Stop Looking for Funding (and Make a Better Game)
What makes you think you need funding before you can create a great game?
Before you tab to Google for tips on pitching to investors, ask yourself why you’re even thinking about it.
Why don’t you believe you can do this on your own?
The project’s too big? You’re at the early stages of indie mate! You’ve got a lot of mistakes to make as you develop an instinct for spotting a need in the market and finding the best way to fill it. You want to do this for a long time right? You will have plenty of time to make your dream game later after you’ve cut your teeth on publishing smaller projects.
If your first project is so big that you need external funding then it’s probably a sign that the project is too big to be your first!
Don’t understand the business stuff? Look at everything you’ve done up until this point. You’ve learned how to make something from nothing. It took a lot of mistakes and triumphs to get to this point didn’t it? Starting and growing a business is just like any other skill. You’ll finally understand it when you start DOING something, making mistakes and learning from them. You’re part of the way there already if you’re reading this!
Scared of fucking up? Well, if it’s any consolation I can promise you that you will fuck up. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll release buggy builds, you’ll botch an email to a high profile publication and (gasp) you’ll even forget someone’s name at a conference! But if you’re working small and lean then a failure is just a (somewhat awkward) learning experience. You build, analyse, learn and build again.
People forget and forgive minor mistakes when you’re a decent chap and obviously care about what you’re doing. We’ve all been there and we can empathise. When we’ve got great games to play because of you then THAT is what we’re going to talk about. Not what engine you picked, what you wore to the PAX after party or whether your game is coded in C++ or Flash!
But if you’re working big and expensive then a failure is game over. Especially if you worked in isolation, not giving your potential community the opportunity to get to know you and what you’re on about. You don’t have patience for wasting resources on huge projects that may or may not succeed – why ask us to?
When you start out you have the benefit of relative anonymity. You can try ideas and experiment with different business models safely knowing that you aren’t big enough for anyone to care about your mistakes. As you grow your community will grow with you and every game you publish gets you closer to your “overnight success”.
I hosted a talk with Edmund McMillen in early 2011 about his experiences leading up to Super Meat Boy. He said it took him five years to become an overnight success. Five years of making small Flash games on Newgrounds before he had something he felt could be a hit. But it was that experience that taught him about what it takes to get your game noticed and keep players engaged. And it was during those early years that he got to know fellow Newgrounds developer Tommy Refenes, the technical mastermind behind SMB.
You will have plenty of opportunities to go after the big projects later. And after you’ve been successful with smaller games you may find you don’t need to involve publishers or investors at all. You can have your dream game, keep the IP and use all the profits to fund your NEXT dream game!
To get you started I’ve written a quick guide on self publishing your first indie game – check it out and if you think I’m full of shit (especially if you think I’m full of shit) give it a go. If I was right and you find self publishing is easier than you thought it would be – let me know and tell me how you did it. If I was wrong and self publishing is fucking ridiculous – let me know and tell me why.
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