12 tips for getting your game funded

Knowledge is power

12 tips for getting your game funded

You've got a flawless game idea, a passionate, talented team, and you practise your investment pitch in front of the mirror every night.

The only thing stopping your from conquering the industry is money: a developer's best friend, and worst enemy.

After all, knowing which funding option is right can be difficult, and assessing all of the options is a daunting task.

Fortunately for you, Picnic Games' David Amor was on hand at Games Funding Forum 2014 to ease your pain and talk you through some of the options.

Amor, who previously worked for EA, was a co-founder of Relentless Games and is now CEO of Brighton-based studio, Picnic Games, is a man who knows how to get projects off the ground.

So, without futher ado, here are his top 12 tips for getting your game funded.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 SEIS is your friend

    Taking the SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) route is a surprisingly efficient way of getting your UK-based business off the ground.

    The banks aren't willing to help game developers, but that doesn't matter, because if you're only after a small initial sum, the SEIS should have you covered.

    “SEIS is an easy way of getting the wheels turning. The banks won't lend developers any money, so the Seed Enterprise Initiative is a very easy way of getting an initial sum of money,” explained Amor.

    “It's only up to £150,000, but I think it's a straight forward scheme. It's not scary, it's not out of reach, and its a great way of getting money. I've done it four times now.

  • 2 Look beyond Kickstarter

    Crowdfunding has come into it own recently, largely thanks to the Kickstarter explosion caused by Double Fine's successful Broken Age campaign.

    However, now that the reality of game development has somewhat soured Kickstarter's once infallible appeal, it's important to remember that other options do exist.

    “There is a crowdsourced finance past Kickstarter,” reminded Amor.

    “There are other platforms out there, such as Seedrs, and using those lets individuals put money in for slices of your company. It's not specific to games, but it is an alternative. “

  • 3 Avoid game VCs, unless you're F2P

    Unless you're intent on developing a free-to-play title for mobile, it's probably best to avoid game VCs.

    “Game VCs are almost exclusively interested in free-to-play mobile. They tend to be looking for 10 to 20 times multiple of what they put in,” said Amor.

    “I think it's dangerous to go there, because I don't think you'll get anything if you go there with anything but free-to-play mobile.”

  • 4 SIES VCs are reliable, but costly

    SIES VC funds are another option pitched by Amor, and while they might be a reliable way of acquiring funding, it's important to remember that they'll want a sizeable chunk of your business as insurance.

    “SEIS VC funds are also out there. It's a good funding option, and a good way to get things off the ground. I've done two of them, and did great things with them,” revealed Amor.

    “Of course, you need to expect to be giving away some of your company, usually 50 percent.”

  • 5 Series A is a hard sell

    Once again, those of you developing free-to-play mobile titles have been given an advantage in the form of Series A VCs.

    Notoriously hard to impress, it's crucial that you know your business plan inside out before you even consider this option.

    “Series A VCs are hard to impress. After you've done seed investment, Series A is your next port of call. Again, they usually only want a mobile free-to-play titles,” explained Amor.

    “To get funding from them you have to be so buttoned up and know your figures. It's not enough to go there with a great game and a great team. You really do need to know your stuff."


  • 6 Take your time

    If you want to take a safer route, and keep more of your business, you should probably consider giving yourself four to six months of funding buffer, a.k.a. runway in moneyman speak.

    “Raise four to six months of runway,” said Amor.

    “You have to be a pretty special company with a good track record to raise huge sums, so what you should do is raise enough money to give yourself four to six months of runway. That way you make yourself a more attractive investment.”

    “If you have faith in your game, and faith in your team, that's certainly the way to get your investment.”

  • 7 More companies means more funding

    Creating new companies and managing a handful of them might sound stressful, but, materially, it doesn't actually change anything.

    If you want to take the SEIS route, this could be the option for you.

    “Don't be afraid to create a new company. I make video games for a living, so I don't really know a lot about investment, but I've set up five or six companies in the past few months,” revealed Amor.

    “If you're able to ring-fence your companies, then it makes it easier to get investment. On paper it might seem complicated, but materially it doesn't change anything.

    “It's just a structuring technique that'll help you raise money, especially if you want to take the SEIS route.”

  • 8 Know your money

    Knowing the difference, and value, between 'dumb money' and 'smart money' is essential. Both types are useful, but it's important that you recognise how and why.

    “There's dumb money and there's smart money," explained Amor.

    "Dumb money comes from investors who don't add anything apart from the cash, but smart money comes from people who are in the industry, and who can actually add value to your firm.

    “The value of smart money is infinitely higher than dumb money received from friends or family.”

  • 9 Choose your investors wisely

    It should go without saying, but any developer hoping to be successful needs to be smart when it comes to picking investors, and maintaining investor interest.

    “Pick your investors wisely. In my experience you need to try and find three or four people to invest in the company and get it going. That's a manageable amount,” suggested Amor.

    “Low investor equity causes low investor interest. When you give people a slither of equity, especially to smart money investors, you might not get the value out of them that you need.

    “Eventually I had to put people up to force them to give me more time. Equity means interest, and it's important your investors care about what you're doing.”

  • 10 Talk to Microsoft

    Mobile developers worried about the over-saturated App Store should seriously consider heading to Microsoft.

    According to Amor, Microsoft are always on the lookout for great mobile titles, and even if your pitch doesn't bear any fruit, you could end up getting an unexpected phone call in the future.

    “Nav Sunner at Microsoft wants mobile. Microsoft wants content on its mobile platforms, and maybe even iOS and Android,” said Amor.

    “The point is they're signing mobile games. The App Store is a horrendous place, so there's no shame in speaking to these people and finding what sort of games they want.

    “Just go and ask. Make it really easy, go to Guildford, go to London, have the conversation, and find out what it is they're looking for.

    “I've done that before, so it's worth having those conversations early. Even if the games don't get signed, you might find eventually you end up working with them because you're a developer who fits their strategy.”

  • 11 Forget the maths, remember the cash flow

    As a game developer you'll, quite rightly, want to focus on turning your grand vision into a reality.

    Of course, running a business means that you'll also have to deal with lots of worries that could distract you from the task at hand.

    Some, suggests Amor, can be pushed to one side, while others should probably never be far from your thoughts.

    “Don't fret about the maths. I remember at EA looking at these awful spreadsheets, but it's all nonsense really. You can do some really really simple maths without picking up a calculator, and when you reduce it all down it's pretty simple,” explained Amor.

    “On the other hand, do fret about the cash flow. Obviously, if you run out of money the studio stops whatever it's doing. The maths is about working out the cost, the cash flow is about working out when the money is coming in, and going out.

    “The economics of running a business, in my experience, is such a small priority when compared to cash flow.”

  • 12 Make friends, not enemies

    Another tip that might sound like a no-brainier is to make friends, not enemies.

    Don't forget to talk to people when you're at events. Networking is incredibly important, because you never know who you might meet. 

    On the flip side, if someone happens to get on the wrong side of you, it's probably best that you don't call them out in public. After all, you never know where they might end up.

    “Don't burn bridges. I've had this done to me once, and it's very easy to bitch about people who perhaps don't fulfil promised, but don't do it,” said Amor.

    “Don't vent on Twitter, or Steam, because eventually you'll want to pick up the phone to that person or company some time later. That's how you don't get the money. It's just a bad idea to piss people off.

    “Talk to people. The way that I've found out the most about what I've done is by talking to people. Just talk to other people, compare notes, find out what's working, and draw on their experiences. 

    “It's a fantastic shortcut in making things happen. Go to publishers, make it easier for them, put yourself in front of people and start conversations.”

What do you call someone who has an unhealthy obsession with video games and Sean Bean? That'd be a 'Chris Kerr'. Chris is one of those deluded souls who actually believes that one day Sean Bean will survive a movie. Poor guy.