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Starting a company and getting funding in Pakistan (no game industry here)

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Hi guys, I work with an independant group of game developers here in Pakistan. And we still havent made that leap in trying to "go for it". So I'm writing in here for advice. We have a design doc ready for our first game, it's a small game, but with a lot of potential. Now I've been reading books and digging into all this production and business stuff (I currently have my nose in that Business and Legal guide book). So far, we've been just surviving by doing contract work for the government (simulations) and through this one other project that is slowly bringing in cash. The problem is that it's just enough money to keep the computers up and running with the latest tech and for the books that we constantly need to buy (one book usually costs the entire average salary someone earns in this country per month). There is one other company in this country but they're associated with a foreign company based in the UK I think. Anyway, our website is at http://www.thecodefreaks.com/. If you visit it, *please* excuse it for sucking - we havent hired a professional to make one yet, but we will in due time. Also note that the "team" section is obsolete, it's just 2 programmers left right now - me and the lead, and the contact email address is useless because no one checks it, and the guy that had the access codes to the website hosting package is not with us anymore, so we can't check it really. So anyway, our first game which I've taken the liberty to design is an online multiplayer card game. It's not a very big game so I'm not sure if we should go through retailers or through the online market. THe game is only playable online, it can't be played stand alone. It's an entirely new concept and AFAIK nothing like it has been done before. But that's not the issue right now, the issue is getting funding and making some kind of proposal, that's where you guys come in. Basically I just need some advice on what to do, something like this has never been done in this country before (well not done properly). We have already released a game in this country but it flopped big time (the very next day there were pirate copies available - even though our retail price was 2 dollars!!!). This time we want to realease it internationally - screw the sales from this country, it's hopeless here. My dilemma is this: If we release online, it's going to be one heck of a download for people, and if we release it to retailers, we'll need a good foreign publisher to do the marketing for us and we lose a lot of the profits - but how do we get the publisher? There is a lot of advantage I can see for publishers if they'd invest in us (the advantage is that a game will cost them about third to make), but the problem is how to convince them? I've made a budget sheet - which I'm not even sure has been done properly, and the required funds for a year and a half of development comes to just about 60K (dollars) - which is really not much form the outside. But also note that this budget I made has like the most minimum salaries I can see someone taking, the salaries are just enough to live decently for one person in this country, no way a family guy can live on the salaries I've put in for our first game. Anyway that can be found here Please note that the last column only is in dollars - the rest is in rupees. Any advice will be extremely appreciated. Help with the budget sheet (anything we're missing?)

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Sorry to say, no publisher is going to give you money up-front to develop your game UNLESS you have a proven track record and a good management team :(

The normal route is to ask friends, family and fools for money first.

You should get in touch with your local small business gateway (I am assuming these are everywhere btw) as they should be able to inform you of any funds, subsidies, grants etc you could apply for.

Talk to your bank and/or local government office (where I am based, we have the Scottish Executive who give great help to small businesses and start-ups) as they may be able to give you a match-funded loan (they give you money which you have to 'match' with it from other sources - ie. your own, family, private investors etc).

Above all, you will need a strong business plan indicating who you are, your product(s),your intended market, current and future aims, strengths and weaknesses, current and projected financials, investment required, exit strategy etc, and a good prototype/demo to show what your game entails and what is unique about it.

I've probably missed a few bits out (I'm tired) but no doubt other replies will help....good luck.

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It's hard to talk for the government here - they're so corrupt, will have to give that a try though. We'd prefer to stay away from a bank for obvious reasons and I'd also rather stay away from doing business with family, most of the time it's for the worst.

Now as for the proven track record: Well we do have a record, but not and a proven one at that, but not for games. Like I mentioned before, the only game we releasedwas a flop - not because it was a bad game, but because it was pirated the next day, and since we only released it in this country, well, our income was 0.

What if we sent in a proposal of the entire game concept and design, and a CD with a truck load of different tech videos, virtual reality stuff, simulators, visualizasion systems, and some videos of game demos that we made (a multiplayer shooter, car racer and airplane sim) - but these actual game demos are very primitive, they're not highly polished (would that be ok?)

The thing with this game, is that not only does it have a very high probability of success, but the publisher will also get merchandise out of it - merchandise that could probably rival pokemon. And there's a bigger and better sequel that is semi planned out too.

The problem with what you said, is a good management team. That's not possible to get over here because there's no one who's done this before, we can always hire an off the mill manager but s/he won't know jack about game development, and asking someone from abroad that actually has this experience to come to this country and work with us, well that's just not going to happen. So how to get a "good managment team" eludes me. For the time being I was thinking of taking over the business side - already making the business plan, budget is almost done, staffing requirements is done. I figured I'd hire a lawyer and an accountant after (if) we get a publishing deal of some sort.

Thanks for advice so far, man times are difficult eh?

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Mmnn, tricky situation you are in.

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....they're so corrupt, will have to give that a try though

There's no harm in trying - there must be some help around, even if it's only to give you information about what other avenues may be open to you and where you can find them. I would also look around to see how many others are in your position - I'm not too sure if you've looked around the IGDA forums to see if there's a 'chapter' group close (or as close as can be) to where you are - there may be some info there you could glean to help you.

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Now as for the proven track record: Well we do have a record, but not and a proven one at that, but not for games. Like I mentioned before, the only game we releasedwas a flop - not because it was a bad game, but because it was pirated the next day, and since we only released it in this country, well, our income was 0.

Here you have learned a lesson - you know the reasons why the game flopped and you know what steps to take in order for it not to happen again. Many businessess flop for one reason or another and yet, there are many failed businessmen/women who realise their mistakes and are able to start again with a new business like a pheonix from the ashes.

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So how to get a "good managment team" eludes me. For the time being I was thinking of taking over the business side
This would be a good idea imo, if you can build on what you've learned. I would suggest looking around for business courses that you could attend (if any) - again I can only go on experience in my country where one can attend basic business courses one day a week for between 4-8 weeks, depending on how much one wants to take from it.

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The thing with this game, is that not only does it have a very high probability of success, but the publisher will also get merchandise out of it - merchandise that could probably rival pokemon. And there's a bigger and better sequel that is semi planned out too.
This puzzles me a bit and, as much as it's great to have the passion and this commitment to your game, it's a bit boastful of you to say it has a very high probability of success (and that the next game will be even better(!?)). I know where you're coming from when you say there's nothing like this in your country - great! - no competition, (although sometimes it's good to have competition because you would then have a better idea of what is/isn't selling and how your competitors are faring, justifying your statements about your game) but it may only be pertaining to your country - what about other countries you will want your game to be succcessful in? Have you explored the market enough to give you the numbers that will buy this game from you?.

I'm not sure what I can advise now...if you've got the 'gab' as we say and can talk people out of their money to support your endeavour, I wish you success with it - it's not always easy for any business to get off the ground, let alone game development where the risks are very much higher.

Regardless of how good you think your game will sell, it's convincing the money people that you and your team have everything in place to make it succeed, to the point that the publisher is convinced they can recoup their money and get a return on top of it...if you can do that, then you may have a chance of realising your goal.

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I'm not too sure if you've looked around the IGDA forums to see if there's a 'chapter' group close (or as close as can be) to where you are - there may be some info there you could glean to help you.


Heh, yeah, the IGDA, well I'm actually the chapter coordinator. First meeting I managed to pull off got about 3 attendees and the second well, that had like ... 1 attendee. The third meeting was the best however, we had 8 full attendees. The thing is that any attendee we got, they were more like game players then game developers. There's a yahoo group that gets it's fair share of activity from time to time (just maybe 3 or 4 key players in that group). I keep track of what happens in this country, so far:

- CodeFreaks (that's us) released a game about (must be 3 years ago now)
- Anilogix started up (had big venture funding but management was really unqualified). They died sometime last year I think.
- Best university for computer sceiences contacts me to try and organize a game dev conference (no where enough people so nothing happens with that)
- Trango Interactive starts making headways, but they're actually associated with an offshoar software house and they're more of the "make an engine and license it type"

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This puzzles me a bit and, as much as it's great to have the passion and this commitment to your game, it's a bit boastful of you to say it has a very high probability of success (and that the next game will be even better(!?)).


Sorry about that, I was "in the moment" I absolutely hate it when people do that and yet I just did it myself - actually reading that paragraph over I feel very embarassed, very sorry... Doesn't really matter what I say about how good the game will do, if a publisher is actually interested they can see the market research and numbers themselves and they can probably make a much more informed decision then me anyway.

Thanks a lot for your input so far. What I've decided to do is the following (if you have a better course of action please dont hesitate to mention it):

- We've got two artists in the pipline so we're going to start sketching everything out
- I'll take over the management stuff and the lead programmer's sister is a lawyer and will help.
- While I make all the business plans and schedules, the lead programmer is putting together all our tech demos in a CD
- Then we make a proposal (bag the design doc, tech CD and concept art along with it) and send the entire package to as many publishers as possible...
- Start praying a lot.
- And I'm taking your business courses advice as well, I already contacted a few people and it seems there are sourses similar to what you spoke of, will have to go and see what standards they're at - standards is a big issue in this coutry, very hard to differentiate between real and fake :(

On a side note:

If we decide to make this game ourselves anyway and sell it online, about how much would we need for the sales and marketing part? Any ideas How much publishers spend on sales and marketing? From what I've read so far their budgets can be anywhere between half a mil to 2 mil!?

Thanks again.

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Good luck with the business courses, I'm pleased it looks like there's some help there. You should also look upon it as another environment to network in - you never know who knows someone who knows someone else who may be able to help you [wink].


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Then we make a proposal (bag the design doc, tech CD and concept art along with it) and send the entire package to as many publishers as possible...
I've really no idea about whether this is worth the time and the effort as generally they prefer a finished product with a first deal, but hey, you may get lucky!


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As to On a side note:

If we decide to make this game ourselves anyway and sell it online, about how much would we need for the sales and marketing part? Any ideas How much publishers spend on sales and marketing? From what I've read so far their budgets can be anywhere between half a mil to 2 mil!?

It's lots...what can I say? [smile]

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I would suggest you check out some of the indie publishing options, such as Garage Games. These seem like they might be a better option for you to get started with. Good luck!

[Edited by - Instruo on August 31, 2005 5:14:44 PM]

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Have you considered using your first game (the one that flopped because of piracy) to attract investors? Even if it was a financial failure it would show what your team is capable of.

PS Your web site is very professional looking.

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I've really no idea about whether this is worth the time and the effort as generally they prefer a finished product with a first deal, but hey, you may get lucky!


It won't be that much of an effort, since the tech is all done, we just need to record it into a tech video of a sorts. Design doc is done, the concept art we have to make anyway so might as well send the stuff to a few publishers and see what happens. I don't know if this next point is a good thing but I think we have a very big advantage when it comes to project proposals because it's so cheap to live here and the risk is reduced significantly. The way I look at it is like this:


- Publishers always look for continued relationships (from what I can tell). Meaning if the game has potential for sequels and merchandise deals, it becomes much more attractive to them.
- Publishers goal is to get a return on their investment.
- The bigger the investment the bigger the risk.
- The investment required by our product is miniscule compared to what it would've been if we were not living here (70 grand is nothing compared to the 3+ mil games usually eat up)
- The return on the investment would theoretically be the same as a project that had a 3 mil (or whatever) budget - so a lot more money for publisher (if game does well of course - but then again the definition of "succeeding" with a game changes with us, we don't have to hit the "100+ thousand units sold" mark before we see royalties, we just have to hit the "4 thousand units sold" mark!)
- So since the investment is reduced so much, the risk is reduced just as much

Of course those points do not take into account the potential of the actual game, which is what everything ultimately boils down to, but the other factors seem to be in our favour ... I think.

Maybe my resoning is off, or I'm assuming something that I shouldnt be but it looks good. Anyway, even if my resoning is flawed, as you already said "you may get lucky" - so no harm in trying right?

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I would suggest you check out some of the indie publishing options, such as Garage Games. These seem like they might be a better option for you to get started with. Good luck!


Thanks a lot for referring me to that place! I completely forgot about GG. I'm not sure about using them as publishers yet, but they have this new technology (Torque2D) which should shave off a few months or so from the schedule. It's a good thing you referred me there, I never thought that GG would make a 2D engine as well, I knew about TGE and TSE, but this is new, it's good new. Thanks

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Have you considered using your first game (the one that flopped because of piracy) to attract investors? Even if it was a financial failure it would show what your team is capable of.


Yeah of course we have considered that. We're definetly going to bag that in with the tech/demo CD that we'll be showing around. But either way, it's not really a good show of our capabilities since it's quite old - it's a Mortal Kombat style fighter if you'd like to compare. We can do a lot more now, but it still shows that we can complete a project, see it through to the end and survive all those nasty bumps and pits on the way.

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PS Your web site is very professional looking.


I wish I could agree with you on that :). The problems with that site (IMO): First of all it's all in flash and there's no equivalent HTML version, which is bad in my book. The screen shots are really low quality, there's music playing in the background which usually turns me away from a website instantly and the logo looks like a rip off of EA's logo, which I'm also not very happy about.

It is going to be significantly changed though, we never payed attention to the website while it was being made. We just handed the project to some fresh webdeveloper and let him take care of everything. That won't happen again.

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