Saturday, 12 September 2015

NZ Indies: Getting Government Funding for your Project and General Assistance

Hi Guys,
As you may have known I was appointed recently as a board member for the NZGDA.  As an indie dev myself, I'm passionate about helping others like me and creating a vibrant culture.

We recently did a quick snap-shot survey for a NZGDA business catch up with NZTE and Callaghan innovation to help address the challenges that indies have.

Massive thanks to Andrew Lamb from Camshaft for putting together the bulk of the survey and getting us the results!

According to the trends from the results, the main challenges were as follows:

  • Funding
    • Many people wanted grants similar to what the State of Vic are offering
    • Some wanted help with travelling to overseas events like PAX
  • Marketing
  • Mentoring/Guidance from experienced devs for 
    • Design
    • Production
    • Project Management
  • Almost everyone wanted a shared working space (like the Arcade in Melb)
1 Funding
The good news is that there are grants that we can apply for.  It's not totally straight forward, but many of the larger studios have successfully applied for some of them in the past.

They are as follows:
  • Callaghan Innovation R&D Grants - these are the ones most applicable to us:
    • Getting Started Grant
    • R&D Project Grant
  • NZTE Coalition Grant (not sure if this is the official name for it as it is new)
    • NZTE usually helps out larger organizations, but they will be willing to help smaller studios who band together as a group for a specific purpose, e.g. if many smaller studios want assistance with marketing to China. 
I reiterated with the Callagahan representative on the day that money was probably our biggest pain point, and she said that the good thing about Callaghan's Project Grant is that we can include our own labour as part of the project costs in the application.  She did say that they normally recommend at least a small component of the grant would need to be allocated to an external resource.

The application process is not a walk in the park, but at least it is an avenue to government grants.

The other important thing is the grant is administered in a "dollar for dollar" fashion.

For example: if you are approved for 50% of your project costs, you will need to show that you have 50% of your own capital to fund the project.  Funding proportions can be between 30-50%.

Some of the guys in the larger studios have also been quite forthcoming about their experiences in this area.  They are willing to share with the wider community about the application process.

2 Mentoring
This was outside of the scope of the official discussions, but the general sentiment among the medium/large companies is that they are definitely willing to help in some way.

We can explore this further and find out how much time they have - perhaps we can set up either educational talks or perhaps even mentoring programmes.  I think the key thing will be efficient use of their limited time.

3 Shared Working Space
One of my responsibilities this year is in fact to put together a business case for a shared working area for local devs for ATEED.   I believe this will be for Auckland mainly, but we can explore other options for other large city centres if they are not catered for by this initiative.

It's not totally straight forward, but it is encouraging to know the government does want to help.  On top of this, the established companies do want to help the little guys like us, but I think we will need to articulate exactly how and negotiate this according to how much time they have.

I had an awesome talk with Dean Hall (Day Z) about it at NZGDC, and he has absolute faith that we can turn the NZ game industry from a $100M per year industry into a $1B one.  It's great to have massively successful guys in the country who are willing to help!