Disclosure: The Dutch government paid my way to Casual Connect Europe, where I will be moderating a talk. Our coverage remains objective.
AMSTERDAM — GameOn is announcing an early-stage investment fund today with the Dutch government to foster the growth of game startups in the Netherlands. It will start with the creation of an investment fund totaling €10 million, or $13.6 million.
The fund is an example of a newfound love for the gaming industry in Europe as a modern engine of economic growth. The move follows the success of government-funded gaming in Finland, which has been investing government money in game companies since the 1990s. That country now boasts 180 game companies that have created 3,000 jobs. Finland’s success stories include Rovio, creator of Angry Birds, and Supercell, creator of Clash of Clans. The Dutch want some of that magic to rub off on them.
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GameOn is debuting at Casual Connect Europe, a conference in Amsterdam. The group will invest money in the games sector to fuel the industry’s growth in the Netherlands. It will focus on startups with differentiated intellectual property (cool titles) and unique business models. It will focus on early-stage companies based in the Netherlands as well as companies that want to establish a presence in Holland.
“The games industry is evolving rapidly, with games companies and infrastructure providers constantly tweaking their content and business models to get an edge in the grab of the elusive consumers,” says Reinout te Brake, founding partner at GameOn. “The industry is highly democratized, and the current distribution models and game development tools make it relatively easy and inexpensive for developers to launch games.”
He added, “But as ‘free-to-play’ becomes the primary business model, developers also need a strong understanding of how first to get their games discovered and then how to monetize them successfully. We have a tremendous pool of talented and creative designers in the Netherlands, but they are mostly working for hire, and so, we need to learn and build on our games monetization knowledge.”
In an interview with GamesBeat, te Brake said that the effort got started in September and has been moving fast since then.
“It means that Holland is embracing games,” he said.
The venture has the support of the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. He said, “Entertainment games are serious business and opportunity is knocking at our door. I’m therefore please to support the GameOn initiative, which reaffirms our country’s position as a pioneer in creativity and innovation.”
Te Brake said that the mission is to bring together teams and assist them with monetization and marketing knowledge. He is a serial entrepreneur, and he most recently founded iQU, a game-marketing company. He is also managing partner at GWC Investments, a consultancy and seed investment firm for games.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs will support the initiative. The government has identified gaming as one of its top sectors. The fund will receive direct funding from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), an operational unit of the ministry. NFIA has set up a Digital Gateway to Europe Project to lure foreign companies to the Netherlands. Other supporters include ClickNL, a research network, and the cities of Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Rotterdam.
Ilja Linnemeijer, a partner at PwC, said, “GameOn is addressing the challenges we see and have seen along the years, taking away a stumbling block for further growth in The Netherlands through giving access to capital by investors that understand the entertainment gaming industry, its business models, and fast developments.”
GameOn is launching its Dutch Game Fund this quarter with €10 million in funding. Half of the money will come from Dutch public institutions, while the other half will come from private investors. More funding rounds should happen in the future.
So far, Dutch game successes have been few and far between. But one of them is Ridiculous Fishing, a worldwide hit game from Utrecht-based Vlambeer, which is run by just two developers, Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman.