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Funding Indie Projects

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Hey all,

As anyone who has made full length indie games knows, there are always costs associated with building out a project. Occasionally it's hiring people to perform work on a project, or buying assets that you need in order to complete your title. What are some of the more effective ways to generate revenue prior to the sale of a game? What are the general advantages and disadvantages of crowd sourcing? What's the best way to determine the selling points that will be the most effective?


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Pre-revenue funding is quite a challenge to tackle, and it's a business I've been in for the past many years now. It's anything but easy.


Things that can help:

  • Relevant years of experience in the field (in case you pursue funding sources that require credibility such as publishers interested in taking early equity risks)
  • Having a genuine great / unique idea (they exist, and no, yours isn't (I could be wrong, but saying this is trye 99.9% of the time and one rarely gets to be part of the 0.1%).
  • Having another somewhat relevant skillset to barter with (say you make websites...)


The simplest solution is to forego funding altogether, and avoid going rev-share in the process. That's where I feel barter really helps. I've, personally, used that twice during the startup stage (1 turned out to be helpful).

Another solution is to turn your product-centric initiative into a service-provider in a temporary manner. If you're an artist looking to pay a programmer, freelancer as an artist for a bit and try to generate some extra funds to fuel your game development efforts. It takes a lot of time and patience, but there's a hidden intrinsic value here even if you don't turn up a profit: the longer you do it, the more credible you become to potential investors because 'sweat' can have a value if you frame it properly.


Crowdfunding is a bit misleading. Circa 2014-2015 it was still possible to turn an average campaign into a 50k+ funding round. Around 2018, the average successful video games kickstarter went below 25k, and the average cost required to air a successful campaign has increased drastically (there are no 'solid' numbers there, but an estimate of 10k has been raised on a few occasions).

The reasoning here is quite simple: Crowdfunding started as a very open solution, and backers were optimistic at first. But after waiting 3-4 years for a game that never came, some of them became jaded with the platform (rightfully so). So now they need to see how the game is going to happen so they need to see a game that's further along, a team that's credible, a timeline that reassures them, etc. The net result is that Crowdfunding is more and more a clever marketing tool and not so much a pre-production funding initiative. It's still a great platform, but it is easier to use when you're 80% done and want to: fund the remaining 20% AND acquire a user base for your launch at the same time.


As for  determining selling points, it's a science onto itself. Roughly 20% of the work we do involves framing how a game is going to be presented to publishers and other investors. Strategic and market analysis come on the line, as well as the production of a pitch document of some kind which includes key information (sometimes, the best way to sell the game is simply solid metrics).

It would exceed the scope of this post to leave the realm of the theoretical question, but if you have a practical example you'd like to dissect, my inbox is open ;)




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