Update on future Trade Missions to International Events

edited in Association News

Ok so after meeting with the DTI, we CAN charge an admin fee. So Trade Missions are back on. The call for Gamescom will be going out tomorrow or early next week.


Hi Guys,

As you know, one of the big things that IESA does is organise funding for South African companies to attend international events like Gamescom and GDC. This year, we finally managed to secure the funding to attend GDC. Unfortunately, the event wasn’t without its problems, and while most of them were resolved, there was one incident that has had some large ramification for how we can go about doing funding missions in the future.

I received an email from the DTI shortly before we were meant to leave for GDC informing me that all funding for the trade mission had been suspended due a complaint being lodged that IESA was charging an administration fee. Apparently, this is something we cannot do, though specific motivation for why has not been provided (and there is nothing in their terms or guidance doc that says we cannot, in fact their guidelines have a whole section on charging an admin fee).

Luckily I managed to persuade the DTI to release the funding, so the mission went ahead, however one of the stipulations was that we weren’t allowed charge the fee for the mission, and so we issued refunds of the admin fee to the participants. What does this mean?

As most of you are aware the DTI's funding program does not cover IESA's expenses for these missions, so despite the fact that we spend an incredible amount of time and effort organizing this, and we are required to join you on the mission (it is a requirement of the funding program that the mission organizer attends) we need to cover all of our own expenses. Unfortunately this is an untenable situation for IESA, we simply do not have the internal funding to carry such costs. As an example the cost of this GDC mission to IESA has been approximately R150,000.00 (this includes my airfare, accommodation, additional charges levied on us by GDC organisers for last minute expenses as well as making up for US$10,000.00 shortfall that the DTI did not pay). For some perspective our entire annual budget for last year was only R220,000.00.

Thankfully a lot of the participants offered for us to keep their admin fee to put towards these expenses and we only found ourselves short R50,000.00 that we will need to cover from our membership fees.

So what does this mean for future missions?

Unless I can workout away to cover the inevitable excess costs that IESA incurs on these missions I will no longer being applying to run trade missions, we simply do not have the means to organise and run this and cover our own expenses at the same time. The GDC mission will be the last one until we can come up with another way to secure funding.

Another result of the complaint was that a DTI officer was sent to “monitor” us at the show, and all the participants had to sign an attendance register, and while the person sent was nice enough, it was an inconvenience for those attending, and quite frankly a little bit belittling in my opinion.

This is a pity as prior to the complaint we had been given the go ahead to apply for as many missions as we wanted (up from the 1 per year we previously were restricted to).

I’m meeting again with the DTI soon to try get some clarity on what exactly we can and cannot do, and how we are expected to cover our own costs, I’ll update everyone as and when I get more information.

If anyone has any ideas on how we can cover our costs, I’m all ears.



  • Way to piss in the pool Anonymous Complaining Person :/
  • edited
    This is really bad news for the community. Though I don't know how many people were a part of the GDC mission, and how much the administration fee per person needed to be to cover those very substantial costs (and whether that was affordable for everyone who was a part of this).

    I think trade missions to GDC are extremely valuable for new developers who don't have a lot of experience. Though I think someone like myself doesn't get nearly as much benefit as someone who is just starting their career.

    So I think that if the trade mission is comprised of people who could derive significant benefit from the mission that the community could pull together to cover a lot of those costs. I don't think the burden of the extra costs should fall solely on the participants of the trade mission, especially not on those who cannot afford to share in those costs, though I do think it's reasonable to ask the participants who can afford it to lift some of the burden off of IESA.

    What I'd like to see, before next year's mission, are testimonials of some of the 2018 participants who believe that the trade mission to GDC in 2018 benefited them. And what I'd also like to see is who is going to be going to GDC 2019 and to get a sense of how the mission will help them.

    And if that makes it seem worthwhile, I'd happily personally contribute towards helping those people attend GDC. And I suspect I wouldn't be alone.

    Though if the mission to GDC this year was fun, but not especially useful, and if next year the attendees are largely people who were going to go to GDC anyway and were looking for a cheap ticket, then I'm not interested in contributing (for full disclosure, no-one from Free Lives was part of the mission this year, and I think their are far more worthy candidates than our team for this sort of thing).

    Essentially I'm saying I think crowdfunding is an option, especially in the case where there are a handful of participants who cannot afford the administrative donation. I think this is a generous community when we see a way to help, but personally I want to see that the trip will make a big difference for the people who attend GDC 2019 (e.g. people trying to break into the industry who couldn't normally afford to go, and recently graduated game students just starting their game dev careers).
  • That's great.

    If there are members of the trip who stand to really benefit from the trip who will struggle to pay the admin fee I still think that some crowdfunding can help out and I'm happy to pitch in.

    Again though, I'm not keen on sponsoring anyone's holiday. And am especially not keen on sponsoring the holiday of the kind of person who puts other peoples' opportunities in jeopardy because they choose to complain about admin fees.
  • Is there some sort of report on how the trade mission to GDC went? I searched for this years and last years but couldnt find anything.
    Who went and what games did they show? Did any members get exposure/publishing deals?

    I was under the impression that GDC is focused on education and development talks. Perhaps each of the people that went could write on their experiences and what they learned?

    What I'd like to see, before next year's mission, are testimonials of some of the 2018 participants who believe that the trade mission to GDC in 2018 benefited them. And what I'd also like to see is who is going to be going to GDC 2019 and to get a sense of how the mission will help them.


  • Any updates on this? Perhaps the commnity could be shown a list of people who were representing us at international conferences, and what they got from them? Deals that were made, games that were shown, and the general level of projects/skills that are needed to be a part of the delegation?

    Thanked by 1critic
  • Is there any reason why the people who went representing South Africa aren't responding about what they actually did there? Did the people who went not use this forum?
    How many people were in the delegation?
    How many games were shown?
    What did people who went to the talks learn about?
    Did any games get publishers or funding from the meetings there?
    Were any connections made with delegations from other countries where we could be sharing resources with them?
    What additional support could be provided to people who are going next year?
    With the amount of money that the South African government throws away on useless shit was this just a government sponsored holiday for a group of people who don't feel that they need to share what happened to them as representatives of the community or country?
  • @Stranger_Tides

    I was on this last GDC trade mission, and I will say that a "full report" is really, really difficult to quantify.

    I've been to a GDC before, in 2015, on my own expense. I didn't really have anything specific to show or sell, I went with the attitude of immersing myself in the culture. As it turned out - I *did* show a lot of my prototypes, and sometimes I still get into conversation about some of them.

    This year I went with something current (my collab with @dislekcia Drawkanoid), a couple more prototypes under my belt, and more experience, yet I didn't end up showing my stuff as much. I went to fewer talks than the first time I went, but I didn't find it less valuable as the majority of GDC's value, from what I've seen and experienced - was relationship building. Knowing and being known by people in the industry on a personal level is not something that can be easily and quickly quantified. Coming home with friends in and around the industry, both well-known ones and not so well known ones, is immensely fulfilling in the long term. I'm honestly not nearly as good as many others around the industry at making well-known friends, but that's not really the most important thing.

    I think relationship-building on a genuine level is really the crux of all these gamedev gathering events. Everything else comes out of that, and everything else that anyone tries to put before that can easily get treated by everyone as the cart before the horse.

    Other people with title/s to sell and pitch however really can and do get more out of these missions - so I've set a goal for myself to make sure to have pitch-able stuff when I go to another event. Though it's also important to note that GDC is very different from, say, Gamescom. The former is much more relationship side of the spectrum while Gamescom is much more business side of the spectrum (though the two's venn diagram will of course still overlap).
    Thanked by 1Stranger_Tides
  • Having gone on this trade mission with Nyamakop, yeah I would agree with @tuism - it's hard to quantify the most important bit because you're trying to operationalise social interaction.

    You meet dozens of people by going to events like this, and in my (quite extensive at this point) experience in going to game developer events, you actually get exponential returns each event you go to. The more events you go to, the more people you meet through the folks you know already. After 2 dozen game events around the world, I still haven't come out of an event having not met someone that could have a business, development, or publicity lead for us. That includes an event in Tulsa, Oklahoma lol.

    So really, I think this 'holiday' rhetoric is a bit silly. There is a huge amount of benefit literally just being there, and continuing to go, even when the results are difficult to become 'tangible'. I have met dozens of press people that played our game, and spoke to us, but never wrote about the game. That doesn't matter though, because the relationship with these press is way more valuable long term, than an article in the short term. Because they know you, they're more likely to write about your work in future - that's a good example of how sometimes these events are hard to quantify with tangible results, despite having excellent impact. I can understand wanting to make sure the people most set up to benefit from these missions should go, but they should definitely be happenning as much as possible.

    However, if you're looking for tangible things that came about from the trade mission, here are some personal ones:

    - Was able to give a talk at GDC that ended up being ranked 6th out of all 113 GDC Summit sessions

    - We exhibited at The MIX GDC, which lead to coverage in PC Gamer and some other sites

    - We also showed at Gamejolt's party where we met some developers we admire who said they loved the game. A big morale boost.

    - Due to the trade mission stand, I was able to book IGN to play the game, which resulted in inclusion in an article and video. This also resulted a few months later in an exclusive gameplay video that was on their front page for a while.

    - At the MIX I was able to meet my Google Play contact for the first time, and introduced them to the Drawkanoid team, knowing they were thinking about mobile. They played an early version of the game, and loved it. Could lead to a feature someday.

    - I was able to setup press interviews for the delegation, which resulted in this Venturebeat article. Other journalists visited too, so there's potential for more coverage down the road.

    - Met our publishers face-to-face for the first time, strengthening our relationship.

    - Met someone from Valve, Playstation, and Nintendo. All these contacts have given us something since we met at GDC.

    - Met dozens of developers, several press people, and strengthened relationships with several distrubutors and publishers.

    There's probably many other things I'm forgetting. But without the trade mission funding, it's likely little of this would have happened.
  • What's the stance on this situation now and will IESA be looking at a GDC mission in 2019?
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