Dev blog

Dev blog: Applying for cultural promotion

Getting the bucks to finally create your indie game is not easy. A lot of devs  try to work a day job while spending the night tinkering on their game. I tried this for 9 months, after which I was at the end of my tether. Other options would be a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter became famous because it was this new, awesome way to get money for your idea. Until everybody started to do it, especially when it came to video games. So Kickstarter became a gold rush, as did the new opportunities for games before it (like the app stores and Steam): The longer it’s on the market, the harder it gets, because there is so much competition. Nowadays you have to spend thousands of dollars for marketing to get some attention for your Kickstarter campaign. So if you talk to devs or companies that did Kickstarter campaigns in the past the consensus is that you only should do it if you already have enough money to develop your project. Kickstarter became more of a marketing and community-building tool than a way to get money.

So what other ways are there? When I speak to my friends working in the creative industry, a lot of them fund their projects through cultural promotion. Looking at my game, this would be a really fitting way. AVA is a meaningful game, which is more trimmed towards focusing on a message than to purely generate as much money as possible. The only problem is that cultural promotion in Switzerland hasn’t yet arrived in the digital era.

Situation in Zurich/Switzerland

Pro Helvetia did  a really great job when it comes to cultural promotion for games in Switzerland. Not only were they the first institution to support games, they also managed to promote this message to the point that almost all game devs in Switzerland know about this. Which lead to the situation that a lot of Swiss devs did not look further for funding than Pro Helvetia. However, if you try to look further it’s not even that easy. One other institution that does funding for new media (which games do fall under) is Migros Kulturprozent. They only grant promotion once a year, and this year their deadline is in August. Besides these two, well … things get a bit hairy. I did try to apply for both the canton of Zurich’s and the city of Zurich’s cultural promotion with another project last year. Neither of them have pools for new media, and their interdisciplinary funds only cover projects that are in between their other categories. Those are theater, music, literature, visual arts, dance and movies. Since the project I applied with was a music game, I tried to apply there. This lead to an interesting conversation with the executives, but it doesn’t seem like there will be any change in the near future.

I tried to find other institutions, and there is even a website that lists cultural promotion possibilities in Switzerland, where you can filter region and project categories. It’s not really up to date, but definitely worth a try. None of the institutions that I found were really fitting, except for the Trudy-Schlatter-Preis für Frauenwerke, but that one only is held every other year, and the last one was last year. I’ll probably apply for Cassinelli-Vogel-Stiftung and the Ernst-Göhner-Stiftung and try my luck despite the need for the project to have a direct connection to Zurich, which my project … yes? No? Maybe? I mean it depends on your perspective?

If you’re trying to get cultural promotion in Switzerland, I can certainly recommend that you do an interdisciplinary project. There are several games which got a impressive amount of funding because they were partly an animation or visual arts project. Conventional games are at a disadvantage in that regard.

International situation

When it comes to the international situation I’ve absolutely no clue. I did reach out to some companies if they were interested in a collaboration, and I tried to find out if other game devs already did something like this, but the information I found was sparse. Yes. That’s all I’ve to say about this. None of the companies I reached out to replied, the forums and websites I searched didn’t offer any solutions either, so I guess I’ll have to dig deeper.

So… what’s next?

I finished my applications for Migros Kulturprozent and Pro Helvetia for now, and since the online research wasn’t that fruitful either, I will try what I can find out through my personal contacts. I feel like somebody somewhere somehow should know more, right? If you have any inputs, please let me know! Contact me on Twitter and let’s exchange our knowledge! And if you’re interested in further dev blogs, please subscribe for the project’s newsletter.

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