For the past month or so, we have been diving into getting funding for Psychroma and looking into different sources and the expectations of each type. We thought we would share some of our findings with you on this week’s devlog.
Here in Canada there are primarily three different sectors for funding – Private, Public and Crowdfunding. From our findings, we’ve been told there are some venture capital opportunities in Ontario, but we have yet to find an example of an organization that are locally based or even specialized in digital entertainment or more specifically, video games. It seems a lot of digital media and videogame projects get funding from the government, specifically the Toronto, Ontario and Canadian Arts councils.
From our experience with talking to other artists and indie developers, one has a much better chance obtaining a grant from the more local arts councils like the Toronto and Ontario levels, as opposed to the federal level. However the amount in which you can ask for increases significantly for each level of the government. After applying for the Toronto and Ontario level arts grants, we discovered a kind of grueling, bureaucratic nightmare of a process required for the application.
It can be very time-consuming and sometimes the programs provided aren’t specifically streamlined to include video games as a viable project. This means a lot of trying to get your game project to fit within the mold of a more broad digital media arts grant program, which can come off as very obtuse and confusing when explaining your project to board members. There are also a lot of restrictions based on whether your project is a for-profit venture or not. From what we’ve seen, the Canadian government grants are specifically aimed at not-for-profit arts projects that enrich a local community in a physical way, such as providing an art show or community-led lessons at a rec center, as opposed to selling an online product. This makes it nearly impossible for a video game project to fit the mold of what the government is looking for, unless it is an outlier in terms of how it’s made and its purpose. That being said, creating Psychroma as an online product we want to sell makes it basically ineligible for public funding.
The next sector, and the one that makes much more sense for us is private. This is already a very broad category but can include anything from publicly run media organizations like the Bell Media Fund or the Canadian Media Fund, or small social impact funds like Weird Ghosts and Indie Fund, or even publishers.
Based on the make up of our studio and the kind of projects we like to make, we feel we are best suited for small social impact funds. We are mostly marginalized creators and our projects offer a wide range of diverse stories and characters, which is exactly what these kinds of investors look for.
Rather than just looking at the game project, these investors could be more interested in the studio holistically. Like for example, Weird Ghosts wants to be able to ensure their investment is going towards creating a sustainable studio and supporting the people making the games. However, in the case of Indie Fund, they seem primarily interested in your project and not so much the studio itself. There is a wide range of interests for each and also a wide range of funding.
Primarily we are seeking funding, but going with a publisher is the ideal since they can offer a wide range of specialized needs and services for the development of a game as well as funds, such as platform support, localization, marketing, & PR services, and more. However, there is way more risk in signing with a publisher, and the competition for an all-inclusive deal is extremely fierce. Depending on the size and popularity of a certain publisher, your chances as an indie developer with no name recognition are slim. Also the risk involved for a small indie studio is often skewed in favor of the publisher, depending on the terms of the deal signed. There is an extremely insightful and helpful article written about the expectations for a publishing deal, what they often include and how fair they are here.
Last but not least is crowdfunding. The advantage of this strategy is you get to set your own terms and timeline. But this can be a double-edged sword as all too often we hear about Kickstarter campaigns that get away from the studio or simply fail to reach their goals within the campaign time. In most failed campaigns the developers have no one to blame but themselves, which probably makes this funding venture the riskiest. It is also the funding source that relies the heaviest on your ability to hit the pavement and get your project out there through social media, which is already skewed towards the most popular, name-recognizable studios in the industry. Often we see small, first-time indie developers shoot for a $60,000 goal and fail to meet it, only to have to bring the goal down to half or a quarter of the original amount in a second campaign attempt. Also a lot of expectations of the crowd funders are either unrealistic or uninformed, as they are mostly represented by the consumer base and not industry veterans who are familiar with the game development process. It is easy for miscommunication to occur between the studio and the crowd funders, possibly resulting in a public backlash and pulling of funding. Of the many listicles on the matter, this one that covers a few game Kickstarter fails may shed some light on the myriad risks involved and the many ways this could affect the creators and fans.
When it comes to Kickstarter, it is definitely a strategy we could consider, but only if our more ideal options all fall through. It is definitely a nerve-wracking possibility for us, truth be told.
That’s all for now, folks! Hope you find this interested or insightful. Thanks for reading!