It’s not terribly complicated: if you want a serious investor to fund your game you need to take your business seriously. What does that mean? You must have something to show ahead of time and prove that you understand the market. Anything less and you’re relying on more than a little bit of luck to get that check signed.
Here are the top 4 reasons why games don’t get funded, and how you can stay out of those statistics:
- Your game doesn’t have impact
- You haven’t put your money where your mouth is
- You don’t know why you need what you’re asking for
- You have poor timing
Let’s break this down.
1. Your Game Doesn’t Have Impact
You don’t need to be building the next explosive first-person shooter to “wow” your audience: a few seconds of gameplay can have a massive and immediate effect on potential investors.
You can innovate, improve, or invent to take someone’s breath away. But without one of the three i’s, your game will be doomed to a short shelf-life and limited success.
Think about it. How can you expect to stand out in a crowded market when your content doesn’t feature anything new or different? Sure, you can still build a fun experience as a commercial project, but don’t expect investor help without an inherent market advantage.
2. You Haven’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Obtaining adequate financial assistance without proof of effort will be nearly impossible for any project or team. Nobody can walk up to an investor with some drawings of “awesome enemies” or “cool levels” and expect them to start writing checks. And if you don’t already know how to use the technology required to build the content for your game, forget about it.
While few studios invest much in downloadable demos these days, having a vertical or horizontal slice of your product is essential to making an impact with crowd funders or investors. Why? Because before you sell your product, you need to sell the team behind it. Investors will only put their money on the line if there’s potential value, and games don’t build themselves.
3. You Don’t Know Why You Need What You’re Asking For
This is one of the most common issues with inexperienced developers. Without a detailed cost breakdown, you’ll be hard pressed to find an investor that’ll give you hundreds or thousands of dollars for unknown reasons. If you do, send them my way. I have a used car to sell.
Show them you know what to expect. You can’t ask for something like $10,000 without explaining how it will be split between development, creative assets, marketing and studio costs (e.g. rent, utilities, hardware). The same goes for unreasonably low costs. Unless you can prove that your new MMORPG will only take your two-man team $25,000 to build and release, you’ll never get the support you’re looking for.
Another issue with vague fundraising is the time frame: do you have a release date in mind? Do you at least have an idea how many months you’ll spend on design, development and promotion? Without a business plan, it’ll be difficult to secure significant funding because your investors won’t be comfortable having so much money tied up with an indeterminate return on investment. So make it clear.
4. Poor Timing
I can’t stress this enough. Knowing the state of the industry is just as important as knowing your own business. Even if you’ve spent months developing a tech demo and have compiled a detailed business plan, the market ultimately dictates demand. And without demand, you won’t see revenue. Without revenue, investors won’t see return. Not a dime.
There’s no reason a casual sports game would receive funding if set to release in late 2006, against Wii Sports. Similarly, a top-down zombie game would probably encounter a significant amount of resistance, as the undead survival trope has almost entirely moved out of the spotlight. Without knowing the current state of the industry (and having the ability to somewhat predict the future), you could very well be “doing everything right” and still failing in the long run.
Investors don’t want to part with their money unless there’s something in it for them. Your game is not a charity. So make your case a solid one. Show potential investors that you have what it takes to make it happen, and they’ll make it happen for you.