Like many countries, funding your computer game development project is not an easy task in Ireland. Though there is now a very vibrant indie game development scene in Ireland as well as a few larger established companies, the industry is comparatively small compared to other Irish media sectors such as film, tv and animation. This is partly due to the taxation policy in Ireland (Section 481) which provides significant tax relief for investment in film and animation productions. There is a campaign underway to extend Section 481 tax relief to games development; however currently it is not available. Unlike other European countries, Ireland does not have any national organisation or body providing specific supports for the games sector. A recent government report highlighted this deficit and recommended the establishment of a game prototyping fund. The current lack of national supports has not stopped the sector growing and each year, the list of new Irish gaming startups is increasing.
POTENTIAL GAME FUNDING PROVIDERS
Enterprise Ireland (EI), through its Competitive Start Fund and HPSU (High Potential Startups), has been an active investor in a number of gaming startups. EI primarily invests in technology companies and mainly invests in games technology companies as opposed to content only companies.
Local Enterprise Office
LEOs are the starting point for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business in Ireland. They provide advice, information and support budding entrepreneurs. Grant support includes feasibility study and priming grants. Though aimed more at local and national businesses, they are very useful for all entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses looking to expand.
NDRC – National Digital Research Center.
Founded after the demise of Media Lab Dublin and based in the Digital Hub, the NDRC is a digital startup investor focusing on early stage tech companies. Mixing public and private funding, they invest primarily using an accelerator model through its Launchpad, Catalyser and VentureLab investment programmes which provide seed capital and hands on support to early stage companies. Since it was founded in 2007, NDRC has invested in over 200 digital companies and was ranked the No. 1 university business accelerator in Europe. Like EI, they focus more on techology applicable to the gaming sector, than gaming content.
Creative Europe MEDIA - Games Fund
The European Union provide game funding through the Creative Europe Media programme. Most years, they will have “calls” whereby EU game developers can apply for matching funding for a new project. To qualify, the developer must be EU based, be established with a track record and their game must be narrative led – think adventure games. The application process is very detailed and requires a decent amount of work to complete one. However, a number of Irish game companies have been successful in getting MEDIA game funding so it is definitely worth investigating it – particularity if your game has a strong story element to it.
New Frontiers is a National Entrepreneur Development Programme aimed at supporting the establishment and growth of technology companies with potential to trade internationally and create employment in Ireland. Though primarily a training programme, there is some funding available on the programme – depending which phase you are on. One example of New Frontiers is TU (Technological University) Dublin's Hothouse programme. It is delivered as a 3-phased programme in partnership with IADT. Other IT colleges deliver similar programmes throughout the country. Quite a few games companies started on New Frontiers so worth checking it out.
Ireland has a modest but active venture capital community with a number of new and maturing funds. Most VCs here have a preference for B2B businesses but at times, they have invested in games companies – both tech and content. If you have early customers or recurring revenue streams, most good VCs will want to meet you at some stage. Remember venture capital is not for everyone. Most VC investors gets their money back by trade sales e.g. selling your business. They don’t invest in family businesses or companies not looking to scale rapidly and be acquired. The Irish Venture Capital Association is a good starting point to see if venture capital is right for your gaming startup.
Angel investors or business angels are high-net worth individuals who provide seed capital for a business start-up. Their investment normally takes the form of a convertible debt or ownership equity. In addition, they also can contribute their general business know-how and can offer valuable expertise and guidance. Angels tend to be hands-on and can be of great assistance to inexperienced company founders. Their average investment is between €50K and €250k. Many also form syndicates ( to invest larger amounts). In general, they are a quicker funding route than other professional investors. HBAN is a good source of information for angel investment in Ireland.
Startup Incubators/University Incubators/ Accelerator Programmes
Most of the main universities and colleges in Ireland now offer incubation facilities. An incubator typically offers shared office spaces, networking and mentoring opportunities and in rare cases some early funding. Some incubators charge (very low) fees while others charge none and will look for a small equity investment. Co-working is very common in incubators and some offer private office spaces.
Accelerator programmes are aimed at established start-ups that have the potential to grow quickly. These programmes offer a mixture of office space, mentorship and some limited expenses or early stage investment. Dublin BIC provides a number of these programmes:
Loan or debt finance is not usually an option for games start-ups unless they are reasonably well established and have recurring annual revenue. The main part of a bank loan analysis is focused on cash flow and repayment capacity. Early stage game companies are unlikely to have a sufficient trading record to secure a bank loan.
Indiegogo and Kickstarter are two of the best-known international crowdfunding sites for games and other digital media. By their nature, crowdfunders tend to have a international focus rather than a local one. There are one or two equity crowdfunders based in Ireland so they might be worth checking out if you are based here.
Even though self-publishing is now a completely viable option for new game developers, a good publisher can significantly increase the sales potential of your game. With millions of game apps in the mobile and PC stores, it is hard to stand out and a publisher’s marketing muscle can make all the difference. Like crowd funding, game publishers have an international focus and don’t tend to be regional specific. Ireland has very few, if any, indigenous games publishers. There are app and media publishers here but none really specialise in traditional game publishing.
Even though Ireland does not have a national games development fund (yet…watch this space), there are a good variety of potential game funding options. Though there are no local publishers, there are a number of Irish developers who have successful launched games with international publishers. Whatever funding or publishing route you take, almost all with require a comprehensive business plan and player acquisition strategy. Armed with both, you will increase your chances of getting your next games project funded and published.