This FAQ covers all general questions regarding the prototype funding. If you can not find a sufficient answer here, please reach out to us at our Discord.Join our Discord ↗
Fundamentals and Principles
The purpose of funding is to develop marketable prototypes of digital games. For the purposes of these guidelines, digital games are interactive electronic works, i.e. software that is based on a game idea, game rules and game objectives, responds to user input, generates moving image content, serves educational or entertainment purposes, and is intended for publication, in particular, computer and video games (Games). Not eligible for funding are digital games that violate the constitution or applicable law and contain content that glorifies violence, incites hatred, pornography or racism.
Developers and developer communities (natural and legal persons), as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are already resident in Hamburg or can prove that they will relocate their headquarters to Hamburg or open a branch or business premises in Hamburg upon receipt of funding, are eligible to apply. The prerequisite for payment of the first instalment is the actual existence of a business premises in Hamburg. For the purposes of these guidelines, an SME is defined as an enterprise which, at the time of application, employs fewer than 250 persons and whose turnover in the preceding year did not exceed 50 million euros. Also, the applying company must not be owned as to 25 percent or more of the capital or the voting rights by one or more enterprises that do not meet the definition of an SME.
A marketable prototype is a playable version of the digital game to be developed, which gives a realistic impression of the game mechanics, the USPs and the technical realization. The quality of the prototype should be high enough to enable the funding recipients to take further action with their prototype, such as acquiring a publisher deal, start a crowdfunding-campaign or publish their game in early access.
Yes, only the development of marketable prototypes of digital games is eligible. It is not possible to submit the production of digital games or other digital projects under the prototype funding scheme.
A professional approach to high quality digital games is evident and development is aimed at achieving actual publication with commercial exploitation.
Content glorifying violence in digital games is content that violates § 131 StGB (German Criminal Code).
- The applicant specifies in the application, in which state of development the project is. Generally, projects can be submitted as long as there is only a pitch deck and a description of the project, if they are still in the concept phase or if there is a first playable demo.
- Projects for which prototype development has already begun are not eligible.
- Prior experience in game development is an indispensable prerequisite for developing a prototype with market opportunities.
- The precondition is always that the applicant is already based in Hamburg or can prove that they will relocate their residence to Hamburg or open a subsidiary or branch establishment in Hamburg upon being granted funding.
- A competition analysis and exploitation strategy are required in order to assess the market potential.
- The awarding of funding is based on various criteria such as the promotion of young talent, the team, market potential, and location effect, to which the applicant should refer in his application.
Applying for Prototype Funding
A consultation appointment with Gamecity Hamburg is mandatory before application. Before making an appointment, it is essential that the applicant has carefully read the guidelines for funding prototypes, the FAQ, and the application form (https://airtable.com/shriLG0QklFbSp1b4). The following information from the applicant is also required when making an appointment by e-mail to email@example.com:
- Short project outline (max. half a page of text or a slide)
- Aimed funding amount for the project / planned proof of personal contribution
- Concrete questions regarding the application / funding of the project
Applicants can apply one more time with the same project after receiving a rejection for funding of the said project. A second application should only be considered if there has been significant progress in the planning process of the project or other aspects of the applicants.
Applicants can submit new projects in different funding rounds as long as they do not exceed the de-minimis-defined maximum funding of 200,000 euros within three years.
Started projects are not eligible for funding. A project is considered to have started, among other situations, when staff has been recruited for the project or when contractual obligations have been made. Retroactive financing is not possible to prevent deadweight effects. If there is already an outline concept or a demo for a project, the stage of development of the project must be clarified in the consultation with Gamecity Hamburg.
In general, each project must be applied for individually. If two projects are submitted that are to be developed in the same period of time, the applicant must provide credible personnel and time planning and contribute the respective personal contribution per project of at least 20 percent of the development costs. Details should be clarified in a consultation appointment with the applicant.
No, in addition to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), developers and developer associations (natural and legal persons) are eligible to apply.
An SME is an enterprise with fewer than 250 employees and a gross turnover not exceeding 50 million euros.
Yes, that is possible in some cases, for example if the funding is for a so called “difficult work” the federal funding and the prototype funding may be combined. Thus, in this case, a project can also receive up to 80 percent federal funding. The combination of both funding opportunities requires the fulfilment of the criteria set by both grantors.
The term “difficult work” is not a description of the level of difficulty of a digital game or the complexity of it’s development, but rather of the higher level of risk associated with it’s economic exploitation. This can be:
- The first or second project of an enterprise (Games that were not developed under the pretence of gaining profits e.g. games that were developed in a class, as part of a study program or as a hobby as they are not suitable for gaining the necessary experience in a market),
- Projects of companies that serve to realign the company or it’s portfolio, provided that the respective company has existed for less than five years,
- Games with a high level of technical, artistic or game mechanical innovation,
- Educational games primarily aimed at children or teenagers,
- Serious games (games that are not primarily or exclusively for entertainment, but have another purpose, e.g., educational games, health/therapy games),
- Other difficult works: if it can be plausibly demonstrated in an individual case that there is a particularly high market risk and that lenders are not prepared to assume this risk either.
In principle, two rounds of funding per year are planned - in 2023 the first application round ran from March 3 to April 5. Since the first funding round already funded projects with the total amount of 400,000 euros available per year, the next regular funding round will take place in spring 2024. As soon as the date for the start of the application phase is fixed, you will find out about it in our monthly Gamecity Hamburg newsletter.
Awarding of Funding
The funds available for Prototype Funding should be used in the best possible way to contribute to increasing the quality, market opportunities and variety of digital games developed in Hamburg. In addition, the funding is intended to support new founders, start-ups and companies and create new jobs on site. In order to achieve these goals, the experts on the awarding committee will have to make an assessment and decide on all complete and timely submitted applications. This is also necessary if more applications are submitted in a funding round than can be covered by the available budget.
The applicants will be informed by Gamecity Hamburg about the date in time. During the 10-minute pitches, the applicants present their project in form of a pitch deck to the awarding committee, which allows further questions and feedback.
For reasons of awarding law, the awarding committee can only make recommendations. Following the pitches, the committee makes its funding recommendations for projects. Based on the funding recommendation, Gamecity Hamburg concludes a grant agreement with the selected applicants. A funding recommendation by the awarding committee is therefore the prerequisite for funding by Gamecity Hamburg, at the same time Gamecity Hamburg reserves the right to not follow funding recommendations in the case of justified exceptions.
The funding recommendation of the awarding committee and the subsequent funding agreement concluded refer to a specific project submitted by the applicant. If, in the course of prototype development, changes occur in the project that lead to significant deviations from the information provided in the funding application, approval from Gamecity Hamburg is required. Further regulations on the information obligation are part of the grant agreement.
Gamecity Hamburg is aware that the prototype development is an iterative process and changes occur compared to the funding application and original pitch. At the same time, significant changes may also relate to the financing plan, but later increase of funding is not possible. It is always recommended to consult with Gamecity Hamburg if in doubt.
Funding Type and Amount
The grant may amount to up to 80 percent of the estimated project costs but not more than 80,000 euros per project. If it is planned to finance the project through simultaneous funding with funds from the prototype funding and the federal computer games funding (Computerspielförderung des Bundes) or comparable public funding (cumulation of funding), a project can be funded by Gamecity Hamburg with a maximum of 120,000 euros. Applicants who wish to cumulate funding and submit a corresponding cost and financing plan are thereby obligated to apply to the other funding programs. For a cumulation, funding recipients must fulfill the requirements of all participating funding programs.
As de-minimis funding, the total amount of prototype funding may not exceed a total of 200,000 euros over a period of three years.
Eligible expenses are the proven expenses attributable to the project and incurred by the grant recipient when it is used economically and sparingly to develop and implement the project.
This could be:
- Personnel expenses for employees in Hamburg.
- Expenses for third-party services procured from Hamburg service providers.
- Expenses for third-party services from third-party service providers, if these cannot be procured in Hamburg in the same quality.
- Expenses for assets, licenses, copyrights, etc.
- Other project-related expenses (e.g. attributable overheads, rent, technical equipment, or representation at trade fairs)
The value added tax attributable to the eligible expenses is not eligible for funding.
Yes, an own financial contribution of at least 20 percent of the eligible development costs must be budgeted for and evidence of this must be provided. The following possibilities exist, among others, to prove the personal contribution:
- a current bank statement of the applicant/applicant company which shows provides information on own resources
- natural persons need a certified surety, legal persons need a letter of comfort
- an unconditional loan
- in the form of provisions but on a limited scale
- payments in advance out of publisher deals or other contractually guaranteed revenues
Provisions can be placed in a limited scale. Provisions are not able to cover the entire personal contribution. To generate the personal contribution of 20% of the entire development cost it is required to prove a current bank statement, an unconditional loan or a certified surety/letter of comfort.
No, the funding for the development of a prototype is granted as a non-repayable grant on a de-minimis basis. Only under certain specific circumstances must the grant be repaid. Recipients of prototype funding must repay the entire funding if they move their headquarters to another location within three years of payment of the last instalment. This also applies if the recipient is taken over by a third party, and thus involves the relocation of jobs.
The closure of a funded company is not linked to the repayment of the funding.
The final instalment of 10 percent of the funding will be paid out by Gamecity Hamburg after a proof of use is provided and the prototype is accepted to ensure the funding has been used as specified in the application.
To apply the following documents must be submitted:
- Project name
- Personal data applicant
- Pitch deck
- Additional project description
- Intended funding period
- Reference material – mood board, demo, graphics, or animations
- Cost and financing plan & proof of own funds
- Current excerpt from the commercial register, business registration if available or registration certificate (“Meldebescheinigung”) for natural persons
- Signed documents to be submitted in the original:
- De-minimis declaration
- Data protection declaration
- Declarations funding application
- For companies: SME confirmation
All information, forms, and links for the application can be found on https://www.gamecity-hamburg.de/funding/apply-now/#Downloads.
The following application documents must be signed and sent by mail to the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft:
- De-minimis declaration
- Data protection declaration
- Declarations funding application
- For companies: SME confirmation
The documents must be sent shortly after the online application to
Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft mbH
All application information, forms, and links can be found here: https://www.gamecity-hamburg.de/funding/apply-now/.
A demo in the sense of the Prototype Funding guidelines is a demo from the concept stage of a project. This can be a click dummy, for example. A demo is not required for the application, but if available it can be submitted as reference material and help to give a better impression of the planned prototype.
Decisive for a funding recommendation by the awarding committee is the submitted application and the pitch by the applicant. If this is convincing, an application for funding without games references can also be successful.
The cost plan must show all production costs (all costs for developing the project). The cost plan also includes the services provided by the applicant and in-house work. The cost plan provides an overview of how the project applied for is financed. In addition to the amount of funding applied for, it also includes loans from third parties, own funds, provisions of supplies, provisions of services or funding applied for from other institutions. From the financing plan, the total production costs must be covered.
Standard administrative and infrastructure costs (fixed percentage share) which are necessary for the production of the project but which have not previously been allocated to the project as direct costs. Typical cases for production costs are office rent, materials, financial accounting or contract management. If production costs are calculated, no further general costs may normally be added, unless they are explicitly incurred within the project.
Funds available to the applicant, usually a current cash balance or unconditionally repayable loans.
An exploitation strategy provides information about the business model for a project, which target group is intended to be addressed and contains a market and competition analysis.
Since the Hamburg Prototype Funding is intended to support projects with market potential, applicants should start early on to deal with the commercial exploitation of their planned game and evaluate their market segment and the successful competitive products in it.
This will be regulated in the grant agreement with the grant recipients.
If the prototype cannot be finished for justifiable reasons within the period of 12 months, an extension can be proposed to Gamecity Hamburg.
The obligation to indicate the sponsorship "funded by Gamecity Hamburg" applies to both the prototype and the final game. In addition, the funding should be indicated at other points on the loading, start or title screen, in the opening and closing titles, in the credits, on the packaging, in publications for public relations and marketing purposes, on the internet and on social media.
The rule concerning the archiving of funded projects refers to the final games.
Facts relevant to subsidization is any information which is essential to obtain or maintain a subsidy. All information must be true at the time of application. Unauthorised claiming of subsidies constitutes a criminal offence and will be prosecuted.
- A Funding recipient may receive a total amount of up to 200,000 euros without notification within three years from the date of the first de-minimis aid.
- Furthermore, the grant recipient is required to disclose all de-minimis aid received during the three-year period in relation to the maximum allowable de-minimis aid. The recipient is also be obliged to declare any aid granted under this policy when applying for other aid.
- If the aid exceeds the permitted thresholds or the highest possible funding rate, the aid is inadmissible and results in the aid not being able to be granted or, if it has been granted, must be recovered in full.
If de-minimis subsidies are involved, yes, but these may not exceed a total volume of 200,000 euros in three years from the point at which the first subsidy was received. Other public subsidies which are not subject to the de-minimis regulation can be applied for independently of this. Gamecity Hamburg must be consulted for a planned accumulation of subsidies for a project supported by Gamecity Hamburg.