Since 2006 the Nordic Game Program has supported to 125 game projects, but that’s all coming to an end, with the last round of grants to be announced during the upcoming Nordic Game conference on 20-22 May.
While the future of further Nordic game funding seems bleak, we spoke with Erik Robertson, who created the Nordic Game Program for the Nordic ministers of culture and led the project during its first seven years, on the successes of the program and what’s on the horizon.
NG: When you look at the Nordic games industry now compared to nine years ago, what do you see?
ER: Nine years ago the dust was still settling on the great mobile games boom-and-bust, PC distribution was pretty much broken, and one big publisher along with three major console game platform holders – EA, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony – controlled everything else. The industry was about shipping disks, and Nordic developers were not (viably) able to localise games into our own languages – which of course was a big, waving red flag for our Nordic culture ministers. The mood was pretty dark back then, wasn’t it?
Looking at the Nordic games industry today, it’s something bigger, better and more beautiful to me. Vibrant and full of optimism, totally unique creativity and quality. Mere words aren’t enough…
NG: But was there really a need for the Nordic Game Program – could the industry not have arrived at its current point purely fuelled by the market and sales?
ER: Well, we turned down Supercell because we felt that they’d find the money elsewhere – and they did. But we were also the first to fund Playdead and their game Limbo; we gave them life, though at the time we really doubted them – but it certainly turned out ok.
So I think that our region’s industry would have fared very well without the Nordic Game Program, but we would not have seen the riskier, more creative stuff to the same extent. “Your tax money at work” put us in a unique flanking position in the global market – and there’s so much more to come.
NG: For you personally, what have been the biggest achievements of the Nordic Game Program?
ER: The Nordic-ness. Helping to build something much bigger than all of us, by tearing down fences and marching out into the world together (wipes a tear).
NG: The last round of grant recipients has been decided but not announced. The five projects awarded support had to adhere to a number of new constraints (compared to earlier years) in regards to content and target audience – how did that work out?
ER: With a third of the 2014 grant budget for the games in this round and only 25 per cent of that available for selection and administration, we really had to take an axe to the program. 185 applications were dropped to 68 (that fit the new criteria) and the overall quality was down. I almost regret being a part of tearing (the program) down. If it wasn’t for the very nice, very deserving five projects selected…
NG: Looking to the future, Nordic game developers need investors as always. What are your thoughts on how to strengthen this endeavour?
ER: We’ve taken 12 million EUR from the Nordic tax payer (since 2006), and in return given our Nordic games industry a huge push upwards, with a sideways, cultural, creative and risk-embracing spin.
(Presently though), it seems that our Nordic culture ministers want to move on to something else. So it’s up to us now. It always has been of course, but today there are enough people in our industry to take on this responsibility. As individuals working together, we have the network, the competence and the means to continue seed funding Nordic games on a meaningful scale. We’re about halfway there now. We need another dozen or so people that can commit 5-15,000 EUR per year, and we’ll launch. Drop me a line if you’re one of them, please.
NG: Securing funding for game developers is a lot of work – it requires a great deal of research. Again looking ahead, what do you think could be done in order to help Nordic game developers in this regard?
ER: There’s so much you need to do before you can approach someone to ask for money. But to help out and also save everyone’s time and effort, we’re gathering resources through the Nordic Game Community online and in particular, our Nordic Game Funding website.
(With these platforms), we’re aiming to become the juncture where game ideas, talent, insight, knowledge and resources – from labour to capital – meet to form and create the important Nordic games, as well as game technologies and services, of the future. Where crowdfunding, crowd-sourcing and the wisdom of crowds – the smart money, if you will – build on the foundations laid with our tax money. All comments and contributions are very welcome!
About Nordic Game Program grant announcement for 2015
The five recipients of Nordic Game Program grants for 2015 will be announced during Nordic Game conference this May.
Learn more about this year’s Nordic Game Program funding round here.
About Nordic Game 2015
Nordic Game is the leading games conference in Northern Europe, now in its twelfth year. Expected to gather 2,000 games industry professionals in Malmö this 20-22 May, Nordic Game is the one and only “home turf” meeting place for the highly successful game developers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
To learn more and register, visit conf.nordicgame.com.