Indie games, or games published by independent developers, are gaining in notoriety and popularity.
Although they often don’t contain all the bells and whistles of professionally developed games, they can still log an impressive amount of plays and earn the attention of top publishing houses.
But even independent games need some funding to get off the ground. If creators aren’t able to bootstrap their game development, there are a number of options to find the necessary funding.
One popular financing option is getting grants.
This article documents everything you need to know regarding game development grants and how to get funding for an indie game!
What Are Game Development Grants?
Game development grants are one of the best game development funding sources.
There are many organizations around the world that are made up of experienced game makers who support small indie teams. These organizations often set aside funding to help development teams finance their games. Other resources, such as marketing and mentoring, are usually available as well.
In order to qualify for a game development grant for your next game, you’ll likely need more than just an idea on paper. Whether it’s a prototype, a trailer, or a video containing gameplay, you’ll need to show the full potential of your game so that others can feel confident in funding it.
With this in mind, you’ll need to devote some time and resources to fleshing out your concept before applying for a grant.
How to Get Funding for a Game
Apart from grants, there are five other common ways to get your game funded.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, so before deciding on funding, it’s worthwhile to consider the best option for you and your game.
Self-funding your game development is probably the easiest game funding method.
You are your own investor, so you won’t owe anyone any part of the proceeds. You are also only accountable to yourself, which can mitigate any pressure from a third-party organization.
Self-funding can be an easy decision if you have enough funds in your account to make it happen. Just be sure you budget appropriately for any unexpected costs that may arise.
If you wind up asking for financial support from family and friends, you should plan to clearly explain everything you’re going to do with the money and what they will receive in return (if anything).
Although it’s an easy funding method, self-funding can be stressful if you don’t have piles of cash to play with. It’s best to be sure you’re fully confident before emptying your pockets at the onset.
If you believe your game has potential, check out the awesome game development grants below.
With a good concept and a little luck, you’ll receive a nice chunk of funding in the form of a grant to get your budget game off the ground. It’s worth noting that each organization has a set of requirements, so be sure to read carefully before asking for funding.
1. Indie Fund
If you have a small or medium-sized team, Indie Fund is a great choice!
Compared to the traditional publisher funding model, Indie Fund is more like an investment syndicate. This means for each video game production project that needed funding, each investor in the fund could choose to invest or not. If they are interested, they can also choose the amount they want to fund.
Grants typically range from $10,000 to $100,000.
By applying for Indie Fund, you’ll have flexible milestones, reasonable repayment options, and no long-term obligations.
Remember that Indie Fund doesn’t support marketing, PR, or game publishing. You’re on your own for those tasks.
If you’re based in the UK, check out UK Games Fund.
This non-profit organization supports indie developers with funding provided by the government. Plus, you can participate in an annual competition round to win a grant of up to £25,000.
Currently, UK Games Fund is in round 10, with the first funding phase starting at £12,000. Successful teams can land up to £30,000 in full funding after successive rounds.
Although applications are currently closed, be on the lookout for the next round. As long as you have a strong team with good ideas and an early-stage game, go for it!
Creative Europe offers a number of grants to support developers based in Europe.
Getting started is easy. Just visit their website and take a simple quiz. You’ll just need to provide information about the sector you’re working in, your organization, and your needs (financial support, coaching, networking, etc.).
Once your answers are inputted, you’ll see the available grants that are a good match for you and your game. From there, you can go through the options and submit your applications.
Unreal Engine, a notable 3D game development platform, offers grants to indie developers through its Epic MegaGrants initiative.
But your game doesn’t have to be developed using Unreal Engine to apply.
If your game is currently in development, grants are available to fund the transition of your game to Unreal Engine. Now, you have even more reasons to use UE!
UE grants range between $5,000 and $500,000. You can submit an application regardless of where you are in the world with no deadline to apply. Just get your prototype ready and see what happens!
For indie developers who use CryEngine to make games, the application offers grants to help fund further development and other tasks.
The total available funding pool is $1 million, which can be continuously increased using contributions from the engine’s pay-what-you-want business model.
Once your developed game is submitted, the voting stage begins where players from around the world will be able to vote for your game.
Regardless of whether you receive the most votes from the community or not, your game still has a shot of receiving a grant from CryEngine!
In the past, Wellcome did support funds for developers in the digital games category. But that’s no longer a thing!
For now, they only focus on funding for researchers on several topics about life, health, and wellbeing.
Ancient Games Fund (AGF) granted up to £25,000 to five capable independent game developers.
AGF evaluated all games during the submission period at the end of 2015, and the selected games were launched on the official website in the fall of 2016.
Fig is a platform for raising funds where indie game developers can request contributions from a wide group of investors. So be sure to prepare your pitch carefully and check that it meets Statue’s requirements before submitting.
Additionally, Fig does not accept free-to-play, mobile, blockchain, or AR/VR games.
With thousands of investors on the platform and a wide range of funding choices from $1,000 to $1,000,000, Fig is a good spot to get a grant if you have great skills and lofty ambitions.
9. Creative UK
Creative UK is an organization that helps people and businesses in the UK. If you are a solo developer, you can apply for grants up to £10,000. And if you have a group of friends or your own company, you can demand grants up to £20,000.
Creative UK acknowledges talent in various sectors, including film, digital media, gaming, and creative development, so whether you possess creative prowess, submit your application without hesitation.
If you’re based in the UK, it’s worth considering whether you qualify for Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR).
In general, you can claim up to 25% of profit loss or deduction to your profits to reduce the corporation tax you are subjected to paying. This can help offset expenses and put additional cash in your pocket to further fund game development.
Note that you can only claim VGTR if the game you’re making is categorized as British by the British Film Institute and created for general public purposes.
If your game is developed for gambling or advertisement purposes, you can’t claim VGTR.
After applying for a grant, take note of the notification timelines.
Some organizations will notify you if you’re rejected, while others will only contact you if you’re approved. If you’re fortunate enough to have your application considered, congratulations!
Now it’s on you to complete the necessary steps to advance in the process and secure funding.
Once your game is finished and released, you may be required to pay back the initial investment plus some onward revenue your game generates. Depending on the organization, you may be required to share revenue for up to two years or until you have returned double the initial investment at the start of the contract.
Other grants don’t require any revenue sharing or payback at all. It’s always best to review guidelines before accepting funding.
3. Government Grants for Game Developers
Many countries have programs in place to promote creative arts among their citizens. Part of that support is government grants that are made available for game developers.
Other grants are also available from industry groups, trade associations, and NGOs. The available financial support varies depending on your project scope and purposes.
Here are some additional grants that may be worth considering for your next video game:
- Diverse Game Developers Fund: up to $25,000 in funding
- IGEA (Interactive Games & Entertainment Association): up to $150,000 in funding
- TIGA (Video Games Investment Fund): £75,000 and £500,000 in funding
- Other video game grants & scholarships
Game Jam is a fantastic place for developing your skills, meeting people in the gaming industry, and earning money to start your own self-funding for the journey of game development.
4. Crowdfunding Game Developing Costs
Crowdfunding is a popular method of obtaining investment across different industries and niches.
Many individuals have found success in launching new products and services using popular crowdfunding sites. Alongside applying for grants, you could actively consider community support for developing your game as well.
Just like with game development grants, you’ll need to show your game features and a plan or vision you have in mind in order to convince others to fund your game.
The only difference here is your investors. With crowdfunding, the crowd (or community) is the one who supports you. They will likely expect something in return once your game makes it to market.
5. Find Investors to Develop Your Game
1. Incubators or Accelerators
Incubators (or accelerators) support your development process from its earliest stages.
They can provide funding, mentoring, office space, and networking opportunities to assist you in starting your project. Incubators can also train your team in the right skills and make sure you’re on a path toward success.
Being a part of an incubator is a brilliant way to gain your game the attention it deserves. While the application process is rigorous, it’s worthwhile if you have the time and effort to dedicate.
2. VC (Venture Capital) Investors
Let’s say you have a solid prototype and a talented team ready to take your game to the next level.
If you’re looking for significant investment, VCs can be a great place to find the financing you’re looking for.
Instead of merely looking at your game plan, VCs tend to observe the whole process and the people involved (your team). They want to know that your strategy and vision are sound and that you have the talent to potentially scale the revenue up for a win-win investment.
If you’re confident that your game is a winner, why not reach out to a VC and make your pitch?
3. Angel Investors
While VCs fund your project as an entity, angel investors will fund your game as individuals.
As a result, the funding pool of angel investors is typically smaller than what VCs can provide. That does not, however, imply that you should overlook angels.
These investors often seek out solid connections to your team and a role in mentoring.
To find your angel investors, make networking a priority. Actively involve yourself in your local gaming communities and put your game concept out there. Once you’ve gained a good reputation, investors will often come to you.
Websites like AngelList are also great places to find your first mentor.
Instead of reaching out for grants, you could also find a game publisher who is interested in your partially developed game.
However, note that game publishers will typically only fund a project with the backing of an entire development team. They want to be sure you have the skills and resources to complete the game you’re asking them to make available to the world.
The great thing about working with publishers is that they can support you with marketing and distribution activity. The publishers can handle the rest while you just need to concentrate on game development.
When working with publishers, the game revenue is split between you and them.
However, all game assets and credits will still be under your name. This can be a pretty fair transaction given the amount of value that publishers provide.
Why Do You Need Game Development Grants?
Ever wondered how much does it cost to make a video game?
Game development costs can vary from $250,000 to $500,000 for marketable games that have a good chance of becoming huge successes.
And that’s just development. Additional costs will be necessary for advertising and marketing expenses. For more budget-conscious developers, developing mobile games can be a more economical option vs. developing for other platforms.
That said, mobile game development can cost between $50,000 and $200,000.
Be Ready to Get Your Game Funded!
You should now have a general understanding of game development grants and ways to obtain funding for your indie game development.
There are always ways to ensure your game is heading in the right direction, whether you go it alone, apply for grants, or seek investors (crowdfunded or otherwise).
If you don’t yet have a plan or prototype, start laying the groundwork now!
Once you’re ready, start applying and see what funding comes your way. Organizations and individuals are here to help you succeed, and there’s no excuse not to make the most of the resources available.