Presented by Xsolla
Producing a great game costs money, but finding and negotiating a funding deal can be a grueling process. Join VB’s Dean Takahashi and a panel of investors from some of the hottest games to learn how to find an investor, develop a pitch, and get your vision funded.
“We’re in an unprecedented time in the amount of funding available for game developers,” says Amy Wu, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. “It’s a $175B market for content alone. New investor entrants into the space are very interested in backing gaming companies, and this is a great time to be making games if you’re a developer.”
How developers can make the cut
Since much of the value in investing is generated from pre-launch games, investors like Lightspeed Venture Partners, who speak with dozens of developer teams each year, prefer projects that are still in early stage. And what separates the teams they move forward with from the pack are founders who want to build something disruptive and visionary, she says.
For every breakout game, there are hundreds of new studios finding the fun and many need to raise funding. Investors like Lightspeed are spending most of their time with early-stage studios.
“We’re looking for founders who have a unique insight on what they’re building, have a big vision and are not afraid to go after it,” Wu says. “We want to go on the 10-year journey with them. We’re excited by bold bets.”
Relevant experience helps, Wu says. That might mean a team that’s building a casual mobile game with founders who’ve previously shipped a similar game, or have themselves or recruited people with deep experience in mobile game design, live ops, or monetization. Sometimes though, founders regardless of prior experience, stumble on a unique insight that just works. Partnering with the right investor can help founders scale their business.
The hardest part for some developers: getting your foot in the right door in the right way. But it also works the other way as well: figuring out who to meet with in the game community can be difficult for investors as well.
“Where possible, always get a warm introduction.” she says. “The gaming community is small and very connected. If one of our portfolio companies refers a team to me, I’ll 100 percent take the meeting.”
Major obstacles and how to smash them
The main obstacle Wu sees developers encountering is that unlike in other tech industries, a gaming studio often needs to raise significant funding, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars before the game launches. This can be hard even for the most experienced teams.
“Founders should widen the net and take advantage of the diversity of funding sources. Talk to investors that are both experienced, whether that’s publishers or gaming-focused investors, as well as more generalist investors entering the category,” Wu says. “What’s important is translating their vision into messaging that someone without 20 years of gaming experience can understand.”
Initial conversations should focus on why the game you’re building is going to stand out, and what your unique insight is, but for more generalist pitches, she recommends that founders take it up a level, to help them understand why you’re interested in a specific genre. If pre-launch, founders can add metrics around community building and alpha/beta playtest results.
Lightspeed has begun to invest in a number of exciting new game developers, Wu says, among them Hidden Leaf Games, founded by David Lee and Bao Lam, who are making an action MOBA game called Fangs.
“We were excited by the team because they built a fun game, they ship fast, and they recruited Steve “Guinsoo” Feak to lead design. ” she says.
“The combination of all that made us super excited to see where this team was going to take their company next,” she explains.
They’re alpha testing, which offers opportunity for people who are interested to try the game out, and start spreading word of mouth that is key to a game’s viral success. Another key factor that points to the game’s blockbuster potential is that in early playtests, the game has resonated with the competitive esports community.
Lightspeed is actively looking for developers that can demonstrate this kind of potential, Wu says.
“I’m super bullish on the next decade of gaming,” she says. “We’re going to see so many innovations in the space. If you’re a developer and thinking about building a company in the space, absolutely, now is the time to do it. At Lightspeed we’d love to talk to you.”
Don’t miss out!
You’ll learn about:
- The funding available for game developers now
- Determining whether an investor is the right match
- The alternative funding options that are taking center stage
- Building a portfolio and pitch
- Successfully navigating meetings with potential investors
- Salone Sehgal, General Partner, Lumikai Ltd.
- Amy Wu, Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners
- Justin Berenbaum, VP, Strategic Planning & GM, Xsolla Funding Club
- Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (moderator)