Game Funding Bootcamp – the first comprehensive program for financing gaming projects
One of the biggest challenges facing game dev teams at the very beginning of their project, or at a time when the game/team is ready for scaling, is the lack of finances. On the other hand, there are many different models and possibilities of financing gaming projects.
Game Funding Bootcamp was created with the idea of bringing companies, which may be in different stages of development, closer to different aspects of financing a gaming project, in one centralized or comprehensive program. It was realized through several hours of hybrid sessions (live and online) which were organized every two weeks starting from February 1, 2022, and each was dedicated to one of the mentioned financing models. The specificity of the program is the participation of representatives of SGA members, actors of the domestic gaming industry who have already had direct experience with certain models of financing their projects, and the challenges they bring. And they selflessly shared those experiences with the Serbian, but also the game dev community from the region.
We started the Game Funding Bootcamp with the topic of cooperation with publishers and their role in financing projects and teams. We peeked into the world of PC / console publishing, as well as the world of mobile publishing, together with some of the leading global companies, SGA partners, such as Epic Games or Voodoo. We also learned more from the lecturers about the Epic MegaGrants program, which is dedicated to supporting development projects that use Unreal Engine as their platform, and which was launched almost two years ago by Epic Games and has financially and professionally supported numerous projects around the world.
Rocco Scandizzo (Head of Unreal Engine Games, EMEA region @ Epic Games), Vrinda Batra (Publishing Manager, Voodoo), Adam Kovac (Solutions Specialist, 3Lateral / Epic Games), Nenad Tomic (CEO, Mad Head Games), Igor Simic (CEO & Creative Director, Demagog Studio) and Nemanja Divjak (CEO, Tummy Games) shared their experiences with the participants.
We dealt with the sources of financing from the so-called public funds in the next episode. We looked at what forms of state and institutional assistance are available for teams and companies working on the development of games, VR projects or immersive and multimedia projects, both from Serbia and the region.
The first part of the program was conducted in English and covered topics dedicated to European funds and funding programs such as Horizon Europe or Creative Europe. Participants had the opportunity to talk with representatives of the Serbian Desk Creative Europe MEDIA (Una Domazetoski, Head) as well as with individual representatives of teams who had direct experience in applying for similar funds – Nikola Mitic (COFA Games / Playstudios Europe) and Attila Szantner (Co-Founder & CEO, MMOS).
The measures of support and relief that the state of Serbia has applied to the domain of startup companies, which include gaming companies and studies, are the subject of discussion in the second part of the program. The participants were addressed by representatives of the Government of Serbia (Nenad Paunovic, Team for IT & entrepreneurship) and the Fund for Innovation (Mladjan Stojanovic, Program Manager), which only this year announced several competitions relevant to game developers, primarily Catapult Accelerator (already presented through a separate SGA program), but also Smart Start which is dedicated to the development of MVPs and prototypes.
Crowdfunding is a good option for the development of the gaming industry, but it is necessary to plan well the campaign and the costs that are expected. Some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns from Serbia come from this industry, so we can expect that this trend will continue in the coming period. It is interesting to note that according to the SGA annual report for 2020, as much as 30% of the funds raised for the development of video games by the members of the association came through crowdfunding. For the mentioned reasons, we dedicated the third episode to this topic.
In this special program, the practical workshop was led by Jes Bailey, a crowdfunding expert from the UK. At the same time, we took the opportunity to present Dobri dabar, a new domestic crowdfunding platform. Ivan Rajkovic, one of the creators of the most successful crowdfunding campaign from Serbia – Forest of Radgost (raising almost $300,000 from 3,000 people from all over the world, and is now largely in production) – shared his experience with the participants as well.
Investments are one of the key and desirable ways to scale your studio or product. What are all the challenges that come with it, and what are the best ways to prevent and overcome them – explained by our reliable partners and lecturers with extensive experience in similar topics – Ivan Nonkovic (Partner, Karanovic & Partners), Pavle Kutlesic (LL.M. Deloitte), Ivan Djukanovic (Manager, Deloitte) and Martin Macmillan (Founder, Pollen VC). Serbia has great potential for investing in startups but it is necessary to build an ecosystem that would attract investments from all over the world – the frequent conclusion of numerous panels and conferences dedicated to the development of domestic startups.
We approached the topic of investments from a slightly different angle – since we are not able to offer a golden recipe for how to reach the desired investment, we focused on preparing for the moment when you really have the opportunity to make this type of cooperation. We also focused on the legal and financial aspects of such contracts and transactions, explained the due diligence process and many other aspects of “closing” such a business, highlighting the most common mistakes that startups make when given a seemingly “juicy” opportunity.
Merger & Acquisition – a topic that is especially relevant in the domestic gaming ecosystem because over the past two to three years we have witnessed a series of M&A transfers between domestic companies and world-renowned, leading global players. Among Serbian companies acquired by foreign capital, the most famous are 3Lateral from Novi Sad (now part of Epic Games), their fellow citizens Eipix (now Playrix.rs), which was bought by Russian Playrix. Most recently, in the spring of 2021, the American company Take Two Interactive bought Serbian Nordeus, one of the most recognizable and most successful domestic mobile gaming companies.
What is especially valuable in these transactions, although they are part of the global trend of “big” buying “small” and thus gaining new IPs, employees and markets, is that none of these companies have been turned into outsourcing center of their new parent company. They were bought because of the originality of the products and games they developed until then, and through these transfers they gain invaluable experience of great players, better conditions for employees and numerous development opportunities, which leave a positive effect on the entire ecosystem. There are, of course, smaller, or lesser-known studios that go (or would like to go) through similar processes.
How the whole process works, what are the scenarios, what should be paid special attention to, what is due diligence and how to prepare for it in the first way, what are the negotiating positions – and much more, we heard from representatives of our members and partners – Goran Radosevic and Milos Jakovljevic (Karanovic & Partners), and Milica Stublinčević, Ivan Djukanovic and Aleksandra Jojic (Deloitte Serbia). Kristina Sarenac, a representative of Mad Head Games, who participated in the M&A transfer from the point of view of an in-house legal advisor, presented what M&A looks like from the point of view of a lawyer employed in a company selling shares to another company. – and lawyers or consultants who are engaged only for the mentioned process.