An article in the Financial Times today highlighted the difficulty that the UK’s creative industry has had in securing funding from banks since the government started to advocate investment into the tech start-ups. The article specifically makes reference to the government-backed British Business Banks’s investment in a private equity fund worth £40 million that focuses on nascent media and gaming companies. Britain certainly can boast a range of success stories; King Entertainment, manufacturer of the omnipresent (and entirely vacuous, in my view) Candy Crush, was sold for $5.9 billion.
The majority of gaming companies however, fall into the SME bracket, and won’t suitable for the PE funds: the aforementioned fund run by Edge Investments will only back between 12 and 15 companies. Moreover, they have fallen victim to the bank’s decision to withdraw funding to small businesses; software companies are particularly vulnerable to “computer-says-no”-ism of the banks. Some of the biggest success stories of the past are subsidiaries of much bigger companies but continue to operate under their own brand name. For instance, Sports Interactive Ltd, the creative studio behind the Football Manager games, were able to benefit from the support of Japanese giant Sega. The company was initially loss making, however the profits have steadily increased to over £3 million last year.
Yet most games manufacturers are run by enthusiasts who aren’t happy to just sign over all of the equity in their business to a big corporate. Reward-based crowdfunding has been a fantastic way to exploit the willingness of fans to take a small portion of equity in a games manufacturer along with “tangible assets” such as a copy of the game, and the less tangible reward of increased standing within the game itself. The business is able to hold onto most of its own equity but can still receive funding. See my article on the success of Star Citizen for an example of the potency of gaming fans to drive a company’s growth projections through the roof. The article can be found here: https://www.archover.com/demystifying-crowdfunding-part-1-donation-and-reward-based-crowdfunding/.
Yet there is every chance that a novel concept without an entrenched fan base could go unfunded. However, there is still the option of debt-based P2P lending if directors and major shareholders are unwilling to dilute their share in the company. Enthusiasts could invest in the business without the risk of just an equity stake, and established SMEs could continue to grow the business organically without the need to handover their brainchild to a corporate. Established companies with a debtor book to match, often funded by sponsors hoping to flog their product into the subconscious mind of the avid gamer, have consistent revenue streams from blue-chip sources. Sports Interactive, after all, had over £20 million worth of debtors in 2014, up from £16 million in 2013. These debtors were made up of retailers and sponsors keen to have their brand represented in the game. P2P lending could be the answer to the next generation of gaming companies looking to follow in their footsteps.