Attracting investment is a major undertaking for any games company.
But for those based in India, whose games industry is young and barely supported by the government, the task is an even greater one.
But broadly, it seems that there is still a lack of awareness about how to approach investors among the Indian games industry.
"Hardly anyone is talking about the core, basic things that every startup should focus on," Vaibhav Chavan - whose company UnderDOGS Studio raised funding in July 2016 - previously told PocketGamer.biz.
So we asked our Indian Mavens:
- Is access to investment for Indian games companies improving, and have you ever raised funding?
- What more could be done to help Indian developers get access to funding and investment?
Out of the blue, a few Indian companies got funding from investors. But it's been a long process to raise funds, since investors don't know much about the Indian gaming market and it's hard to make them understand.
Companies who got investment must also use their funds effectively and to gain profit for the company. Very few companies who get funding utilise the funds and provide returns to the investors.
Failing this makes investors avoid funding the upcoming game companies.
To raise awareness about game industries in India among investors, events in the country must invite investors and explain the growth of the Indian games market.
Let's not forget that 99Games have recently raised money as well. Maybe they can talk a bit about their recent experience.
We've been approached by VC firms and some investors in the past, and in recent times. I hadn't looked into this direction until recently.
I would love to see what others have to say about this, especially ones that have raised money in 2016 and 2017.
More gaming events or gaming segments in tech events would be a good start to increasing funding. There are hundreds of tech events taking place in India, with a big presence of potential investors.
For gaming, however, there have only been very few such events where investors were present in the recent past - and it has only become worse.
Shailesh Prabhu is an Indie Game Designer from India who has been designing games for over ten years. Seven years ago he founded Yellow Monkey Studios and is the recipient of numerous game design and entrepreneurship awards around the world. Socioball, HUEBRIX, It’s Just a Thought are some of his recent games. Shailesh is also an excellent cook, loves playing tennis, gardening and DIY projects apart from sporting facial hair.
From my point of view, money has always been offered to me with baggage and reduced flexibility. It also has a tendency to come when you least need it.
I would love to see more grants and game funds that support different types of games rather than purely money-chasing, free-to-play, mobile only, VC-based investment.
Yes, access to investment for Indian studios is on the rise.
Getting investment from Indian VCs has some clause, which demands you to focus on Bollywood/F2P titles. However I do see the difference in perspective from the foreign investors, who are trying to nurture the market - like Youzu trying to explore RPG.
+1 to Ankush - more events and meet-ups with investors would be helpful.
I've wanted to make games since I was in school and I've tried to learn and do as much as I could ever since. I studied English literature in college ( to free up my time for games) and then went on to do graduate studies in Design for Digital Experience at National Institute of Design. In between, I taught design, worked as a ux guy, and co founded a start up - called Hashstash (http://hashstash.in) where I made games. I left Hashstash some time ago and is currently teaching Game design, development and UX at Srishti Institute of Design, Bangalore. I also help with the IGDA Bangalore chapter and other community initiatives across India.
Just to add to what Shailesh said: it would be great to see something more friendly like the Indie Fund here.
Not that one can't apply for it from India, but it would be great to see more funds like them, even locally, and as flexible and indie-friendly as they are.
On another note, if you are more of a one-woman/man army, you can find (with some effort) grants like the ones from the Indian Foundation for Arts and also many artist-in-residence programs around India and abroad.
The challenge for these indies trying to push the medium forward would be to get the right information in time. A tiny shout out to Studio Oleomingus, Quicksand GamesLab and Gayatri Kodikal for taking the road less travelled.
No amount of money can give you great products, said Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder of both Vidaldi and Opera Browser - which for many years was the top mobile web browser - who often talked of why they avoided external funding.
Money can definitely be an enabler, but beyond that, it's the passion, the energy and the love that a team puts into a game that determines whether a game is a hit or a flop.
In the past there have been other players who invested in companies, and the impact of funding in the gaming industry was never the kind of impact that funding had in, say, ecommerce.
Indiagames and everything it created or did will in time fade from public memory.Nalin Savara
The final word here, I believe, would be the story of Indiagames. Indiagames, which was one of the first gaming companies in India, started out in the dot-com era as Indiagames.com.
The company, with a then-teenage founder, started out as a bootstrapped company from the founder's garage.
It took tranches of funding from different sources at different times, resulting in a soap opera of acquisitions where the founders sold it and then re-acquired control to the point that ownership of Indiagames and its game properties landed in the hands of Disney.
And, after a few false starts, Disney shut it down!
Today, there is nothing to show in the form of completed, memorable games of Indiagames in the way we remember id in it's heyday for Doom, or Bungie Software for Marathon - even before it developed Halo.
With Indiagames, its IPL cricket game and everything it created or did will in time fade from public memory, as will its story, the funds and the valuations at which it received different tranches of funding.
That, to me, is how we should see funding - as a possible bridge to bigger and better achievements - but definitely not as an end in itself or as a reason in itself to talk about or hype up a company.
Game on, I say, since no amount of money can give you great products!
Nalin, I think that your assumptions of what happened at Indiagames are quite inaccurate.
Thanks for the mention, Ankush. Yes, we (99Games) did raise another round of funding in October 2016.
While it was a bit of struggle to do that given the overall investor sentiment in 2016, the fact that our existing investors (Kalaari and Ascent) also participated enthusiastically in the round was also quite satisfying.
Investment comes in different forms - via game funds, via publishers, friends and family, or angels. Sharing some of our thoughts on the funding we raised from institutional investors for the mobile gaming sector:
- Investors typically back founders, founding teams or companies that have found market traction.
So a team of ex-EA or ex-Zynga folks gets some natural advantages here. For 99Games, the traction around Star Chef helped land its Series A funding in 2015.
- Investors look at this sector as a ‘hit-driven’ business.
Even if a studio has success with one game, there will always be pointed questions around their ability to repeat the same. For 99Games, it helped that we were able to get a lot of traction for our Dhoom3 and Sultan games.
- While we are seeing a lot of interest in the last 12 months from Indian investors, most are looking at investing in the $250k to $1.5m range for a 20% to 30% stake in the companies.
Only few investors are willing to invest beyond that, but those are the folks who are really willing to bet big in this space.
- Most investors are convinced about the potential of the Indian market, and that’s the primary reason for investing in Indian companies.
They are not keen to fund companies who are looking at monetising opportunities in the West.
They are also pretty much convinced that there is no immediate monetisation potential in India (beyond the Teen Patti space, which itself is a small market in terms of monetisation potential at the moment).
So essentially, they are taking a bet at the moment.
- The ecosystem definitely needs platforms like NGDC, Pocket Gamer Connects, etc.
This allows companies to showcase their offerings and keep the conversations going between developers and investors.
The entry of the likes of Youzu and other Chinese publishers will throw up up interesting opportunities in the days to come.
My name is Rituraj Behera and I am Co-founder of Cympl, an Indie game studio started back in November 2012.
I had begun my career as an application developer but I always loved playing games which attracted me to the fast growing mobile games industry.
I had started the organization with a vision to create high quality mobile games and an attitude to learn & improve everyday.
Hearing about the recent investment in Playsimple, Mech Mocha, Flixy Games and 99Games a few months ago, it definitely seems that investment opportunities are improving for Indian mobile game companies.
Investors are mainly looking for studios that are focused on the Indian market.Rituraj Behera
We had been approached by a couple of investors in the recent past as well, and from what we understood they are mainly looking for studios that are focused on the Indian market, already have traction with at least one of their games and have the capability to create more such games in the future.
More gaming events would definitely help. It gives both developers and investors a platform to meet each other and have meaningful interactions to see if they could work together.
Sometimes, we as founders get too passionate about the games we develop and I think having an investor who understands the market well really helps developers get some business sensibilities, access to funds and also to some key market influencers.
The fact that there have been a few Indian gaming startups who have raised money recently tells us that access to investment is improving.
We, however, have not raised money or tried to raise money. Part of the reason is that being bootstrapped gives us a little more creative freedom in pursuing ideas and genres that might not fit in with 'go big or die trying' philosophy of VC investments.
Also from what I understand, a majority of VC investments have happened in Indian gaming companies looking to capture the Indian market, which we do not target in a big way yet.
On access to funding, I would agree with Shailesh and Yadu and would like to see more grants, government or private, for games which try to push forward the gaming medium as an art rather than profit-driven games.
For profit-driven games, market forces will ensure that if they are worthy/profitable, they will find investment.