Game Studio leaders and independent developers were treated to fantastic insights from Laura Harper (Lewis Silkin), Ian Jarvis (Barclays Bank), Alex Amsel (Investor), Spike Laurie (Hiro Capital), Colin MacDonald (UK Games Fund) and Lauren Hunter (Square Enix Collective) at Kollider in Sheffield on Thursday 21st September. The lunch event sponsored by XR Stories formed part of the year-long programme of Game Republic events being supported by Official Partners Red Kite Games, Escape Technology and Barclays.
Both panels spoke about the challenging investment environment, particularly looking at news in recent days about the Embracer Group losing significant deals and shutting down studios including Volition and Tomb Raider studios. However there were green shoots in spite of the downturns in investment in what Spike has described as a continued period of ‘adjustment’. There were still lots of new indie games being developed and founders developing new games and there is an increasing amount of private and public sector support for the industry – shown most recently in the form of the announcement of the new £5m content funding from the UK Games Fund. It is impossible in one blog to write all of the great insights and tips that came out at the event, and in response to the many questions asked during the event, so here below we highlight just a few useful tips to consider….
How to get funding and investment for your game
Spike Laurie speaking from a VC investment perspective advised developers to focus on the process and timelines for decisions and communicate those to investors. He encouraged companies to make connections, attend events and speak to investors as a better way of getting feedback and something that would be likely to yield a better response than simply sending in a pitch deck cold. He also emphasised that VC investors needed to see a clear multi-year plan on building their vision and clear commercials on how they could build a valuable company.
Colin Macdonald Portfolio Manager for the UK Games Fund is inviting expressions of interest for the new content fund for companies who have a working prototype, and in or planning full production, perhaps in conversation with publishers or investors, and crucially having PAYE employees. Grants from the fund between £50k to £150k are available and the next round of prototype funding will reopen soon for those not able to meet the content fund criteria. His advice was to read the criteria carefully and to ensure applications were fully compliant to avoid wasted effort. £5m is available and will be distributed over the next 18 months. He emphasised that a key aspect of what the UK Games Fund would be considering for funding would be the ability of the funded projects to generate a return on the investment focused on growth through job creation and IP development in particular.
How to get your game published
Square Enix Collective Producer Lauren Hunter highlighted the importance of connections and networks too when looking for a publisher partner. She encouraged game developers to ask for feedback on games and emphasised the value of conversation. She considered pitch decks to be better when briefer (less than 10 pages) so that it was clear that developers could communicate the offer more succinctly and allow the publisher to ask questions and explore further. She also emphasised the importance of a plan on how you would develop the game with realistic timelines.
How to make your game successful
Whilst investors and funders look for success, returns and growth, however neat the plan and well-designed the pitch deck, Alex Amsel who has been at all sides of the games industry and now invests in games and other tech reminded everyone that things do go wrong. He encouraged everyone to have proper agreements in place as “contracts are great until things go wrong, and things often do go wrong. Founder agreements are crucial to ensure that if you fall out, or if one is sick, you have agreements in place.”
Laura Harper, Partner at Lewis Silkin advised studios/companies to look out for specific issues in contracts with investors. Take care to identify any terms implied by reference (usually contained in links to external documents) make sure you understand the term sheet and take advice from your lawyers if necessary. She advised attendees to be cautious about investment in stages, as it can add complexity and risk to the investment being proposed and finally to watch out for control and consent issues on what you can and cannot do without the investor’s permission.
Ian Jarvis from Barclays highlighted the importance of practicing pitching, using available support to do that, Barclays Games and Creative have a lot of support available as well as office space with Eagle Labs. He encouraged companies to use the Demo Directory, this is a platform for businesses looking to raise funds, once your application has been approved you upload a four minute pitch video which is then circulated to the 380+ registered investors on the platform.
Advice for game developers looking for investment
As a final note to end the lunchtime event, Spike Laurie, Lauren Hunter and Colin Macdonald gave a last bit of advice to games companies –
“Make sure you have talent around you, a team that can get you to where you need to be and support from your connections and networks.” Spike
“Meticulously read and re-read the criteria for any funding opportunities and if you can’t tick all the boxes, there may be other pots of funding or investment to explore.” Colin
“Pitch everywhere, pitch to loads of publishers, it is free feedback to help you, you can ignore what you want and use what you want as it is essentially free advice to improve your game and learn more about how to present it.” Lauren
For those looking to network and make new contacts, the next Game Republic events will help so join us at XR, Virtual Production and Beyond in York on 5th October and consider showcasing your game for feedback or looking and talking to investors, platform-holders and publishers at GameDevDay with GaMaYo on 23rd November at Tileyard North.
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