Jamie Sefton, organiser of Games Invest, reflects on last month's event at the Eurogamer Expo and confirms plans for next year…
Games Invest 2011 might not have had quite the supernova branding of Star Wars: The Old Republic or the gaming allure of a hands-on with Batman: Arkham City, but in quiet(ish) areas of the Eurogamer Expo on Thursday 22nd September, this GamesIndustry.biz games financing event was hoping to make a difference to UK developers.
This was the second year of Games Invest, an event that was established to bring games companies and investors together for talk sessions and formal meetings, with the sole aim of creating more opportunities for games financing. The brave new world of digital publishing has opened up incredible opportunities for games developers, but it's the age old issue of funding, that remains the biggest single hurdle for many companies.
So, in a room packed with the likes of venture capitalists London Venture Partners, Tenshi Ventures and Octopus Investments, games publishers such as SEGA, platform-holders including Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, new developer/publisher We R Interactive and other proven games financiers such as The Wellcome Trust and NESTA, it was Games Invest's intention to present to games developers as many different "investors" - ie options for funding games - that we could. For investors - especially those taking part in the 30+ structured formal meetings - it was a great opportunity to meet a really varied, interesting, passionate and commercial range of games companies in one place in a short amount of time.
Are you better off spending six-months-to-a year developing a game rather than chasing finance that you perhaps don't need?
In the morning talk sessions we heard Phil Harrison, General Partner at London Venture Partners, discuss many topics including the importance of analytics and the five trends that games developers should be watching, while Nicholas Lovell from GAMESbrief explained the difference between seed capital and Series B funding, and how you should always pitch your company not your project. Tim Merel, Managing Director of Digi-Capital, followed that with an interesting view of investment from the Far East and the fact that he believes mergers and acquisitions will continue, while Alex Chapman from Sheridans revealed that crowdsourcing is now a viable way to fund games, revealing the brand new racer C.A.R.S. from Slightly Mad Studios.
For indie games companies, the majority of attendees at Games Invest 2011, hearing investment advice, tips on pitching and case studies on games financing was always useful, as there is now a bewildering series of choices in front of them. The choice of platform, whether that's console, PC, iOS, Android, PSVita, 3DS, web and more, in turn affects the business model of your company or project - work-for-hire, freemium, micro-transactions, crowdsourcing, subscription or other income stream.
It's probably blindingly obvious, but before you even consider approaching investors, you absolutely have to focus on and know exactly what your company is about - what games you passionately want to make, and what you want to achieve in the short and longer term for your business - and then make sure that internally, you have the right team and that everyone is on the same journey. Also, are you even at the right stage as a company to start looking for investment? Are you better off spending six-months-to-a year developing a game rather than chasing finance that you perhaps don't need? Hey, you could even just ask people to fund your game while you develop it - an idea so crazy that it's actually worked quite well for a niche indie PC game called Minecraft.
However, as well as presenting numerous platform, finance and business model options, what Games Invest does is give developers an opportunity, at the very least, to chat informally to different kinds of investors and get feedback on the company and its projects. You also get to learn about fun terms to impress down the pub (maybe) such as "M&A", "Whales", "Traction" and "FOMO" - not the same as "MOFO" apparently, it's an acronym for "Fear Of Missing Out", which Tim Merel explained is when one investor committing finance to your company can quickly lead to many others wanting to join in the party.
So far the feedback from Games Invest 2011 has been really positive - both investors and games companies again enjoying the talks and meetings, with the additional advantage of being slap-bang in the middle of the biggest and best games expo in the UK - and I'm delighted to confirm that plans are already forming for GamesIndustry.biz Games Invest 2012. We'll keep growing our games financing event as part of the Eurogamer Expo, keeping it relevant, interesting, useful and approachable, maintaining that central aim of helping games developers and tech companies receive funding to make great games. You never know, in a few years time when one of the mega games displayed at the Eurogamer Expo features a title once pitched at Games Invest, we might even find time to tear ourselves away from the spreadsheets and business plans to play it...