March 2, 2010 10:49 AM | Simon Carless
Independent game stars like World Of Goo's creators, Braid's Jonathan Blow and Flower's Kellee Santiago have revealed Indie Fund, an 'angel'-style funding source for indie game makers.
According to the Fund's official website, "Indie Fund is a brand new funding source for independent developers, created by a group of successful indies looking to encourage the next generation of game developers."
The Fund was established "as a serious alternative to the traditional publisher funding model", and its aim is to support the growth of games as a medium by helping indie developers get financially independent and stay financially independent.
The current list of investors backing Indie Fund includes some of the most successful independent game creators of the last few years, as follows:
- Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, 2D Boy (World of Goo)
- Jonathan Blow, Number None (Braid)
- Kellee Santiago, thatgamecompany (Flower)
- Nathan Vella, Capy (Critter Crunch)
- Matthew Wegner, Flashbang Studios (Off-Road Velociraptor Safari)
- Aaron Isaksen, AppAbove Games (Armadillo Gold Rush)
The Indie Fund has already backed unnamed independent game projects, and will be announcing the name of them soon. Additional details about the need for Indie Fund and the rationale behind it will be shared at next week's Game Developers Conference, at Ron Carmel's talk during the Independent Games Summit entitled 'Indies and Publishers: Fixing a System that Never Worked.'
Alongside the announcement, we caught up with Indie Fund spokesperson and World Of Goo co-creator Carmel to discuss the announcement and its ramifications:
There are certainly a number of methods out there for developers to get funding - from Kickstarter through publisher signings. Why set up this methodology - what is it bringing to the table?
Ron Carmel: Most developers today fund their games by bootstrapping or by signing a publishing deal. In many cases, those indies that sign a publishing deal don't really need a publisher; they just need funding and can easily handle everything else themselves. Indie Fund provides the funding, but without the overhead or the loss of freedom associated with a publishing deal.
Are you going to give people money and then have no input at all into how that game is designed and then distributed? Or will you work with them on their scheduling and their marketing to make sure that they're successful?
RC: Developers have full control over their design, IP, publishing rights, etc. We collectively have a lot of experience in making high quality profitable indie games, so we will give our (hopefully) valuable feedback and advice on both design and business. But in the end, it's up to the developer to make the final call on everything.
Will you be disclosing the size of the fund at any time? Do you have a fixed amount you will fill up or are contributors adding to the fund on a case by case basis?
Ron: Indie Fund is managed and fully funded by the seven of us. We put in enough money to fund a few games a year for two or three years. If things go well and it looks like the indie scene can take in a larger investment and put it to good use, we will raise another round, probably bringing in external investors as well.
Can developers apply to the fund now - or soon? If so, how?
Ron: Actual funding has already begun, and we're also at various stages of discussing funding with several indie teams. This all happened through word of mouth within the indie community, but we will soon have a more open process for developers to apply for funding. Since this is a new experience for all of us Indie Funders we're taking things one step at a time and making sure we don't get ahead of ourselves.
Why do you think that the concept of individual prestigious named angel investors hasn't really happened in video games in the same way it has in technology, until now?
2008 was a big year for indies with a number of commercially successful releases. There was Audiosurf, then Braid, Castle Crashers, and World of Goo. This set up the two things required to make Indie Fund happen.
First, it proved that an investment in indie games can be very profitable. Second, it allowed us to raise the money from within the indie community instead of having to seek outside investors. Now that we have a few years of indie developers who have successfully self published, we can help the next round of developers who need to get their games out in a much more competitive space.
What happens to profit if the game makes back its money? And what happens to the game's IP if it doesn't?
Once the investment amount is repaid into the fund, the developer shares revenue with Indie Fund for a limited time. If a game never gets released or doesn't earn back the investment amount, well, we kiss that money goodbye.
We're not interested in owning or managing IP and we don't want to manage any kind of debt collection. We hope that the games that do well will more than make up for those that don't. The long term plan is to publicly reveal the funding terms, but we want to make sure our approach actually works before we go there.
What's the end game for this fund - do you expect to be funding 3 games a year for ever, 5 games and then you're done, etc?
Ron: I'm really glad you asked that. The end game is actually not about how many projects we fund, it's about helping games develop as a medium of expression and keeping indie games viable now that the big publishers are investing heavily in downloadable games.
Hopefully we can help keep video games from suffering the same fate as television. Kellee gave a thought-provoking talk on this subject at TEDx last year. Indie Fund alone will not accomplish all these goals, but we hope it proves to be a big step in the right direction.