somewhere willing to loan you the coin, you’re going to need to figure out a way to fund your game. We’re here to help!
Before you go for funding, you need to first ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your product ready to start showing off to rest of the world?
- Do you already have an existing business model running?
- Do you already have any current customers for your product?
- Do you have a business plan for at least the next 3 years?
- Why do you need the funding?
- How will you allocate the money that you receive, and what are your business objectives for that money?
If you can formulate good answers to all of these questions, it’s time to start looking into the options available to you!
Pt. 1, Primary Funding Sources
Creating a game is no easy task, but most of you who take on this epic quest are motivated by a passion and love of games. Raising money on the other hand is rarely high on the list of things a game dev wants to do with their time. Still, in order to see your masterpieces to life, many of you will embark on a search for funding. In the end, who you turn to will depend on the nature of your game and the stage of your development lifecycle. In this section we’ll touch on the 3 main sources of funding game devs pursue, and then we’ll dive deeper from there into various specific options you have available to you.
Although the lines between the categories can get blurred, there are basically three different types of investors: incubator/accelerators, Venture Capitalists (VCs) and angel investors.
#1 – Accelerators: Bringing you from an Idea to a Prototype – Incubators or accelerators, like GameFounders and Stugan, tend to back projects from the initial idea to the prototype stage. In addition to funding, they also provide resources meant to accelerate your development cycle (although in some cases, they actually only provide the resources and not the funding). Resources can include capital, free rent, networking, and coaching.
#2 – VCs: Helping take you to the Next Level – While accelerators often only take a game creator as far as the prototype stage, VCs on the other hand often get involved later in the project cycle. In fact, game makers who turn to VCs may already have a full team in place and even a prototype with some initial community interest, but just need that extra boost taking it to the next level. VCs avoid backing just one game; and instead look at the whole team and their long-term vision. Before investing, a VC will take a thorough look at who’s on your team, what they’ve done, and how they complement each other. They want to hear about your team’s long-term vision, the kinds of games you plan to make, to see a technology roadmap, and to be sure that there is potential for the game to scale and the studio to grow in value.
^PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist was developed by Outerminds with the support of Execution Labs in 2015, and became the top-grossing paid game in the United States App Store less than two hours after its release.
#3 – Angel Investors: Cool! Do they fight demons too? – Nah, they’re not those kind of Angels, but maybe close! Angel investors are affluent individuals looking for an exciting project to invest their own money in. Whereas VCs are more focused on the numbers, angel investors can be driven by other factors. While VCs look at things like sector growth and potential valuation, it can be much more personal with angel investors. They’ll want to rest assured that they mesh well with your company and team, and may often even want to hang around in an active mentorship role. Whatever the case, a good way to increase your chances of success in finding an angel investor is to build relationships in the gaming community, industry, and with potential investors by networking actively.
Sometimes it takes a community to raise a game. There are various crowdfunding sites and apps that we’ll delve deeper into at Pt. 2, and while they all offer exciting and relatively new ways to raise money, people can sometimes underestimate the amount of effort it takes to raise cash this way.
As with anything else, success requires a high level of focus and the right kind of effort. If you’re crowdfunding, you should start developing your community at least nine months prior to your campaign launch, and you should plan on one to three months to prepare the actual campaign. Setting a realistic target goal, starting to plan early, involving your community, and, not least, remaining hyper-active on social media throughout your campaign are some of the important best practices.
The DIY Method
If you’re just starting out, and all you have are some epic unicorn skills, a lot of determination, and an idea that you believe in, sometimes the only place to go is to family and friends. Or as other game makers do, back your own work via day job, client work, or loans.
Did you know that the three founders of Unity turned to family for help back in the day when they first had the idea for the game engine we all know and love today? Of course, had their project failed the borrowers would have had to face serious consequences (as is also the case with taking out any kind of loan), but David Helgason, one of Unity’s three founders didn’t consider it a crazy risk looking back. “If worse had come to worst, we could have worked it off in a few years. Yes, it would been dreary, but it seemed relatively safe to us, and we believed enough in what we were doing,” he says. However, Helgason does see some truth in the old saying: ‘Don’t raise money when you need it, raise money when you don’t.” He says that if they were just starting out today, they probably would have done things differently. “The environment is much better and healthier today; there’s a lot more people willing to assume risk. And tools have gotten cheaper. You can tap into the game engine community, and things like the Asset Store make it easier to lower the cost of production,” he says.
^An image from Gooball, the game developed by the Unity co-founders in 2005 on the original 1.0 version of the Unity game engine.
The alternative to turning to others is just to back yourself up. Many game makers bank their gil freelancing, consulting, developing business apps, or even waiting tables at restaurants (no shame there!) to finance their dream project. When going this route: always remember that proper work/life balance matters. Don’t forget to schedule some time in the ‘ol calendar if needed for regular fun time.
Pt. 2, Crowdfunding Platforms
Swimming through a sea of croudfunding platforms and just don’t know where to start? Let us give you the low-down with some more in depth information on some of the best:
Kickstarter.com is probably the most popular crowdfunding site out there. You will receive the amount that you ask for (minus fees), if you hit your target, but it is an all-or-nothing approach. Kickstarter is probably the most well-known of the crowdfunding platforms on this list and thus offers great marketing reach for your project, but there is a risk that you may not get any funding for your project at all, if you don’t reach the specified target.
Gamesmith.com members gain exclusive access to the “Funding” page, where they have several funding partners on-board waiting to help guide you towards that next level up.
Indiegogo.com lets you choose between two funding options: flexible (where you keep what is raised), or fixed funding (all-or-nothing). The fee is 4% if your goal is reached or 9% for flexible funding if your goal isn’t reached. It is less well-known than Kickstarter but does give you the opportunity to make sure that you receive all the money that your supporters have given to your project, should you reach your target or not.
Crowdfunder.co.uk claims to be the UK’s number 1 crowdsourcing platform and offers both flexible and fixed funding options. Similarly to Indiegogo and Kickstarter, it’s a rewards based platform and so backers pledge money in return for specific rewards.
Ulule.com launched in Oct 2010 and since then has become the leading European crowdfunding site. They boast having financed over 21k projects and to have over 1.9 million members worldwide. They offer personalised coaching for all projects – before, during and after each campaign, and swear by this approach. They’re all about enabling creative, innovative and community-minded projects to test their idea, build a community and make it grow.
Patreon.com is a subscription-based crowdfunding platform. Investors pay a certain amount each month in return for specific rewards set and organised by you. It’s a great option if you want to harness the on-going support for you and your projects.
Seedrs.com is an equity crowdfunding platform, meaning that supporters of your project are investing their money in return for a percentage of your business. The platform lets you choose how much equity is on offer and you have 60 days to raise the investment. You also get access to mentorships, networking and more. The ethos is around offering support before, during and after fundraising.
With over 500,000 members, Crowdcube.com claims to be Europe’s leading equity crowdfunding platform. You can select your preferred fundraising option – of equity or mini-bonds, and then start pitching to investors. You can share videos, a business plan and details about why you’re seeking funding for your project.
Fig.co advertises itself as a community funding and publishing platform for indie game developers. I’ve put this one in the ‘other options’ section as it offers both the usual rewards-based crowdfunding option but also lets you earn returns from game sales. So investors can invest in the game title in return for a share of the profits.
Thrinacia.com is a platform that enables you to set up your very own crowdfunding website. They describe themselves as delivering the next generation of CrowdFunding tools and essentially let you create CrowdFunding Portals so that you can run your own set of campaigns however you wish to.
Launcht.com is a white label crowdfunding and crowdvoting platform which enables you to crowdfund on your own website. If you have a strong brand and following already, then you may want to explore going it alone! This option will definitely not be for everyone but it is one to be aware of if you feel confident enough in your following to use it.
Some of these sites you may already be aware of, but it can be useful to explore all of the options available to you when it comes to crowdfunding and also any other funding opportunities for your project. Combining options can also work well rather than relying solely on one of these to work for you, so get creative, do your research and make sure that you pick the right funding source for you and your project.
Pt. 3, Grants & Other Funding Sources
Last but not least, here’s a list we put together containing options that are unfortunately too often overlooked, including grants:
Indie-Fund.com was created by a group of successful game developers as a way to support new and up and coming indie developers with their projects. They offer investment in indie games and are an alternative to the traditional publishing funding model.
UK Games Fund
Ukgamesfund.com is a not-for-profit organisation offering support to the UK games development sector. They focus on games in early development and want their funding to help create jobs, promote diverse new teams and generally help to build the games community and IP in the UK.
Indiecage.org is a non-profit organisation known for its dedication to the discovery, development and recognition of independent game developers around the world. Although it is a California-based organisation, it was created to encourage and support indie developers all over the globe.
Creative Europe offers funding for the development of narrative video games, helping to take them from concept stage to prototype stage. The fund is open to companies that have been registered for a minimum of 12 months and that focus mainly on video game production and that have developed at least one video game previously.
Unreal Dev Grants
Epic has a $5m development fund which offers financial support to innovative projects created in and around Unreal Engine 4. Anyone making something exciting using UE4 can apply. You will keep your IP and can publish the game however you want to.
Games being developed using CryEngine are eligible to apply for their Indie Development Fund. There are two rounds in the selection process but if you don’t receive funding the first time you can re-apply every three months.
The Wellcome Trust works with game developers and publishers to support the development of interesting digital games, in particular those that help to improve science and health research.
Ancient Games Fund
The Ancient Games Fund is a private games fund specialising in supporting indie developers making mobile games. The fund is open to solo game developers or small teams with a playable prototype of their game. Up to £25,000 is available, usually in 5 instalments and although the fund is a UK fund, it is open to all applications around the world.
Creative England supports and invests in the games industry via their Greenshoots programme with Microsoft, and Gameslab Leeds, which focuses on supporting game developers and digital companies in the Leeds City Region.
Pt. 4, Conclusion
We’ve unveiled all the hidden treasure troves that are now marked on your mini-map, so get to exploring.
Hopefully after this you’ll be able to identify a funding opportunity that can fit your needs!
Free Resource Tools
Put your Studio on the map for professionals to see Gamesmith Dev Map
Join Facebook groups such as Game Developers
Look for engineers on Github.com