What Goes Around… The Indie Fund

By Alec Meer on March 2nd, 2010 at 7:30 pm.

I adore this film, and I'm not afraid to say it

Some indie games make a lot of money. Most don’t. Worse, many never even get off the ground because they have no funding. The freshly-announced Indie Fund means to change that – it’s an angel investment group set up by some of independent gaming’s greatest current luminaries (the likes of 2D Boy, Jon Blow, Flashbang…) and intended to help the next generation of indie devs get started on making wonderful toys for us lot to play with. I.e. more Worlds of Goo, more Braids, more Audiosurfs, more Solium Infernums… This is a good day. A fantastically, wonderfully, bloody good day.

Quoth the brand new website, “It was established as a serious alternative to the traditional publisher funding model. Our aim is to support the growth of games as a medium by helping indie developers get financially independent and stay financially independent.”

Obviously we don’t know what the Fund’s cut of a successful project will be, nor how much money they have available (it’s all coming from the pockets of the devs involved), but in theory this is incredible news for gaming. PC gaming especially – in a year when we’ve suffered quite a few punches to the stomach by the big publishers, this is something to be thankful for. It means bold, experimental and outright crazy projects can potentially be funded, rather than be compromised in the face of minimal resources.

Of course, it’s a business opportunity for the guys behind the fund as much as anything else, but I’m convinced there’s real philanthropy here: these chaps have decided to spend the earnings from their own break-out hits on putting more young creative types into the same position. In this interview with Gamasutra, 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel says the fund won’t be claiming any ownership rights over funded projects (though they’d like to provide advice where needed) and they won’t be beating the cash back out of devs whose titles don’t prove successful enough to earn the investment back.

While obviously the Fund’s ongoing existence will depends on the success rate, given the investors currently have limited cash to chuck at it, hopefully it’ll take off and be an annual thing. I just can’t see how gamers like us won’t benefit from that. Hell, maybe it even means gamers like us can create our own games. Though I’ll admit I’m also incredibly curious to see what existing independent wunderkinds such as Edmund McMillen, Cryptic Comment, Eyezmaze and Mossmouth could manage with an injection of pure cash.

More details of this most excellent project are due at GDC next week, including a reveal of TIF’s first planned projects. Here’s the full list of investors too:

Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, 2D BOY (World of Goo)
Jonathan Blow, Number None (Braid)
Kellee Santiago, thatgamecompany (flOwer)
Nathan Vella, Capy (Critter Crunch)
Matthew Wegner, Flashbang Studios (Off-Road Velociraptor Safari)
Aaron Isaksen, AppAbove Games (Armadillo Gold Rush)

, , , , .

82 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    it really has been a day of mixed news. A morning of speculation over more Portal based goodness, an afternoon of bemusement at nasty ol’ Activision and an evening of indie related philanthropic loveliness.

    Hooray for goodness and loveliness!

  2. Jacques says:

    This can only be a good thing.

  3. Jeremy says:

    The contrast between Good and Evil has only become starker today.

    • JB says:

      So true.

    • Bret says:

      Yup.

      Wonderful Life image feels entirely appropriate.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I think it is more the contrast between the old ways (big stupid publishers in it for the money blah blah.) and the newness of Valves forward thinking ways and the blooming of indie.

  4. Mathieu says:

    Impressive. This is a great move from those guys!

  5. Schmung says:

    Wow. This is pretty awesome.

  6. Mario Figueiredo says:

    What, no .org?

    • Scott says:

      Seeing as it’s basically an investment company, I would think that .com is fully appropriate.

  7. Vinraith says:

    That’s a fantastic idea, kudos to all involved.

    • pedant says:

      seconded, score another for independent and active devs, more power and kudos to them! And hugs, lots of hugs.

  8. TheSombreroKid says:

    exciting, i’ll need to investigate this, wrt funding my own game.

  9. Dave Toulouse says:

    Indeed quite interesting …

    Good success to all involved!

  10. pkt-zer0 says:

    Isn’t this something like what Manifesto Games was trying to do as well?

  11. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    Great initiative and hopefully will lead to awesome stuff.

  12. Clovis says:

    I’d be interested in a version of this that involves the fans putting up some money too. I recently bought Minecraft, which was covered before on RPS, while it is in Beta. It’s great to be able to see and play early versions of the game. I also like that I’m actually helping it get completed by allowing the indy developer to focus on it.

    Someone laughed at the idea of “voting with your wallet” in the face of companies like Activision. It is true that the small number of gamers who pay attention to this stuff will probably not have any affect on the big companies. But so what? Our money does make a difference for these smaller developers. We can at least encourage the developement of the types of games we want, and they actually pay attention to and care about their customers.

    • Wulf says:

      Yep, I bought Minecraft, too.

      Every now and then I dip back in there because it’s just so much fun. I like the public servers, and I have my own server which I, my partner, and a couple of friends use to build things. I spent a few hours at one point building this bloody massive Wolf monument, an incredible thing that impressed all involved, especially considering the planning and patience that it took. I’ve the patience of a saint when it comes to games, a well known thing. I didn’t even get angry at veni, vidi, vici, me.

      I agree with you, Clovis, and I’ve been trying to make this point over and over, because putting money here is where it counts. It’s not just money tossed in a money pit, because every donation and every sale is going to matter, and it’s going to help create more things of the sort. And I want to see more wonderful little things like this, I want to see the future of Minecraft, I want more developers to go down this road. If it becomes a financially viable thing, I’m certain we’ll see more people breaking away from big developers/publishers to create their own startups and pursue their dreams.

      And the games that would come of those dreams… those are games I very, very much wish to play.

  13. WorldWideReid says:

    I want to donate!

  14. Will Tomas says:

    Lovely idea. I hope they can screen the people who apply to them for money properly – if they get this bit right, they’ll have a success, if not it could be like the Beatles and Apple where the money ended up with people who either squandered it or weren’t good enough, along with one or two minor successes. I hope they make it work.

  15. Taillefer says:

    Brings a tear to the eye. Maybe they’ll see some large anonymous donations coming in from wealthy game-lovers.

  16. StalinsGhost says:

    Bloody brilliant idea.

  17. Voice of the Majority says:

    I must say I’m mostly worried over how this will go. They should insist on giving advice. I think it would be much more valuable than the funding they’ll be able to provide.

    I’m with Clovis here. We, the audience, can pour money to projects that will never really take off, if we happen to like the said projects. Sometimes they even do take off. However, no private fund can sustainably work like that.

    • StalinsGhost says:

      Why not? The liberal economics of the western world are based around a backbone provided by private investment.

    • Bhazor says:

      Erm… have you read the news in the past three years? Unsecured investing hasn’t turned out so good.

    • StalinsGhost says:

      hah! As if 3 years could reverse over 2 centuries of a tried and tested formula.

      Rome’s not fallen yet.

    • sfury says:

      and we’re talking a few inexpensive indie game titles a year here, not real estate bubbles and derivatives

    • jackflash says:

      The problem as I see it, is that these guys just can’t have that much capital. I mean, I know their projects were quite successful, but I doubt if the total amount of the fund, to begin with, is more than $500k. Which leads me to think that they will fund very, very small projects of 1 or 2 people – the indiest of the indie. Which is fine, but we need to be realistic about what they can accomplish.

      As someone who wants to start a 5-7 man studio and do games with a budget of $300-500k, this fund is probably far too small.

    • Uhm says:

      Well they’re already funding a few projects, so we’ll see. And if they’re financially succesful it’ll bring in some cash to boost the fund further.

  18. Strange_Bundle says:

    Cryptic Comet, not Comment :)

    I’m surprised there isn’t a fund like this already but it’s something I’ve been hoping for for a long time.

  19. Bhazor says:

    So the already financially successful developers will now be taking the profits of less successful developers? Hmm.

    I also fail to see how this counts as indie, it sounds the same as the Canadian game system where the government pays half the cost and takes half the profit. Which I hear works pretty well.

    • StalinsGhost says:

      There’s no details of the agreements yet.

      Any project, in any industry needs finance to get started. At the very least, indie devs need money to pay rent, eat, and maintain a half-decent PC for development. And that means investment, whether from public or private funds, or from your own pocket. You can bet any investment company set up by bedroom coders will be a helluva lot more reasonable about the conditions of investment than the major publishers/investors.

    • James G says:

      Another of the concerns, but I decided to tone down my cynicism slightly in my post, mainly because I don’t doubt the honset intentions of the founders.

  20. PetitPrince says:

    If the gaming world was the Roman Empire, those guys would be Gaius Maecenas (quasi founder of art patronage; also gave his name to art patronage in various language)…

    … and Activision-Blizzard would be Nero !

    • Okami says:

      I think this takes things a little bit too far. Nero wasn’t that bad an emperor. He’s mainly been painted in a very bad light by christian historians.. Ok, so he burned a few christians at the stake, but I’ve heard that they really were a nuisance back then. And at least he never wanted to take the fun out of (circus) gaming.

    • Clovis says:

      How about Caligula then?

    • Okami says:

      That guy threw some damn good parties, I’ve heard…

    • Cinnamon says:

      How about this. Jon Blow is the Marcus Aurelius of video games. Bobby Kotick is the Julius Caesar which I’m sure he would be happy with. (Julius Ceasar sucks but everyone loves a winner)

  21. James G says:

    It’ll be a difficult task, as if they are fullfil the goals they founded the company for, AND be profitable then they are going to be dealing with some very high risk investments, especially if they don’t intend to screw over failed devs. If it weren’t for the names behind it, I’d fear we might end up with a body which finded only safe titles, and thus ended up introducing fewer incentives to innovate and would end up infecting the indie scene with some of the same pressures that exist in the commercial market. However given the names behind this, I’m hoping we’ll instead see them acomplishing what they’re setting out to achieve, mainly to provide support to the existing Indie scene.

  22. Mike says:

    Let’s hope some indies will get more chances to succeed.

  23. t maxwell smith says:

    Well it worked for the record industry!

    I think…

  24. IndieCred says:

    Hi, I need $50,000 to help fund my new game entitled “I Pee and Poop on You, Viva Art!”

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      They decide who the money goes to and how much it is given. Couldn’t work any other way, let’s be clear about it. But this can become a dangerous tool for the indie “movement” which may become fractured over this (those who get the money and those who don’t). I’d be really sad to witness this happening to one of the few development “genres” that still can hold its proud face in a crowd.

      I honestly don’t see why independent developers need this or how it can benefit those who will not get any money. Much, much better would be a central fund for money donations to specific games. A place where I could go and donate X for game Y and K for game Z.

      This whole fund things smells to a Publisher in the works.

    • RobF says:

      Nah, all the folks involved in this are good (and genuine) guys. If they were going to set up a publishing business, they could just do that. Easily. But they haven’t and I think that suggesting some sort of insidious motive (even vaguely) is a bit off the wall.

      I also think there’s a lot of folks overestimating just how much money most indie devs need to get a project on the road proper here, for some even a few hundred quid can be enough to get a decent project on the road, for others it might be multiples more. So it goes. These guys know their games, all of them have their heads down to the ground on what’s going on, I trust them to pick carefully and pick well.

      As for how it’ll benefit those who don’t get the money? It’d be hard to argue that the success of World Of Goo, the success of Braid and the success of Blurst and the success of Flower etc… hasn’t benefited all of us lowly indie developers in some way. Every one game that cracks through to the mainstream helps and helping games break through (or in some cases, just hit completion so there’s one more wonderful game out there) helps get the word out that there’s these guys and some of them are doing some really good stuff.

      All in all, this is a good thing and I’m happy to see it going ahead.

  25. Wulf says:

    Today…

    The big boys got a little shittier.

    The little guys got a little shinier.

    And time, time rolls on.

    That something like this has finally happened isn’t exactly unexpected, but what comes of it might be, and in grand, glorious ways. I look forward to witnessing the future of this for myself.

    Today is indeed a great day.

    • Wulf says:

      Also, I’m getting the impression that Alec’s been bitten by the same boundless enthusiasm for wonderful little small start-up things (indies, per se) bug that I have. But given the way things seem to be going, I suspect he is but the first of many.

      Give it a few years and KG will be penning the script of his first indie game, having gotten tired of comics.

  26. JP says:

    Someone laughed at the idea of “voting with your wallet” in the face of companies like Activision. It is true that the small number of gamers who pay attention to this stuff will probably not have any affect on the big companies. But so what? Our money does make a difference for these smaller developers. We can at least encourage the developement of the types of games we want, and they actually pay attention to and care about their customers.

    Well said Clovis! It’s a terrible thing to disregard our right to vote with our wallets for the stuff we want to see more of. This fund sounds like a great way to make it easier for gamers to do just that.

    • Wulf says:

      This is exactly the point I’ve been getting blue in the face trying to make, that money is wasted on Activision, but in the hands of a small company or an indie developer, it becomes support, it becomes hope for future projects, it makes all the difference in the world.

      If you can donate toward something like that, or buy things of the sort, then that’s money better spent than going to Activision, where it’ll just end up in their money pit. And since Activision aren’t going to stop treating gamers like prostitutes any time soon… well, why should we be giving them our money?

  27. Heliocentric says:

    I have ideas for games. What i need isn’t money but time… If any indie’s want to lend me a time machine or any time of temporal acceleration device that would be great.

    • jalf says:

      Money can buy time though. If you have enough of it, you can quit your day job, or hire a programmer. ;)

  28. gulag says:

    I think there is a lot of ‘Will It Blend?’ to this fund, as in we may see some spectacular things out of it, good and bad. I sincerely hope the Good provides enough financial reward to out-weight the bad. It’s sort of a Dragon’s Den for Indie Games, innit?

  29. sfury says:

    this is the most exciting piece of news for me today, even more than the Portal hullabaloo and the blazing new Opera 10.50 :]

    • Premium User Badge

      James G says:

      @sfury Re: Opera 10.5
      Been using the alpha/beta/RC for a while, but its nice to finally switch properly. Some nice improvements, and a much better rendering/javascript engine.

  30. Jimbo says:

    I think it’ll probably work out alright for them. The biggest difference between a ‘successful’ indie game and an ‘unsuccessful’ one is whether or not anybody pays any attention to it in the first place. These guys carry enough weight to ensure that any project they endorse is probably going to get at least some coverage. Kinda like having “Presented by Quentin Tarantino…” on your otherwise obscure movie. I suspect having their names attached to your project would prove more valuable than the funding itself.

    What they’re doing with funding is great, but what would be equally useful is providing a reliable source of information about how to bring a game to market, how to deal with distributors, making sure it’s up to the standards distributors expect, what you need to do about trademarking and protecting your property etc. etc. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to trying this out myself lately (rather than just complaining that everybody else is doing it wrong), and it’s these sorts of things that concern me more than anything else.

  31. DMcCool says:

    Wow, gaming news today has been something wonderous. I wonder how many they are hoping on supporting though – I mean they are going to get thousands of applicants, shifting through the bad ideas to find the good ones sounds like a job in and of itself. Guess its fingers crossed I hope this works time because if it does …well this could be my future.

    Its like the moment Spring hit (which so happened yesterday, SUUUUN! and the return of the ice-cream man to my street), everything has gotten better. Like the games industry has woken up from its winter hiberation. Yay for spring announcements!

  32. FhnuZoag says:

    Awesome. How can we give them money?

  33. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Great news Alec. And your enthusiasm for it really comes through. Also, it’s always nice to see the word ‘Quoth’

  34. Navagon says:

    Two bits of good gaming news in one day? This is awesome! The rise of the indie scene is surely guaranteed now.

  35. Frosty says:

    Isn’t this something Dan Marshall of Zombie Cow tried before but it never really took off?

    Not that it shouldn’t be supported, it’s a damned good idea just surprised to not see Dan involved in this.

  36. Jakkar says:

    The world is exciting.

  37. Uhm says:

    If Tim Langdell calls, tell him no.

  38. UK_John says:

    Same should be done in the full price market to save the AAA market by allowing more innovation@ Set up smaller labels within major companies and allow them a $2,000,000 budget for each game, and that that would be the only demand. I.e. make any game you want, spend less than $2,000,000 ans we, EA, Blizzard, Bethesda, etc, will publish it.

  39. Aubrey says:

    This is cool, but it’s been happening before: about 3 years ago, Jon Blow put me in touch with one of the creators of bink, who helped fund an indie game I was working on with Tommy Refenes.

    The game didn’t work out, but he didn’t ask for money back. He is a very nice man.

    It was pretty gutting and embarassing not to finish the game. But yeah. Couldn’t have had the excellent, hard earned experiences* wtihout the support.

    *psychological breakdown.

  40. Cooper says:

    Here’s hoping they can help out on the PR / marketeering side of things.

    If there’s anything indie devs tend to get a bit wrong when they ‘go it alone’ it’s misjuding what and how much needs to be put into getting the game ‘out there’…

  41. Web Cole says:

    Yay!
    Also *cough* Cryptic CommeNt *cough* :P

  42. LionsPhil says:

    “the fund won’t be claiming any ownership rights over funded projects”
    This is basically the kind of hypothetical-love-and-perfection publisher people tend to seem to envisage when, say, Activision send out cease-and-desists. It will be interesting to see how it goes. If funding allocation is in the hands of experienced pros like 2D Boy, hopefully they’ll have the skill to identify which people are going to be able to finish good games in a timely fashion, and which are going to get a few months into their reskinned Mario clone and then burn out.

  43. l1ddl3monkey says:

    From now on I will be reffering to this as the “Fuck Ubisoft and Activision Fund”.

    Awesomest news of the month.

  44. Matuda says:

    Awesome news.

    Maybe it’s possible to ask for small fund?
    =D
    Great news.

  45. Rolex watches says:

    The game didn’t work out, but he didn’t ask for money back. He is a very nice man.

  46. rolex men's watches says:

    aybe it’s possible to ask for small fund?

  47. batterie says:

    put me in touch with one of the creators of bink, who helped fund an indie game I was working on with

  48. labatterie says:

    going to get a few months into their reskinned Mario clone and then burn out.

  49. r4 ds says:

    This is basically the kind of hypothetical-love-and-perfection publisher people tend to seem to envisage when

  50. party gowns says:

    Aw, this is a really quality site.