Earlier this week, we announced Fundbetter, our initiative for funding smallish narrative games. If you’re thinking about applying, here’s some advice. If you’ve taken funding before, some of this will be very familiar info, so feel free to skim. Otherwise read on…
1. Think about your application from our point of view. We’ve already had applications that say ‘I know this isn’t all the information you wanted, but I don’t really know the rest.’ If we see that – or an application that doesn’t answer all the questions – we’ll send a form refusal.
2. Sales figures are massively speculative, but do your homework and be realistic. “Nobody knows anything.” It’s very hard to predict sales figures for an unfinished game. But show us that you’ve looked at what similar games should sell. Similar games does not mean ‘unusually successful games’. Undertale, Gone Home, Papers Please and Firewatch were all unexpected runaway successes. Don’t use them as examples.
3. Don’t apply unless you need the money. Seriously.
Fundbetter exists because it’s hard for low-cost text-centric projects to get funded. We’d like to see projects happen that wouldn’t otherwise. The terms are fair, and we’re good people to work with, but it’s not free money.
Project-based funding – as opposed to a loan, or purchasing equity in your company – is relatively rare (unless someone’s doing something clever with tax, like SEIS). Investors don’t like the idea of the people they’ve given money to being able to drop the project, keep the money and go do something else. You’d never do that, would you? Course not! but statistically speaking, from our point of view you might. People are unpredictable. What if you’d spent half the Fundbetter money, and then you got offered your dream job? It’d be a difficult decision.
We mitigate against this risk in three ways. First, we have a pretty good nose for talent and reliability, and we’ll look carefully at your projects. Secondly, we only invest quite small sums. Thirdly, we take 20% forever of any successful project revenue, so that if one project pays off well, the fund can survive a few that crash and burn.
That 20% forever does not sound like much if you’ve got no money to begin with: if you actually need the funding, it’s a very fair price. But if you don’t need the money, don’t take it. This is what I told Harry Tuffs, the first guy we funded. I’m glad he took it, and so is he, and he speaks very highly of the help we’ve given him. But if his game’s a hit, he won’t keep quite as much of the money.
Update: Now that we’ve received over 50 applications, here are some additional things to consider:
- We’d rather review a pitch for a game you’re creatively excited about than one you’ve designed to match what you think it is we’re looking for.
- Not all games benefit from being cross-platform. If you’re tempted to pitch a cross-platform game, you should think about whether the potential extra sales adequately compensate for the additional technical challenges and support burden; if it is really a strong fit for both mobile and desktop; and whether there’s one platform it would make sense to prioritise.
- Twist endings are difficult to execute well in an interactive medium, and we’ve very rarely been convinced by them in the pitches we’ve seen so far.
- You need to come up with a marketing plan. Many applications we’ve received needed to re-submit with additional detail about marketing. There are resources online that will help you figure out your plan; we recommend starting by reading marketing retrospectives from other developers on Gamasutra.
Still here? Okay. Here are a few other options to consider along with Fundbetter. Feel free to suggest more in the comments.
Kickstarter. Kickstarter is really good. And you keep 90% of what you raise, and 100% of everything you earn from the finished game after that.
On the other hand, it can be hard to get traction. Especially if you’re an introvert, or have a project that you haven’t quite worked out how to pitch to the public yet. And those backer rewards: man, they’re always more work than you expect. We’ve had two Kickstarters funded, and it was a really positive experience, but it’s a lot of work.
Indie Fund. Indie Fund have set terms that err on the side of generosity for developers, and from everything I hear, they’re good people. They take 25% of revenue (our terms were inspired by theirs), but there’s a cap on the revenue they’ll take – once they’ve earned back 200%, the rest is yours.
On the other hand, whether you get accepted is down to whether you catch the eye of one or more of their members. They don’t particularly do narrative games, and I think they generally want to provide funding at a slightly higher level.
Choice of Games. CoG have a long track record of publishing choice-based interactive fiction and I’ve only ever heard good things about the experience of working with them. They know what they’re doing, and they offer a full range of publisher services – they’ll get your project on to various platforms, they’ll market it, and so on.
On the other hand, they have a single mandated technology and extremely specific house style, and if you don’t want to work with that, it’s the wrong option for you. They also get 75% of the revenue (though they’ll offer an advance).
The UK Games Fund. This is the closest to free money you’ll get: up to 25K that you never have to pay back. Thank you, the UK government and the University of Abertay!
On the other hand, they do have strict conditions and there’s a lot of competition.
The Ramen Route. You don’t have to take funding at all. Arguably the best way to fund development of a small game is with your own funds. If this means working days on a paying gig and nights on your own thing, or saving money and living off instant noodles, then those things are possible. For some people, because of family commitments, or personal finances, or a dozen other reasons, this will never be possible. But it’s worth considering – especially since it’s a useful reminder that taking funding is only the beginning of your journey. The game is the goal.
Whatever you choose, good luck! Here’s Fundbetter again.