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Dispelling Myths about Indie Game Accelerators

GTR’s Pontus Mahler on how accelerator programs can help indie developers scale

Dispelling Myths about Indie Game Accelerators

Game development is more accessible than ever before. While previous generations have been dominated by companies with significant investment, now it’s simple for independent developers or even solo operations to bring a game to market.

However, while this acts as a notable boon, it also imposes a new barrier. There are millions of apps available, each fighting for space in a crowded market.

An accelerator program can help a business scale and bring its games to the attention of consumers, but some independent developers are wary about utilising one for a number of reasons, ranging from the loss of creative control to the thought of losing a significant cut of their hard-earned profits.

In this guest post, Global Top Round vice president Pontus Mahler discusses the common misconceptions surrounding game accelerators – and how correctly utilising one can help take your business to new heights.

When the gaming market was flooded with ambitious indie developers and one-off publishers, it suddenly became far more difficult for the teams occupying that space to be visible. Even those with a viable, high-quality product found themselves wrestling against waves of new indie games of varying qualities. There needed to be a resource that helped studios receive the attention and funding that was otherwise going to their competition.

And so the accelerator program was born.

But heavy scepticism came from that new creation – which does exactly as its name suggests by “accelerating” the development of an indie mobile game by finding investors, business partners, and a pathway to an engaging audience.

While some developers jump at the chance to join accelerators, others approach them warily, their hesitation fuelled by myths that have formed over the years. The thing about myths, though, is that they’re simply a fabrication. So what you’ve likely been hearing about accelerators could be far from the truth. And to help wade through common misconceptions of indie game accelerators, I’ve put together this list of the key myths I keep seeing.

Games Studios Lose Creative/Development Control

When a publisher or investor takes on a project through an accelerator, the last thing they’re looking to do is micromanage every aspect of that game. They’re investing because they believe in the concept the developer pitched.

Can you imagine an investor, who typically has multiple irons in the fire at once, taking on total creative control of every mobile game they help fund? They would be worn so thin that they’d have to minimise the number of projects they can support, reducing their potential for a significant return.

An accelerator program is not about relinquishing your creative control or suddenly answering to an overlord bureaucracy. It’s about funding passion, concepts, and proven results.

The Focus is on the ‘Pitch’, Not the Long Term

Yes, the pitch is important. It shows investors that you have a viable concept. However, a concept is nothing if there’s no plan for it. You have to show investors that you have a clear vision of the idea and where you’ll be taking that idea. By showing a long-term plan, you’re telling investors you’re fully vested in your project and making it easier for them to see the project's longevity.

A one-off investment that maybe has a three-month post-launch plan isn’t going to net the same potential for returns as a project that’s been envisioned for years down the line. That’s often why you’ll see “roadmaps” from developers. That’s the consumer-level long-term plan that tells players their game is worth buying because they can promise longevity.

You Will Lose Rights to Your IP

Investors will never own a majority share of your intellectual property, and if one proposes that they should, they’re not worth working with. Typically, they’re looking for just enough to make the effort they’ll put into your project worthwhile.

Taking on an entire IP is a mess of work that investors just don’t have the time or desire for. This is why they invest and don’t create. They have the funding and the network, just not the passion to take on an IP on their own.

Investors Want a Large Percentage of Profits for a Low Commitment

It seems like a reasonable idea, right? Everyone’s ultimately in this for the final profit. However, investors know that they can’t take a significant percentage of the profits and still have options for investments in the future. A successful project hinges on a well-funded developer, and if the bulk of their profits goes to investors, they will not have the resources they need to keep building.

It’s also wholly demoralising to watch the money come in and have a majority of it go into somebody else’s pockets. That’s not an investor’s goal. They would prefer a smaller percentage of multiple projects, and it’s the best approach for their longevity, as banking on a large percentage of profits from one developer can lead to relatively lower returns.

Success Drives Their Support

It may have been true at one point that investors chased successful projects. That’s not quite true anymore. Today, they’re driven by data, bringing us back to the importance of an effective pitch deck. You want to make them invested in you and your mobile game.

Investors will be more inclined to fund a project they can rationalise into numbers. Whatever it may be, data and insight could be your best weapon during your pitch.

The Dev Team Will Need to Relocate

It’s the 21st century. One could argue that the days of needing to be in the same space to create a viable product are long gone, thanks to the multitude of project management programs and communication tools. Investors won’t ask you to relocate, and this brings us back to micromanaging and the myth about taking creative control.

They’re investing in you as much as they are in the project. You earned their trust, and they don’t need to hover behind you to ensure the work is getting done.

Accelerators Open Up the Flood Gates for Plagiarism

An accelerator program isn’t meant to be an exchange of ideas between developers. By the time any mobile game developer reaches the accelerator program, they’ve already sunk ample time, effort, and money into their concept and pitch. Should they even see your game as part of the accelerator, the most they’ll be doing is eyeing up the potential competition – which developers should be doing anyway from the very start of development.

Only Applications with a Live Product Are Considered

Investors want to see a viable idea and a track record of success. This sometimes means you need a finished product. But accelerators offer an added benefit that traditional investors don’t — flexibility in completion.

In fact, at Global Top Round, we emphasise the pitch deck as the success of a game isn’t just about the live product. Entry into the Global Top Round Accelerator program doesn’t require a fully live product, just the minimum of a playable demo. However, this should be part of your pitch deck anyway, as it gives investors a chance to see your idea in action and the quality of your work before you were properly funded.

The Truth About Accelerator Programs

The goal of an accelerator program is to ultimately support the gaming industry. Investors want more mobile games to succeed because the more games out there, the bigger the industry gets. The bigger the industry gets, the more players it recruits. The more players it recruits, the more money gets circulated. It’s all cyclical and starts with ambitious developers looking to join accelerators like Global Top Round. But it’s important for both the studio and investor (or accelerator) to do due diligence before approaching each other for a deal. This is how deals get done. At Global Top Round, we are open about our approach and investing style. We encourage all developers interested in working with us to contact our portfolio companies.

The only truth you need to know about an accelerator program is that its primary goal is to provide support. Investors know they’re driving an industry toward success by supporting indie developers. And the more that industry succeeds, the more they can make to sink back into other mobile game developers to keep the cycle going and their investments profitable.

Edited by Lewis Rees regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.