Black Game Developers Fund on rebranding, development and expansion

In 2020, the Humble Bundle revealed that it would commit $ 1 million a year to its Black Game Developer Fund, a resource created to enable independent Black developers to create and publish their games.

Sithe Ncube and Justin Woodward were appointed as strategic advisors to the Black Game Developer’s Fund in October 2020. Since then, the fund has signed on and issued funding to over 20 developers, all at various stages of their projects.

In its next step, BGDF has just signed on to eight new developers to receive support from the fund, and is also undergoing a rebrand so it can stand independently away from Humble.

Talking to GamesIndustry.bizWoodward says Humble has given BGDF the freedom to truly connect with the community it aims to enable, to truly cut to the core of what black developers in different parts of the world need to succeed, which often goes far beyond far. in addition to financial backing.

“Humble has really given Sithe and myself the opportunity to jump in and make the necessary adjustments as black people in the industry, to lead the focus on communicating with the developers and asking what they need, in the context of where things are. in the industry, “Woodward says.

Black Game Developers Fund on rebranding, development and expansion

Justin Woodward

“We know it would be very nuanced, but you do not really know it before you start shopping. There is not one box you can make that will be a size for everyone,” he adds.

“For example, if it’s a small team, they might be okay with development because they came from a AAA studio and they need marketing or development advice. And then some people have five to ten people, and they have it’s hard time figuring out how to get the next prototype up and running, so by being able to establish a relationship with the developers and their needs, we’re able to target and work with them on a track, suitable for them and theirs, and not just on an economic basis. ”

He also highlights that over the past year, the team has worked with handfuls of developers in and out of the fund who have moved toward publishing agreements, either with Humble or with another company, or receiving additional funding for ongoing projects. . He also notes that some developers have changed their process or switched to another project based on feedback and guidance received from the BGDF team.

“We’ve talked to a lot of developers, and some we don’t end up getting on with, but the door is always open,” he adds.

“We’ve talked to a lot of developers, and some we do not end up with, but the door is always open.”

Justin Woodward

Accessibility is also a consistent obstacle across the board, Woodward notes. One thing that BGDF has seen is developers who lack the ability to communicate with publishers and funding in general.

“You have to have this history of development and a history in the gaming industry to reach those funds at all,” Woodward says. “Some developers just need a bridge to get them to the point where they’re ready to communicate with publishers.

“It’s one of the doctrines that I think I had when we moved forward – how to tailor our communication while developers pitch, and then when they get into the program or not, how to communicate with them to possibly achieve their goals, whether it’s funding or better feedback on how they could present better in the future. “

Ncube points out that developers need different forms of support depending on where they are in the world. Some of the problems that creators face in non-Western countries are often not even taken into account when funds come from the West.

“Sometimes it’s not clear [the fund] is not just for black developers in America, too many times people are very used to these opportunities just for people in western countries, “says Ncube.” Knowing that we have to make an extra effort to reach people out from different places is something we have learned. ”


Sithe Ncube

Ncube uses the example of one of BGDF’s first signatures, a developer based in Cameroon. To keep the studio running, the team had to pay for a generator to solve some problems with the electricity. Meeting this kind of obstacle may not even be considered in the West.

“If you’re from another part of the world, you may not have even thought about what the studios are facing in some places,” she says. “So I think the way we can help make the industry more accommodating to people from different regions is to work directly with people there and have advisors and have advisors from different regions within your programs.”

BGDF has just unveiled a brand new website which contains updates from developers who have partnered with it. As mentioned earlier, it has also just signed eight new small studies, each with their own projects, and the foundation has specified how its support benefits each developer. The rebrand is designed to help BGDF stand out from Humble’s branding so it can grow and become a stronger beacon of guidance for black creators.

“Having developers at different levels and different stages of their development not only helps with inspiration, but also to be able to connect developers,” says Ncube.

“You can see the projects go through in different phases on the portal on the website. Some go really far and some may just be in the early stages, so it’s a great way to inspire people.”

The outfit also wants to do better by focusing on the work it is passionate about and showing exactly who it supports, in the hope that developers in similar positions will consider reaching out.

“Half the battle is that people do not know there are funds out there,” Woodward says. That and some people do not know how to get to the funds and they feel they can not break through. But we are open, we are like “we have money”, just look us up and we will work together with you.”

Breeze in the Clouds by Stormy Nights Interactive is a game supported by the foundation

Breeze in the Clouds by Stormy Nights Interactive is a game supported by the foundation

BGDF is still actively growing and looking for applicants, and both Woodward and Sithe recommend taking a look at the site’s application portal, which is essentially built from the template that Humble itself uses for publishing, a valuable resource in itself.

Woodward adds that people interested in BGDF can benefit from reaching out to developers who have been through the process. He also says the team is happy to chat with developers who want to apply and answer any questions they may have about what the foundation offers and how it can benefit a small studio.

“There are not millions of black game developers, so our door is open to communicate with the people out there, we want to learn about you. We want to hear what you’re going through,” he says.

Looking at the gaming industry as a whole and the promises it made to better cater to minorities over the last few years, both Ncube and Woodward feel it still has a long way to go, but is moving in the right direction.

“I really believe people’s hearts are in the right place, but it takes trial and error and a lot of people to communicate what went right, what went wrong, to move forward,” Woodward says.

“There are a lot of things on the surface on Twitter and on social media about change. But then you have people like Humble who actually put their money where their mouth is, listen and actually hire people who are in the community.”

Ncube adds that there are still places and situations that are being overlooked, which means some developers and regions are not getting the support they need.

“Games require a lot of resources, and some people do not even have the resources to get to a stage where they can present a decent game even though they have the skills to make one,” she says. “I think it would be really helpful to give people more access to resources, especially earlier in the development process, as well as different forms of mentorship.”


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