"Crowdfunding is the single hardest way to raise money"
Altara Games' Ella Romanos warns that while crowdfunding endures, the bubble has burst - and the potential for cryptocurrency fundraising is still uncertain
Developers still hoping to amass a community around their crowdfunding campaign should expect struggle.
That was the warning from Ella Romanos, founder of Altara Games, as she spoke to attendees of today's GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit.
Romanos, who last year ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for a Rocky Horror Show mobile game, was discussing the various sources of finance available to developers and stressed that, as daunting as pitching to investors might seem, it's more achievable than accruing enough donations from backers.
"I can honestly say this is the single hardest way to raise money that I've ever seen," she said. "It probably wasn't when Kickstarter first started, but if you look at the success rates now, it's really tough. It has definitely declined - on Kickstarter in particular. People are more cautious, and there is more content to choose from. We've had some high-profile failures, and we aren't seeing huge success any more - particularly in games."
She went on to say that, as with so many aspects of the industry, funding is "moving from one bubble to the next". While crowdfunding continues to evolve from the project funding model seen on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to the equity model seen on sites like Fig, there is a new form of public fundraising that is gaining traction.
Romanos predicted that initial coin offerings and the use of cryptocurrency could become a major source of investment for developers but warned that, like crowdfunding, this would not be true indefinitely.
"The worst day we had on Kickstarter was the day they featured us, because nobody who's a massive Kickstarter fan is interested in a game about Rocky Horror Show. They wanted PC space games, or whatever"
"I'm actually involved in a project at the moment that has raised quite a lot of money on an ICO and we're definitely in the bubble at the moment," she said. "How long will it last? I don't know.
"If you thought Kickstarter was the Wild West, cryptocurrency is taking that to another level. I expect we're going to see even greater failures and greater successes through that in the not too distant future so if you want to look at that, now's the time because I don't know how long that's going to last."
The project Romanos refers to is Reality Clash, an augmented reality FPS for mobile devices that has so far raised more than $3.5m with its initial coin offering.
Romanos later took part in a panel session on the current state of funding, where she was once again questioned about the future of crowdfunding.
"I just don't see how it's going to turn around on places like Kickstarter," she said. "I think it will carry on, but I think the bubble is over. There are still some projects that find success with it, and there are certain types of projects that are more suited to it.
"One of the things we learned through doing it is that Kickstarter has become a very established community. The backers there like certain things. If you go to Kickstarter [with a campaign] that doesn't resonate with that core community, you have to bring people to it yourself. The worst day we had on Kickstarter was the day they featured us, because nobody who's a massive Kickstarter fan is interested in a game about Rocky Horror Show. They wanted PC space games, or whatever.
"The bubble is gone. Crowdfunding will stay, but I think we're still learning what backers like. But then other stuff crops up, so the cryptocurrency stuff looks like it will be the next bubble. That may boom and bust even bigger. So I don't think it's ever going to disappear, but it will continually evolve and I think we need to learn from that."
"As an industry, I don't believe we have enough public funding - particularly when you compare us to industries such as film - and what there is can already be something of a minefield"
During her talk this morning, Romanos pointed to public funding as a little-used source of finance that more developers need to take advantage of - if only because it might highlight to the UK government that there is a growing demand for it.
"As an industry, I don't believe we have enough public funding - particularly when you compare us to industries such as film - and what there is can already be something of a minefield," she said.
"There are almost always boxes to tick that as a developer you'll feel are pretty pointless or get in your way, but you have to remember that the fund is there for a bigger purpose than just to finance your company. Sometimes, the people running the fund don't necessarily understand games because it might be broader than that."
Public funds include grants for R&D as well as specific fund for projects that will help with training or for products that can be exported. And, of course, there are the video games tax credits available to anyone developing a game within the UK. Romanos stressed that developers need to be a little more open-minded about how they might qualify for funds.
"When you're applying, understanding why the fund exists is really important," she said. "Because if you can tick those boxes, as well as demonstrate you have potential, you have a lot more chance to get through."
Earlier this week, Romanos and her team at Fundamentally Games launched a freely available directory of finance sources for developers in the UK.
We'll have more from the GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit later today.