Unfold Games’ New Indie Competition Offers $170,000 In Prizes

Unfold Games Awards 2021 

As the pandemic continues to restrict millions of people to their homes, the video game market and industry continues to benefit from the widespread search for new forms of entertainment. There has been a significant rise in revenue and attentiveness to e-sports streamers on various gaming platforms during the pandemic. The market is booming, and sponsorships seem to be handed out left and right for those already established. But what about the indie developers who dream of creating their own game during this dire time, without the funding to make it a reality?

You may have read my deep and expansive reviews of Unfold Games’ hit title ‘DARQ‘ and its most recent DLC, ‘The Tower.’ What started as a small indie game became the 42nd Most Shared PC Game of 2019 (Metacritic). DARQ was nominated and won numerous awards, competing with indie and triple-A titles such as Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part II, Borderlands 3 and others. In the brief time since DARQ’s initial release, Unfold Games has become a well-known studio with a strong fanbase. It has not only won respect amongst gamers but also the veterans of the triple-A industry, fellow indie developers and creators alike. Unfold Games has undeniably become an indie game leader. 

Unfold Games

Perhaps, like me, you have said to yourself, “I have an excellent idea for a game, but I don’t know how to get started! I don’t have enough money!” If so, the founder of Unfold Games, Wlad Marhulets, has some exciting news to share. 

Having gone through the financial hardships of indie development himself, Wlad felt compelled to help fellow developers keep the dream alive. He recently announced the first edition of Unfold Games Awards – an indie game competition with over $170,000 in funding and prizes. Oh, and submissions are free. You can watch the announcement trailer below. Let’s dive in.

Schedule and sponsors

The Contest period begins on November 30, 2020, at 9:00 AM PT and ends on May 20, 2021, at 11:59 PM PT. All entries must be received by March 15, 2021 to be eligible to win a prize. There’s a limit of one game per entrant or studio. To limit the submissions to truly indie titles, only teams of 10 members or less are eligible.If you would like to enter the contest, go to the official website – here – and read the required information, such as the contest submission guidelines.

The schedule is as follows:

  • November 30th: Contest announcement, open for entries
  • March 15th: Entries closed, judging begins
  • May 1st: Nominees announced; the general public casts votes for the Audience Award 
  • May 20th: Winners announced

Before we dive into the sponsorships, I should say that after doing some extensive research, this seems to be the biggest indie competition in the world right now. Additionally, if you are a developer, know that you can enter whether you have a finished game or not. Both released games and demos are accepted. Unfinished games qualify for $150,000 in funding (subject to the sponsor’s due diligence and negotiations). 

The sponsor line-up includes:

  • Intel GameDev BOOST (Intel Corporation)
  • Unity (Unity Technologies)
  • ZBrush (Pixologic)
  • Integralix (Integral Capital)
  • FMOD (Firelight Technologies)
  • The McArthur Law Firm


The esteemed panel of judges includes: Alan Chou (an experienced video games executive with twelve years at Blizzard, Microsoft, and Meta); Barbara Kciuk (Narrative Designer of Blair Witch and The Medium); Quentin De Beukelaer (game designer, known for his work on Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, Ghost Recon Breakpoint); Neil Holmes(Developer Partner Manager of ID@Xbox); Kelsey Haley (illustrator, known for her work for Disney, Universal, Dreamworks, South Park Studios); Austin Wintory (Grammy-nominated composer of Journey, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, The Pathless); Eímear Noone (award-winning composer and conductor, known for her work on World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo III); Bjørn Jacobsen (award-winning sound designer of Cyberpunk 2077, DARQ, Hitman, EVE Online); Adam Schmidt (score mixer and sound engineer with credits on Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean); and more. I’m also excited to announce my participation in the competition as a juror. 

The full list of judges can be found at UnfoldGamesAwards.com.

The judging process

The advisory committee will perform an initial review of submissions for compliance with a comprehensive list of rules and the submission guidelines. Once the submissions close on March 15th, 2021, the qualifying games will be judged by a panel of judges mentioned above. The judging will be based on the following criteria.

  • Innovation/Gameplay
  • Narrative
  • Sound Design
  • Music
  • Level Design
  • Character Design
  • Animation
  • Art Direction
  • Game Design

The five nominees for each category will be announced on or around May 1, 2021. The judges will then review and score each nominee entry to determine the winners in each prize category. The entrant with the highest number of points will be the potential “Best Game Award” Winner. Additionally, on or around May 1, 2021, all nominated games will be listed on the contest website with a public vote determining the “Audience Award” winner. The prizes include:

  •  $150,000 in funding; 
  • 12 Intel NUC computers;
  • 12 ZBrush 2021 Licenses;
  • Cash, services, educational resources, and discount codes from Unity;
  • ’10 Steps to Making Your First Game Successful’, an audiobook written by Wlad Marhulets and narrated by Yong Yea, courtesy of Unfold Games 

Additionally, a total amount of $5,000 will be given in the “Best Sound Design” and “Best Music” categories, courtesy of FMOD. There will be more awards, subject to certain limitations that will be given out. 

I want to extend an invitation to the “Best Game Award” winner with an in-depth review of their title by yours truly. 

Why free?

Competitions that offer substantial monetary prizes often demand hefty submission fees. So, why not this time? Wlad Marhulets, the founder of Unfold Games, explained: 

“I know how hard it is to get attention for your indie game, especially if you’re a first-time developer and don’t have a marketing budget. That’s why I decided to create Unfold Games Awards – to help indie developers get in front of investors, publishers, members of the press, and other industry professionals. Having lived through indie development’s financial hardships, it was important to me to make submissions completely free of charge. The Unfold Games Awards are made possible thanks to the generous contribution of our incredible sponsors and esteemed panel of judges.”

To recap, submissions are free and open through March 15, 2021. Both demos and released titles are accepted. Independent developers are welcome to submit their games and learn more about the competition here

Wrapping up

To all solo or small studio developers looking to make yourself known: now is your time to shine! Additional announcements will come throughout the next few months, so head on over to the Unfold Games Awards website to learn more. We can thank the generous sponsors and the esteemed judges for making the first edition of the Unfold Games Awards possible. 

As one of the judges, I am looking forward to reviewing your games. May the best one win!

Follow me on Twitter @Zane_Pickett.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.