Game Developer Contest Deadlines

When you make a game, project, research contribution, etc., where do you show it? Typically, you take to online and submit it to contests, conventions, conferences, and other places hoping for recognition.

I’ve been to a couple research conferences before, and they tend to be small events with dozens of awkward researchers saying hi to each other, while getting to make a powerpoint presentation of something they’ve dedicated years of their life towards while hoping in vain that someone else in the room is as excited as they are. Typically, this is purely meant as a resume booster, and I feel similar events are the same: it’s good experience, but it won’t change your life as much as you hope. When it comes to game development however, press and exposure is important even if futile, your game will not be seen if you don’t at least try to put it out there, and people won’t flock to you to see it without exposure elsewhere. Also, game conventions also tend to be exciting and get thousands of interested attendees, so the energy is better. The various online contests for indie games probably won’t get you attention, but sometimes get you money if you win a prize, and can lead to your game being showcased elsewhere, all the better for you.

It turns out most contests and conventions have deadlines from May to July, and despite my own best intentions I am barely confident that I can make deadlines to submit my work to any of it, let alone win. For personal reference and to the rest of you international developers, here’s a list of notable deadlines for 2014, which will likely repeat in following years. I’m only putting down contests you can prepare for ahead of time, not gamejams, but those are important too.

  • Intel LEVEL UP 2014 Contest – Deadline June 2: with a cool lineup of judges, this deserves a submission. No apparent entry fee, a variety of cash prizes and prestige to win, “opportunity” to release a demo on Steam (if you win a contest, Valve would have to be nuts not to allow your game on their store). Requirement: must be playable on a 2-in-1 PC, majority of grade given for taking advantage of features to this specific type of hardware. No apparent convention to attend. Will be contacted by July 26, 2014.
  • Indie MEGABOOTH (various international festivals) – Deadline June 8: A growing organization that books booths at some of the largest conventions around the world, while making it (somewhat) more affordable to indie devs to show off their work at these events. Not a contest, but games are hand-picked, expect to pay out a lot to actually show your game there if selected (consider it a worthwhile self-promotion investment). This deadline is for Gamescom 2014 (Germany) and PAX Prime 2014 (US), will be contacted before August (before these events actually start).
  • IndieCade 2014 (Culver City, CA)- Deadline June 15 : Technically due May 15, an extended deadline is available for a slightly higher fee (yes, you have to pay to submit here). Also could have been shown at their booth at E3 if the May deadline was met (maybe next year). One of the biggest international indie game conventions, great way to get attention, submitting allows your game to potentially be featured in a showcase event and as a finalist during the event’s contest for various award categories. Also promises to give you a feedback review this year, as well as a event pass and “IndieXChange” pass for free, making this worthwhile to submit something if you live in the area. Finalists will be contacted by August 20, 2014.

(Update about IndieCade, made after 2014 event: after seeing selections for 2014, it’s clear there is a huge bias towards innovative games; most of the selected titles weren’t actually video games, many of them not requiring computer technology at all. I appreciate innovation in gameplay, but having “Indie” in the title makes this a huge misnomer, “Innovate-Cade” would have made more sense. Still a big thing worth submitting to, but be aware and think about whether or not your game is appropriate.)

  • Unity3D/Windows Dev Contest – Deadline July 20: quickly becoming an annual contest not limited to games, but anything made with Unity, huge money prizes available, no entry fee. The catch: your game must be playable on either Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8, and MUST be complete and published on the Windows Store before officially submitting to the contest, which may take weeks for Microsoft to certify, and given that the contest only opened in May, the window for publishing and getting your game accepted is incredibly small.  Winners announced August 13, 2014.
  • IGF (Independent Games Festival) 2015 (San Francisco, CA) – Deadline August-October: I don’t know when exactly the deadline for this competition is, but it’s one of the biggest indie game festivals in the world, so you better be prepared when the deadline hits. Several monetary awards given out for students and other indie devs. Like IndieCade, there is an entry fee. Finalists contacted by January 2015.

So those are the big ones. But don’t limit yourself to these. If you know of other contests in your local area, submit there too, take every opportunity you can get. And don’t think you’re not good enough, you’ll never know unless you try.

And meanwhile, when I just finished a huge part of my game “Drew and the Floating Labyrinth,” I realize I need to complete more of the game fast to take advantage of these deadlines, and can’t rest yet. Rats.

Did I miss any major game contest deadlines? Are there any in your local area open to international developers? Let me know below!