Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random thoughts of game business and funding

From me November was the month of funding. I was a member of the jury in Nordic Game Program (game development) and Live2011 project focusing on digital art projects. Both sessions made me to think of the gap between business knowledge (/business focus) and games development practices.

Nordic Game funds are given out in two rounds per a year. There were 84 applications on the second round of 2009 and eight applications eventually got funded. The level of applications was high and competition fierce as always. Even if the criteria has been the same for years already, the center of funded projects tends to change from a round to a round. Naturally this has a lot to do with the scale of projects submitted. Certain trends stand out on every round -- something it is location based gaming, other times casual iPhone or Facebook games or children's games. This round several innovative or experimental projects got funding including Kung-Fu Live (tracking players' movement with a camera), Rapture (collectable card game goes iPhone and Facebook), Uplause Crowd Game (massively multiplayer crowd playing game), Dream Machine (classic adventure with claymation style) and Pinball DJ (music interaction concept for handhelds and mobile). Besides those also few social games and MMOG were funded.

A couple of days after Nordic Game award gala I spend one day with Live2011 student projects. There the focus was more on digital art so necessarily no business values were expected but still games, web sites or animation projects submitted to the competition didn't seem to have any answer on how to monetize or fund the project -- except applying for grants, stipends or other cultural funds. That made me to think of ways to improve the business side of game industry. People have kept repeating for years already that game industry should be taken seriously. That it already is multi billion dollar business and employing thousands of people. Bigger than music or box office sales bla bla bla.

It is definitely more passion than business intelligence driven. There are lots of entrepreneurs doing their own share to enrich the range of games available. The founders of game companies often include designers and techies who started the companies because of passion. Many game developers work with games because they love games, games programming or game art. Not because they just need a job. The state of mind is very different compared with many other industries. This is also one weakness of game developers. Too often technical skills outreach business knowledge. Even companies developing brilliant games around the world fail just because of that. While possessing a great deal of enthusiasm and talent, they rarely share the same desire for negotiation, operations, finance, management or operations.

I would love to see the business side to flourish with the same creativity and passion seen in games. One way to do that is to aim higher. Even if the companies were founded amongst friends (with certain skills) to do something fun and hopefully beneficial, without business thinking or goal settings the dream can easily fall into pieces. This is often the result of a fact that the game industry has a higher than normal set of the right people in the wrong places.

So what there is to be done? There are lots of business opinions and ideas to be found from various books. Harvey Mackay in his book "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt" outlined a formula for success. Success = focus + determination + goal setting and courage. I would add that success also has a lot to do with social connections, networking and practicing. And changing direction when needed. I feel this is something game developers should seriously consider if they want to keep up with the competition.

1 comment:

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