NI indie gaming studios secure European grants to develop new video games

L-R: John Ferris, entrepreneur development Manager at Ulster Bank with Tina Lauro Pollock and Brendan Drain from Brain and Nerd.
Ryan McAleer

TWO Northern Ireland independent game development studios have each been awarded €150,000 for new prototype games.

Creative Europe Media shortlisted Belfast’s Brain and Nerd and Holywood’s Italic Pig for the EU-wide award scheme.

Italic Pig became the UK’s first three-time winner of the award for its new narrative-driven fantasy adventure game 'Quest Quest: The Quest for Quests'.

Brain and Nerd will use the funding to develop its new game 'Hortalius'. The Belfast studio has also been backed by Northern Ireland Screen, Future Screens NI, and HMRC’s Video Game Tax Relief scheme to provide a total budget of over £270,000 for the prototype development.

The studio is now scaling up to a total of 10 staff and is in discussions with several global video game publishers.

Brain and Nerd has been part of Ulster Bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme in Belfast since 2019.

Director Brendan Drain said it had helped open doors for the start-up.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that our studio has had to adapt to a fully remote way of working and we’ve found the resources, mentoring and regular video check-ins provided by the Entrepreneur Accelerator helped to keep us motivated during this time.

“In terms of the grant, this funding has been transformative for Brain and Nerd, and thanks to the Entrepreneur Accelerator, we’ve had the support to maximise the potential of any funding opportunity,” he added.

“They’re helping us to make the contacts we need as the studio grows, and to pitch for the investment needed to bring the studio to the next level.”

John Ferris, entrepreneur development manager at Ulster Bank has worked closely with the company for five months.

“It was clear to see they have the passion and drive to succeed and prove that a Belfast-based gaming company can compete alongside other big studios around the world.

“Our role at the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator is to provide entrepreneurs, such as the Brain and Nerd team, with the tools and networks they need to start or scale a business.

“Through our coaching sessions and mentorship programmes we guide established businesses and exciting start-ups alike to reach their full potential, so it’s extremely rewarding to see these companies making waves and enjoying success on the international stage.”

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