Editor’s note: Special thanks to Evan and Alejandro Quan-Madrid for covering IndieCade 2009 for us this year! -Demian
At last, the final chapter of my IndieCade extravaganza is here. I know it’s been over a week since the conference took place, but there were some cool panels and events that I still wanted to write about.
Tips for funding a start up, students become game developers, IndieCade finalists win awards, and a stripper pole gets lost…after the jump.
IndieCade 2009 attendees play games in the Greg Fleishman Gallery.
Getting Started: Launching Your Own Game Company
Have you ever wondered how to fund your own video game company? Kellee Santiago, president and co-founder of ThatGameCompany (Flower), and Merci Victoria Grace, chief creative officer and lead designer at Gamelayers (Dictator Wars), gave a stellar presentation about raising cash for your project.
Santiago spoke about different types of deals and negotiating with publishers such as Nintendo, EA, and Sony, while Grace advised on ways to acquire funds from venture capital firms. In both scenarios, practical marketing knowledge and the ability to pitch a project are key success factors.
Other tips: Keep your entire portfolio of ideas on hand, so that an investor can see the potential for a long-lasting business relationship. But showing that you have ground-breaking and creative ideas won’t be enough to win a publisher over, you have to prove that you can execute those ideas.
Once you succeed in landing a publisher or funding a project, you must learn how to use the press. Santiago explained that having a story behind your company will help you to stand out from the crowd. “For ThatGameCompany it was easy; we were the kids straight out of college,” who landed a “three-picture” deal with a huge publisher.
Grace stressed the importance of knowing your limitations. “If you can’t support it properly, let it go.” Unfortunately, Grace was speaking from personal experience about Gamelayer’s browser-based passively multiplayer online game, The Nethernet, which was retired in August.
Grace said that she felt terrible about the loss of The Nethernet, “…but it was a decision that had to be made.”
Both speakers agreed that it costs roughly $50,000 to $90,000 a month to support a company with a development team of ten people, and in the end you have to make decisions that will allow your company to thrive. Sometimes that means selling some of the rights to your IP, or ending a project before it has time to flourish.
From Student Project to Published Game
Following up on the theme of Santiago and Grace’s “Getting Started” panel, the developers of And Yet it Moves and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom took the stage to share their experiences.
Conceived in the halls of the Vienna University of Technology, And Yet It Moves was originally a student project for a computer science course. After the prototype became an Independent Games Festival Student Showcase Winner and IndieCade 2008 finalist, the development team decided to make a full version of the game for WiiWare.
The Odd Gentleman, the developers behind P.B. Winterbottom, also started their game as a student project. During the panel, Paul Belleza, the CEO/producer of The Odd Gentleman, reminisced about an all-night cram session in preparation for the pitch they would give in the morning to professors and colleagues at the University of Southern California.
The Odd Gentlemen recount fixing bugs in their game on the IGF show floor!
After winning multiple awards, including the Gamespot Editors Choice Award at E3 in 2008, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom was picked up by 2K Games and is scheduled for an early 2010 release on Xbox Live Arcade.
When asked what they would change if there was an opportunity to do it all over again, Bellaza started to respond…hesitated…and then said, “A year is not a very long time to make a game.”
And then IndieCade 2009 was over, aside from the closing party and oh, some awards.
Which one of these is not like the others?
The party was a very cool way to celebrate the past couple of days, which were packed with non-stop indie-gaming action and intellectual discussions about the future of gaming as an artistic medium.
Minor Battle won both the Audience Choice and Finalist Choice Awards, while The Deep Sleep Initiative unanimously won both runner-up positions for each category.
Finishing the conference off with a bang, Stephanie Barish (IndieCade founder), Sam Roberts (IndieCade festival director), and Jesse Vigil (Psychic Bunny) announced the formation of a company called The Singularity, which will host IndieCade annually in Culver City and act as an “independent record label” for indie games.
The Singularity intends to promote and support indie developers by allowing them to keep 100% of their intellectual property. Some indie developers expressed concern over signing up for a “company band wagon,” but acknowledged that it would be interesting to see how The Singularity affects the indie community.
Epilogue and Awards
Overall, IndieCade was a phenomenal experience. We spend so much time gaming and reading about gaming from home that it can be easy to forget the passionate people behind the games that we play. More importantly, I think IndieCade was a great event because it provided a common ground for indie and mainstream game enthusiasts to engage in meaningful conversations about the many complexities of the video game medium.
If you enjoy intellectual discussions about video games or just like meeting people who are as passionate about games as you are, then I highly recommend attending IndieCade next year!
Finally, The Full Awards List:
Members of the Minor Battle development team.
Finalist Choice Award
Audience Choice Award
Members of The Deep Sleep Initiative development team.
Finalist Choice Runner-Up
The Deep Sleep Initiative
Audience Choice Runner-Up
The Deep Sleep Initiative
Sublime Experience Award
Gameplay Innovation Award
Best in Show Award