Funding a game project

Every once in a while, a new game developer will ask himself The Question. And, if he realizes that he doesn't have the answer himself, he will often go online and ask The Question of some web forum or mailing list.

What is The Question, you may ask yourself?

Drizzt wrote:
Long story made short: what's the best way to find funds for a project?

Do you want to know the best way? I'm pretty sure I've figured it out by now, after many years researching and working on similar problems.

  1. Put together a top-notch team of a dozen people who each have 10 top-10 best-sellers in their career.
  2. Design a game with brand-new, highly addictive, instantly learnable, tremendously fun gameplay.
  3. Make the team build a wonderful demo level, from soup to nuts. Make sure to have top-40 or better grade music and a fully polished UI to not detract from the experience.
  4. Use the demo, and the team credentials, and all your past, current and future contacts to generate press, buzz and interest about the game.
  5. Develop the rest of the game to the same quality levels.
  6. Market the game through all possible channels (online, retail, console download, etc)
  7. Sell 5,000,000 copies.
  8. At this point, raise money for this game based on a position of strength.

Now, chances are that you won't get away with this. Most projects have to back line 8) up the chain a bit. Further, most projects have to compromise on the actual quality of each line -- perhaps only using half a dozen people, each of which only have five top-10 best-sellers, for example.

There are four kinds of money for games, AFAICT:

  • The traditional publisher contract. Around step 5), a publisher may be convinced enough in your game to front you the development costs to take it to retail. You will need to talk to publishers in person, at various industry events, a lot, to get there, though. Expect to have to compromise your creative vision to bow to the publisher's gameplay wishes, though.
  • The tie-in funding. If your game ties into a product that may want a game to go with it, you can get funding that way. Typically, that comes out of the marketing for the product. The product may be a movie, a car, a hamburger chain, or whatnot. Expect to have to compromise your creative vision to bow to the gameplay wishes of the marketing people, though.
  • The "angel" investor, who wants to get into computer games. While there aren't as many "angel" investors in Europe as there are in a place like Silicon Valley, they may still exist. You'll have to use all your contacts (and the contacts of your team) to look for these people. Expect to have to compromise your creative vision to bow to the gameplay vision of the angel investor, though.
  • The credit cards, mortgages, lottery winnings, retirement funds, spare change at the bottom of the couch, and other sources of cash among the team members creating the game. Usually, when money starts running low, tensions will run very high, and some people can afford burning more than others, either because they live cheaply (no kids, etc), or because they have a large retirement fund and figure that the Earth will be dead by the time they're 70 anyway. Expect to have to compromise the creative vision to bow to whatever source of pennies will show up towards the end of available money, though (see points a through c).

There you have it: the best way to raise money for a game project. I hope this helps, and wish you good luck on your project!