We are indie
After a long time we did the final step. We have founded our own company! We are now an independent game studio. We went through a lot of pain to reach this point, but it was totally worth it.
There is a lot of pressure on your shoulders as soon as you are a company. Especially in Germany you have to stick to a lot of rules determined by the tax office, the banks and the state. As you don't want your recently founded studio to become bankrupt within the first month you have to take compromises and of course do a lot of planning and preparation.
In the beginning, we had the idea of applying for government aid to finance the first year as a team working on our own project which we wanted to use for our market entry. That was because we had no income for a living and saw our dreams being washed away by financial problems. We always had in mind how long it would take to develop and actually finish a game. And there are a lot of things which can delay your work like illness, technical problems or a horde of wild baboons attacking your office and destroying everything you did in the last year. Since Matthias, Daniel and Stephan were still students, we didn't have that much pressure on earning money but still there was a voice inside telling us to secure ourselves against all these possible incidents.
One fortunate coincidence made it a lot easier for us to outlast the next months. We were invited to present our plans of founding at the international chamber of commerce in Mainz, Germany in early 2013. We put a lot of effort into this presentation. Instead of common 2D presentation solutions we used Unity3D, our favorite game engine, and thus the possibility to project text over interactive and live rendered scenes of our game projects. It was so fancy, that we got a lot of attention from some representatives of big German media institutions. To cut a long story short, the effort was completely worth it because we could land a cooperation which payed out really well. At first we were a little bit sad about not having the time for developing our game 'In Between' during that time, but today we are really happy we did this collaboration. Not only because we earned some money, but we also got in touch with new technologies and methods.
We started off with writing our application paper for the government aid in autumn 2013. Even though we already had some prospective money due to our cooperation project, we still thought having a constant money flow over the next year would be a good thing. Writing the paper was a long and hard process because all we really wanted to do was making games and not being forced to do the business stuff. After a long time of struggling with this task we contacted our student advisory service to talk about our progress and the first draft. It then suddenly turned out that we would have to shift all of our work because receiving the funding means that you are not allowed to do anything in the next year but working on a businessplan and prepare for foundation. That makes sense if you have to search for partners and financing options to buy machines and material for something you want to produce. But you don't need that much time of preparation for making games. So we skipped the government aid because we thought 'In Between' should have the highest priority.
The good thing is that we didn't write the paper for nothing. We learned a lot about founding a company. We also had an answer to the most difficult decision ever: Choosing our legal form. Since we wanted to be noticed as a serious studio and as a legal entity being protected by limited liability we chose the entrepreneurial company - or Unternehmergesellschaft (haftungsbeschränkt), as it is called in German. We also didn't have to raise 25.000€ of inital capital for a GmbH, which was nice. You may think it's easy to comprehend all the options you have to become a company, but the devil is in the details when it comes to taxes, liability and formation expenses.
Overall there are a some things we learned and want to share. (read the following passage in Cave Johnson's voice)
The most important point is to always keep in mind what your goals are. Where will you be in 5 years? Where will you be in 10 years? It's never wrong to aim high, because you will subliminally be aware of your goals at any time and automatically do bigger steps with less effort instead of having to force yourself. Nevertheless it's always a good idea to keep your mind free. Leave the box! Be as free in what you are doing as an individual as you are free in being an independent company. Be positive! Everyone has his bad days, but overall you should stay focused on what you want to achieve and don't be pessimistic about it. Enthusiasm! Sometimes it's exhilarating to be totally crazy about something. And last but not least: Don't hide yourself! Share your plans and talk to people. We got a lot of attention from established companies and institutions which helped us on our way. And even if it means that you have to do other, commisioned work rather than your own, it is still a chance to get some distance from your main project and continue with a fresh and open mind afterwards. But make sure to get your priorities right! After all, you want to make games.