73 Game Funding Tips

73 Game Funding Tips
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

December 2nd 2015 at 11:46AM

Developers and their peers from across the industry share their advice

Following our detailed look at game funding in 2015, we asked experts from the development community and beyond to share tips on everything from working with VCs to nailing that pitch.

WHICH FUNDING MODEL SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

1. Apply for every scholarship, fund, or competition that you see. There are so many out there, there’s really something for everyone. Unless there’s an entry fee, you’ve really got nothing to lose.
Christina Kalinger, Producer, Retro Yeti Games

2. When considering funding opportunities, particularly if you’re a very small team, be sure to properly consider the administrative overheads involved in that particular grant. Such requirements may turn out to be very costly, both in terms of actual expenses – such as needing project financial statements drawn up by a licensed accountant – and in terms of time – regular paperwork, excessive reports and bureaucracies. You need to make sure that these costs do not outweigh the benefits of receiving the grant in the first place.
Stephen Caruana, Lead Designer and Developer, Pixie Software

3. Talk to other developers who’ve accessed funding – you never know where the good connections might come from, and game developers are generally very supportive and happy to connect you with people who have been helpful to them in the past.
James Carroll, Director, Evil Twin Artworks (left)

4. Make sure that the conditions of funding give you reasonable flexibility to adapt and evolve your project throughout its lifetime. If the slightest change in design or feature set – even if justified – requires complicated approval procedures, you might want to consider walking away from that grant.
Stephen Caruana, Lead Designer and Developer, Pixie Software

5. 
Have material ready to show off to potential investors, scholarship committees, etcetera. This means keeping your press kit up to date with all the best screenshots and gifs. You want to present the best possible picture of your project at the drop of a hat, because you never know when the opportunity will strike.
Christina Kalinger, Producer, Retro Yeti Games

SELF-FUNDING

6. If you're having trouble raising the money you need, consider whether you can manage with less. Every pound you don't spend now is a pound you may rely on later.
Russ Clarke, Founder, Payload Studios (right)

7. 
I've done revenue share deals with artists and musicians, which keeps initial costs down. It's also worth considering part payment and part revenue share which reassures contractors as at least they've got some money up front.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

8. 
Run a consulting business that leverages your game technology expertise to offer solutions to industries outside of gaming. Doing this will put you in direct competition with companies focused solely on those industries, so it is only worth the risk if you can perfectly link your current game development with the consulting work.
Catharina Due Bøhler, CEO, Sarepta Studio (right)

9. Remember that it takes the platform operators up to 60 days to pay you after you’ve earned revenue. Developers need to plan to have that extra runway after global launch.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point (left)

10. How grand does your game need to be? Will it work if it is released in installments so that you can get an income stream coming in as early as possible?
Seb Burnett, Creative Director, Rumpus Animation

11.
Reducing your time to market also reduces upfront cost. The early access model allows you to generate income while still working on the game – but you have to commit to regular maintenance and communication with your players.
Russ Clarke, Founder, Payload Studios

12. Several times over the years as an indie I have gone through patches where I've used a credit card to purchase groceries and pay bills, and then transferred the balance to another one with a zero per cent interest deal. I wouldn't particularly advise getting into debt like this, but I wanted to point out that there's always a way if your willing to take it.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games (right)

SECURING PUBLIC AND OTHER GRANTS

13. Make sure you seek out funds tailored to games companies’ needs when applying for grant funding – too many of them have come from the film sector and they’ve simply swapped the word ‘film’ for ‘game’, but it often makes it harder to claim or more laborious to complete the paperwork.
James Carroll, Director, Evil Twin Artworks

14. Small-scale grants from Oculus Indie Fund are available but these are for specific development needs to reach a certain milestone – i.e. being ready for launch day. These certainly won't fund an entire games development period and you will need to show you have the ability and give them the confidence that you will actually get the VR game finished to a high quality.
Sam Watts, Game Producer, Tammeka

15.
We received a grant from the Creative England Gameslab fund which made Bertram Fiddle possible. Get in touch with organisations and build relationships with them. They are there to help and actually want to give out money.
Seb Burnett, Creative Director, Rumpus Animation (left)

16.
When applying for public funding its important to understand and establish how your project fits into the selection criteria of the fund. Are the goals and values of the fund and your project well aligned? You need to give a compelling answer to that question in your application.
Andreas Zecher, Business and Development, Spaces of Play

17.
Explore emerging technologies. Teaming up with emerging technology or platforms can be advantageous. If you can provide the kind of content needed to effectively showcase these new products and solutions, it’s possible to receive advance fees to cover your development costs.
Marianne Lerdahl, Project Manager, Sarepta Studio (right)


18.
It really depends on the organisation or government body, but from my experience they tend to support games that have the potential to be fun, creative, and innovative. Unfortunately, those three qualities are not always in the recipe for financial success. Of course have in the presentation your budget and a profitable forecast, but mainly focus on how your game will draw consumers’ attention; how it will shine a positive light on the region or organisation that is supplying the grant.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

19.
The jury or analysts that decide whether or not your game gets a grant have different goals, expectations and vocabulary than the rest of the industry. Before sending an application, get in talks with them, learn their language, their mission as an organisation and present things that is in line with their position. Do your homework before spending dozens of hours on your application.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, Founder and President, Nine Dots Studio (left)

20.
I successfully applied for a Gameslab South West grant – part of Creative England – for Regency Solitaire. We had to match fund the grant – spend the same amount of our own money – but it came in useful to pay for all the game assets.  However, there was a lot of seemingly pointless admin and regular meetings that took up a huge amount of time, so be wary of that.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

21.
One thing we learned from our funding process with Antegods: when applying for a grant from the European Union's MEDIA programme, work with your local Creative Europe Desk. They can be your translator for the confusing EU terms and definitions, because we clearly don't speak the same language, and you don't want to get lost in that maze by yourself.
Peter de Jong, Co-founder and Director, Codeglue

22.
The paperwork required for public funding can feel daunting, but you often can get help from local administration. For example, the MEDIA Programme of the European Union has a Creative Desk in every EU member state offering workshops and guidance.
Andreas Zecher, Business and Development, Spaces of Play

WORKING WITH PRIVATE INVESTORS

23. As a games start-up you’re much more likely to get funding from angels than VCs. Focus your efforts on finding a group of investors who can make their investment under the SEIS scheme. VCs are mostly looking for evidence of traction and repeatable business models – i.e. not games.
Alex Fleetwood, Game Designer and Creative Director (right)

24.
Don’t pitch a plan that stops at global launch. Venture capitalists are smart; they know that it takes time for a game to build an audience and having a well thought out post-launch strategy is not only key, but shows that you too understand how the industry works.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

25.
Take every opportunity. Meet or get an introduction to anyone and everyone. You never know who they might know or what their hidden passion might be. This includes reaching out to family and friends. Take each introduction and meeting seriously, as you often only get the chance to make a good impression once, and that's sometimes all it takes to get connected to someone that is willing to fund your game.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions (above)

26.
It's very natural to feel one isn't ready to apply for some things or wouldn't be a good fit, but really as cliche as it is the worst that can happen is someone says 'no'. While you are trying to get your game going and find funding you have to seek out every opportunity you can and seize it.
Simon Ashbery, Lead Artists and Designer, Rosvita Works

27.
Don’t ask for funding that only gets you through global launch. How are you going to continue to keep food on the table while you wait nearly two months for that first check?  VC’s will be worried that you will either ask for more money near global launch, or worse, start doing work-for-hire projects, which doesn’t add much value to your company.  It shows that you have not thoroughly thought out your budget.  They may ask themselves what else haven’t you put thought into.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

28.
You need a Business. Most Angels and VCs want to invest in game developers that can make their game or studio a business. Simply wanting to make a one-off game is not going to be easy to pitch as it carries too much risk. Think about how you can leverage your technology, assets, tools etc to make more than one game.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions

29.
I have got loans from another developer before. They trusted me based on my track record and my game pitches, and the loans were simple and quick to organise - much easier than getting a loan from a bank (see below).
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

BANK LOANS

30. The bank doesn't want you to need them. If you want a loan, start talking with them when things are going well for you and you still have a comfortable pile of cash to sit on. If you wait until you need them, they won't get involved. Show them that you're doing well, that you have a plan and that with their help you have an opportunity to do even better in the long term, even if it means going in the red for a bit to come back in strength.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, Founder and President, Nine Dots Studio

31.
Banks can be great as they are almost entirely hands off and won’t provide any distractions during game development. However, banks always want their money back and they will often ask for some additional collateral. Banks don’t like writing down losses, they will get back as much as possible, one way or another.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

PUBLISHING SUPPORT

32. I have got funding from an indie publisher who is covering all the development costs in return for a share of the resulting revenue. Again my 10 years of experience and the game pitch helped here. My first pitch was rejected so I went back to the drawing board and came up with something unique that is not massive or unrealistic in scope.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

33. I found that a really good time to say hi to publishers, was not at GDC – everyone is so busy at GDC – but if you have an exhibitors pass at PAX. There’s a lot less developers, and if you go earlier before all the crowds, it’s much easier to have a one-on-one conversation with people.
Izzy Gramp, Founder, Geeiz Games (right)

34.
Find the right one that works for you. Everyone is calling themselves a publisher these days, but few maintain the philosophy of always putting the developer first. The best ones are the publishers that do no internal development, this way you know their focus is always external. Also, make sure they are capable of covering everything a publisher should cover internally.  Quality assurance, localisation, user acquisition, research, product management, analytics, PR, marketing, finance, etcetera.  If a publisher is relying too much on outsourcing, it’s a clear red flag.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

PITCHING FOR FUNDING

35. Going in, I couldn’t have had a warmer experience for something that I heard from places was daunting. The biggest surprise, was, that the reviewers seemed to want you to do well – which I guess now sounds quite obvious. Once I figured out the panel was on my side, it was much easier to quell my nerves. 
Izzy Gramp, Founder, Geeiz Games

36. When pitching your game to a publisher, get straight to the one message you want to get stuck in their heads; what makes your game great and how can they get involved in creating it? Also, prototypes speak louder than words. Make them believe in the concept by the joy of playing, or at least by imagining playing. If you need to use a presentation, make it interactive. Static images and blocks of text alone do not always do your game the justice it deserves.
Peter de Jong, Co-founder and Director, Codeglue

37.
Practice your pitch. Practice your pitch in every way possible and on as many people as you can. The more you practice on real people in real situations the more confident you will sound and more likely you'll make a lasting impression or get the funding you're seeking. Pitching more people will also open you up to more questions being asked about your game, which will sharpen your pitch, further improving your confidence.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions

38.
Do your homework. Research the market/platforms/pricing/distributors/publishers you are aiming for; get sales figures from other games in your genre – good and bad; make a decent budget and sales projection; come up with a unique idea that works to your strengths, ideally with a working demo; think about the risks and contingencies.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

39.
Plan well in advance of pitching to investors. Going to industry networking events is a great way to meet potential investors in an informal, less stressful environment, long before you have to do the big ‘be all and end all’ pitch. It’s also a good way to rule out potential partners if you don’t seem like a good fit – before you’ve put lots of time into it.
James Carroll, Director, Evil Twin Artworks

40. Be ready for 'no'. It doesn't matter how prepared you feel or how amazing of an opportunity you're presenting, a majority of people you pitch won't invest in your game. 'No' can come in many forms: not replying to your emails, blaming themselves – 'I'm not ready to invest in blank' –  saying that they want to see more progress/metrics, or simply just passing. Regardless of the response – or lack thereof – don't let it get to you. Believe in your game and keep pitching.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions

41.
You should be able to pitch your idea convincingly in 30 seconds. If it's not working, practice. If it still isn't working, try a different idea.
Russ Clarke, Founder, Payload Studios

42.
Be sensible with your numbers – especially in terms of potential marketplace and revenue. Saying things like 'if we can get 1 per cent of the market' is a sure warning sign to people that you’ve picked a value out of the air rather than doing your homework properly.
Tony Gowland, Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop (above)

43.
Make sure you don't ever take a bad deal out of desperation. Be prepared to haggle to get what you really need to complete the project and survive. Don't accept a deal with a 100 per cent recoup rate otherwise you'll be broke after the game launches until the costs are fully recouped.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

44.
Keep your pitch deck in a format that you can easily edit, and create a custom version for every pitch you do. It forces you to think through what you want to say each time which keeps it fresher, and makes the people hearing it feel like you made the effort.
Alex Fleetwood, Game Designer and Creative Director

45.
Always show that you have a long-term plan for post-launch. I am not talking about a three-month update plan, nor even a one-year plan. Present at least an 18-month plan of how you are going to continue to keep your customers engaged during live operations.
Jesse Divnich, VP of Product Strategy & Insights, Tilting Point

46.
Are you a safe bet? Your funder is very unlikely to be able to assess if your game will be a success, assuming you are competent.  Thus they’ll look at your business plan, cash flow and management team instead.  Ensure it is good.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo (right)

47.
Research who you're meeting. If the person/VC is established, they will probably have a website or at least be searchable on Angel List or CrunchBase. Before you meet them, familiarise yourself with their portfolio and what size of investments they make. Don't go into a meeting without understanding the person you're meeting and their usual investment types.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions

48.
Be prepared with business plans, clear content design and delivery plans, realistic expectations and ideally, experience of having delivered a game before. Showcase why they should get excited and join you for the development ride with minimal risk to them.
Sam Watts, Game Producer, Tammeka

49.
Believe in your game and team – It’s your job to big your team and game up.  Be confident and passionate.  No one else will do this for you.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo

50. While it will happen to you very often, pitching should always be a last resort. Find every way you can to start negotiating organically, rather than having to go through the official channels to pitch. So many others have passed before you through the front door and you have to compare favorably against all of them. So get them to know you, talk with them, expose them your situation before having to do the actual pitch. Get them involved with you before signing anything. Do something for them or better yet, make them do something for you. It will make everything go smooth and natural if you can establish a relationship before you start pitching and negotiating.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, Founder and President, Nine Dots Studio

51.
Ignore the majority of advice you are given – You’ve thought your project through far more than the people you’ll meet ever will.  Smile and nod when you are given advice stating how clever the people on the panel are.  Then ignore it.  Your game, your vision, your opportunity.  You’ll kick yourself later if you alter your plans and your game does not work. Ironically, this is a piece of advice.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo

52. It helps to have a track record when pitching, which might be a catch-22 for some developers. Be confident – in my pitch to Gameslab SW I said 'if you want to tick a box that you have picked a project which gets completed, is great, and makes a profit, pick me,'. And they did.
Jake Birkett, Director, Grey Alien Games

53. Build a great deck. Your pitch deck is extremely important and is what gets sent around to the friends of people you talk to. Make sure it's not overly detailed but still conveys what you're building. Make sure it's short enough to read through in a few minutes and spark enough interest to schedule a meeting or call. And finally, make sure it's pretty – games are art, so you should be able to make a deck look visually appealing.
Alexander Bergendahl, CEO and Game Director, Poppermost Productions

54.
Asking people who’ve had prior experience and preparing answers, and remember that the assessors want you to do well. Don’t see them as an enemy, but work together into giving them what they want to hear.
Izzy Gramp, Founder, Geeiz Games

CROWDFUNDING

55. Never underestimate the work involved in crowd-funding and never treat it as either free money or free marketing. It’s a great option for some projects but it’s a full-time job to prepare for and run the campaign, as well as making sure you deliver on your promises afterwards.
Natalie Griffith, Owner, Press Space

56.
Don't bother unless you have a really, really great, well-known team members included, working on a seriously brilliant concept. Even then, don't expect to fund the whole development through crowd-sourcing without a lot of effort, hard work and a clear plan of how your goal amount breaks down.
Sam Watts, Game Producer, Tammeka

57.
People often underestimate how much work go into a crowdfunding campaign and neither the press nor the consumer appreciate that. It's a full time job that often starts at least a month before the actual campaign launches. You need to have a plan for all the updates you will make before you launch the campaign and if you don't already have a community of followers, do everything you can to get influencers pushing the campaign with you.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, Founder and President, Nine Dots Studio

58.
Try to delay your crowdfunding campaign for as long as possible - backers are looking for projects that are 80-to-90 per cent complete. But don’t be completely ready to launch – people also want to help you on the last leg of your journey.
Alex Fleetwood, Game Designer and Creative Director

59. Building a community is so important, not just for crowdfunding, but also for the release of your game and beyond. Get people excited about what you are trying to do from as early a stage as possible. And tell everyone; and I mean everyone.
Seb Burnett, Creative Director, Rumpus Animation

60.
89 per cent of all Kickstarter pledges go to successful campaigns – backers really know what’s going to fly and what isn’t so do your research and make sure you deliver what people want to see, whether that’s in your pitch video, your reward tiers or your campaign copy.
Natalie Griffith, Owner, Press Space

61.
The amount of your game that you show in your crowdfunding pitch should be inversely proportional to your experience and reputation as a game developer. Famous game developers can raise money with not much more than a concept, some artwork, and a promise. For the rest, you need to show and tell a lot more, even going as far as having a prototype ready so you can share actual gameplay footage in your pitch.
Sam Dalsimer, Senior PR Manager at Tilting Point (left)

62.
Crowdfunding via Kickstarter and the like is still very doable, but don't expect to raise your entire budget this way. Wait until you have a playable game and some polished assets, and work on building your community before you start the campaign.
Russ Clarke, Founder, Payload Studios

63.
80 per cent of all successful Kickstarter projects reach their goal in three days so a strong start is critical. To achieve that you must put time and effort into building a community of supporters well in advance – that’s not a process you can fast-track.
Natalie Griffith, Owner, Press Space

OTHER TIPS AND ALTERNATIVE FUNDING OPTIONS

64. Be cautious about trying to raise debt finance to fund a game development project. Debt finance usually requires predictable and stable cash flows, together with assets which can be secured – and seized and sold, if necessary, to repay the debt. Many game projects, particularly projects to fund new IP, do not meet these criteria.
Vincent Scheurer, Operations Director, Payload Studios

65.
Keep a record of everything: e-mails, paperwork, software, even proof of attendance at events; take photographs. And do not delete or throw everything out after project completion. The grant will probably require you to keep said records, and in a specific format.
Stephen Caruana, Lead Designer and Developer, Pixie Software (right)

66.
Prepare for the paperwork; especially if the letters EU are involved. There will be far more than you ever expected and it is relentless. Find yourself a highly organised PM or Office Manager to cope. If not, don’t take the money.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo

67.
'Investment' does not have to mean VCs and suits, or publishers. SEIS is designed to make small-scale investment approachable, allowing very worthwhile funding to be raised from a small group, without anyone taking a massive risk. Remember, parents and children are not eligible.
Russ Clarke, Founder, Payload Studios

68.
Sometimes it helps to look outside your field for governments; ICT, R&D and film all provide things that are related to games.
Izzy Gramp, Founder, Geeiz Games

69.
We used SEIS to gain some funding post-Kickstarter since we are working with a new tech platform – VR – and can take advantage of the UK government scheme to encourage investment in start-ups in this area; bare in mind it only goes up to £150,000 so plan within these limits or ensure you have other funding paths available.
Sam Watts, Game Producer, Tammeka

70.
Push back if required – and it will be. Expect your funder to ignore all of your timelines and organised roll out strategies in favour of a release strategy that allows them to tick a box on a certain date.  The success of your game is far more important than their forms, so stay on target.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo

71. The most important events for our project have all come from saying 'yes'. While securing funding is still our goal we are so much closer than we could ever have been because we threw caution to the wind and applied to things like Stugan, entered our ropey little prototype to competitions and signed up for programmes such as BAFTA Crew, all these things give us exposure and experience and get us closer to our aim of securing funds.
Simon Ashbery, Lead Artists and Designer, Rosvita Works (left)

72.
Keep an eye out for fund opportunities from places that aren’t typically 'games'. We’re lucky to straddle both the tech and creative industries and there’s a variety of funding available for both. Just because a thing doesn’t explicitly state 'games' in its remit, don’t rule it out.
Tony Gowland, Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop

73. Say thanks. Although you may want to throttle your funder at various points, they’ve allowed you follow your dreams. They rock and deserve presents, praise and a beer or two.
Mike Hawkyard, Managing Director, Amuzo