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Square Enix adopts crowdfunding model for new program
Square Enix adopts crowdfunding model for new program
October 8, 2013 | By Mike Rose

October 8, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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Square Enix today unveiled plans for a curated publishing platform, through which it hopes to bring together creators and players to make more game concepts become reality.

Game designers will be able to post ideas for games to the Square Enix Collective platform, which can then be judged by the Collective community, made up of players signed up to the platform.

If the community collectively decides that an idea is great, Square Enix will then utilize a new partnership with crowdfunding website Indiegogo to help get the game idea funded and development underway, and provide distribution services once the game is ready to ship.

Any project pitches can be submitted to the platform for free, whether it simply be to receive feedback from players, or to shoot for the Indiegogo funding plan. Square Enix says that the idea is that studios can receive real feedback from real players, and build momentum behind the idea.

Once a game has been on the platform for 28 days, Square Enix then makes a decision on whether or not your game idea has been successful enough to suggest Indiegogo funding is possible.

Note that there's also an evaluation phase, during which the company will check that your game idea meets its submission parameters, and that you yourself have the expertise and tools to actually create the game. If a studio does not make it through this phase, Square Enix will provide feedback on exactly why.

Phil Elliott, head of the Collective community, says that he wants developers "to walk away with the majority of the sales revenue, and we want to reinvest any profits back into the platform."

The underlying concept, says Square Enix, is to encourage an open development process amongst studios, and for developers to offer transparency and communication with the Collective community around all decision-making.

Notably, Square Enix is also offering some of its own IP to the program. If the company decides that an idea could work well with some of its older Eidos IP, it may choose to allow a studio to build a new game using one of these IPs. The specific IPs up for grabs will be announced at the GDC Next conference next month in Los Angeles.

The Square Enix Collective GDC Next talk will also delve into details on launch plans for the platform, submission parameters, and game devices you can expect to launch on their the service.

Gamasutra had the following questions to put to Elliott regarding the Collective.

Some devs are going to question why exactly they would want to publically put their game ideas out there to a whole bunch of people, especially when there is so much heat around game cloning/ideas being copied by other devs. How would you respond to these people?

I understand concerns around privacy and cloning – unfortunately there’s always that risk whenever you engage with an audience prior to launch.

At the point when a dev has realized that their idea is gaining traction, what's to stop them pulling out and going to Indiegogo, Kickstarter etc themselves? Do they have to sign an agreement when they put forward an idea stating that you hold the rights to any idea they propose?

Regarding signing an agreement beforehand, there will be submission T&Cs – we're still working on the exact details, but once an idea goes up on Collective, it's a process we'd ask devs to see through to conclusion.

The terms will cover a few things – possible options for the future, not submitting ideas that are knowingly copied, etc – but devs will retain any original IP, that’s something we've sense-checked with a bunch of indie devs to make sure Collective is attractive, not restrictive.

Is it really a great idea to bring gamers into the early stages of game development? I know plenty of developers who believe that gamers don't really know what they want, and that they would rather simply look for ideas they are familiar and comfortable with, rather than hunt down new, fresh ideas. Aren't you just going to end up with a bunch of game ideas being pushed forward that already exist?

In terms of bringing gamers into the process early – I think the way that crowdfunding platforms already work is good evidence that the majority of gamers are pretty savvy when it comes to looking at the potential of an idea. But there's no specific requirement that a campaign owner changes a pitch idea in response to the feedback on Collective if it's going to go against their vision.

That said, I think it's really important that we help to give people a greater understanding of what goes into development and the thinking behind making decisions, whilst keeping an open dialogue.


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Comments


Alfa Etizado
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I don't get it, what's in it for the people submitting their ideas?

Aryadi Subagio
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from my understanding, square enix will do the publishing and marketing of the game

Phil Elliott
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Well, the principle aim is really to help provide a spotlight to ideas which might otherwise struggle to get exposure - and also to enable projects to gain some momentum before embarking on a funding campaign. If funding is successful, we may be able to offer advice on the development process, but only if it's asked for. And when it's ready, we'll help with distribution.

However, as mentioned in the article, we want the developer to keep most of the revenue here - this isn't about taking out of the ecosystem.

Scott Lavigne
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I'm interested to see how this will work out, but I'm wondering if you might actually be trading investors instead of having a net gain. Kickstarters and other crowdfunding campaigns seem to have a huge surge of donations when a campaign first starts and buzz is flying around (impulsive donors, or people who donate based on names involved), after which it steadily loses momentum until the last couple of days, where people see how close it is to x goal and it picks up again.

I feel like this is only going to really be beneficial for the campaigns that don't get a strong enough reception to cause much buzz, but may be able to stretch for their initial funding goal. I guess more games getting made isn't bad for anyone, though.

Edit: For third parties looking to get their own ideas going. The other aspect (auctioning off your own IPs in a sense) is a neat idea.

Scott Tykoski
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"the company will check...that you yourself have the expertise and tools to actually create the game"

If they have the skills to make the game, they theoretically get 28 days worth of interested gamers to roll over into a crowdfunding campaign.

Ideas for the sake of ideas aren't what they're looking for, it seems.

Adam Bishop
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So Square-Enix wants gamers to take on all the risk of funding a project while SE gets all the reward if it's successful? Sounds like a terrible idea to me.

The whole point of crowd-funding (to me at least) is that someone who has a great idea but no capital is able to raise the money necessary to give people some cool thing that otherwise could never exist. But SE is a publically traded corporation with access to money through any number of channels; it can fund whatever it wants.

Scott Tykoski
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Square as an publishing partner is a HUGE win for any indie dev...they're just asking you to make a game people want to buy/play and go through their vetting process.

But perhaps that just my excitement to see SE show interest in the indie scene :)

Adam Bishop
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Then Square should be funding the games themselves and not asking gamers to do it for them.

Phil Elliott
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Hi Adam

We're not looking to take all the reward - as the article mentions, we want the developer to take most of the revenue here. We do fund games ourselves and regularly work with external teams, but the emphasis here is to leave the decisions around which games are funded to gamers.

Terry Matthes
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Phil Elliott, head of the Collective community, says that he wants developers "to walk away with the majority of the sales revenue, and we want to reinvest any profits back into the platform."

@ Adam

The indie developer still keeps the rewards. Chill out. You're so spicy sometimes.

James Coote
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This makes so much sense. Companies with a big back catalogue just don't have the resources to fully leverage those dormant IP's. Yet there is a huge trend for retro-ism at the moment, and crowdsourcing allowing old games to connect with the audiences that used to play those games, and who still love them.

So often I've seen developers who are also fans of old series basically remaking those games in all but name, and with great passion and enthusiasm. The move to co-opt them is the really smart part of this

John Owens
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I suppose this tries to take advantage (I mean tackle) the discovery problem on Kickstarter etc but unless you're specifically looking to use Square's IP you are going to pay a possibly heavy cost further down the line.

Off course you could argue that at that stage it will be useful to partner with Square for marketing (let's be honest at most that's what we're talking about) although this essentially means you've already made that deal and therefore there's no more negotiation.

It's smart for Square and it might be useful but it's just a shame that more and more digital distribution is creating or allowing the existing large corporations to act as gate-keepers.

Tom Yorke from Radiohead commented on this kind of thing recently regarding the music industry.

Phil Elliott
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Certainly very fair comments - but we don't want to act as gate-keepers. The emphasis is on the community making the decisions about what should be supported, and a dev having to hand over any original IP for being part of the Collective process isn't part of the deal.

But that said, I think it's absolutely to be expected that this will need to be proven over time, so we're looking at this as a long-term project.

Colin Sullivan
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The opportunity to use older Eidos IP is a great idea, although I think it would make more sense to let developers submit their ideas with specific IP in mind, rather than bolt it on after the idea gains traction.

Why did they choose Indiegogo though? I question whether the marketing boost from Square will be enough to offset the loss of the Kickstarter gaming community.

Scott Lavigne
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My understanding is you typically retain a larger percentage of your funds raised with Indiegogo, but it's not something I've personally investigated or have experience with.

Christian Nutt
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There might be biz reasons. IGG is more Europe-friendly, and this is coming out of Square Enix Europe.

Israel Lazo
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and more South America friendly, more japan friendly, more australia friendly, more africa-friendly...

i can keep going :)

don't forget that there are only 3 countries allowed on kickstarter.

Colin Sullivan
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Indiegogo takes 4% + 3% payment processing. Kickstarter takes 5% + 3-5% payment processing. At most that is a 3% difference.

Kickstarter is restricted to US, UK and Canada, but some developers have formed companies in those countries to take advantage of Kickstarter.

The best argument for Kickstarter though is to compare the most funded games projects on each platform:

Indiegogo: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects?filter_category=Gaming&filter_c
ountry=CTRY_US&filter_quick=most_funded

Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/games/most-funded?
ref=more

The most funded game on Indiegogo raised less than $1 million, which places it around the 34th most funded on Kickstarter. The third most funded on Indiegogo barely stays in the top 100 on Kickstarter.

Israel Lazo
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@Colin: Still not a reason for choosing kickstarter, i live in that 99% of countries not allowed to run a kickstarter campaign, good or not is not a choice. And i'm not going to create a 'fake' US company for that or include fake members with a social security number. So definitely for the 99% of the world indiegogo is the best choice. I don't think i'll to be part of this collective but despite of that I think that IGG it was the best choice.

At the end these type of initiatives will make IGG atract new users that will raise the top-founded barrier it has today.

Phil Elliott
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Just to add a little light here, one of the main aims for Collective is new talent discovery. We think Kickstarter is a terrific platform, but the opportunity to potentially be able to work with teams outside of just the US, Canada and the UK is very exciting.

Jedrzej Czarnota
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This is very true that the players themselves are not able to radically innovate - they basically follow the existing market trajectories for products (games) which are already out there. It is not just a games industry problem though - on the contrary, it is a widely described phenomenon in business literature... Players are overall unaware of their own needs (they are more aware of their 'wishes' and 'demands'), and then the market feasibility of those ideas is another burning loop to jump through. The landscape is even further obscured by vocal minorities, mostly rooted in so-called 'hardcore gamer' communities, who demand things that the majority of game's audience does not want.

At the same time, platform like Collective would probably result in empowering 'lead user' creators - and those players are unlike your average 'unable to radically innovate' player. Lead users experience certain needs, or spot certain opportunities, ahead of the majority of consumers. In this light, Square Enix's claim that this model has proven viable for creativity might be true...

If you are interested in the issue, I recommend the article by Aoyama and Izushi (2008) "User-led Innovation and the video game industry".

Phil Elliott
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Yes, this is really interesting - I think the feedback loop is important in terms of scrutiny on a design, but that doesn't mean the feedback should result in a less interesting concept... and hopefully, to your second paragraph, if we can create a platform where "lead users" can continue to be visionaries, I hope that we really can encourage more creativity and innovation.

Dantron Lesotho
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To me all this corporate outreach as of late is a welcome prospect. The bigger companies are starting to "get it" in that AAA games that cost $200 million don't necessarily have the best ROI on a long enough timeline so they are trying to build relationships with today's indie devs which will be tomorrow's AAA producers at a fraction of the budget. Plus I think the younger generation of game industry people going corporate are more coming from the perspective of lifetime game lovers as opposed to potential business magnates, so this also helps out everyone involved.

Phil Elliott
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I completely agree with this. While it's absolutely not true to say that the only creativity and innovation comes from indie development, it is IMHO a vital layer from which (as you say) some will go on to leading AAA teams. Without a thriving indie scene, I think we risk a key part of the industry's future.

GDI Doujins
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If only SEGA would do something like this, I'd probably want to grab their Valkyria Chronicles engine and run with it.

So likewise, any similar previously "big" property made by a "big" company that was really inspiring and yet said company no longer sees it financially feasible to continue to support the IP.

Well, handing it off to lower-budget but more passionate indie devs who could then create some offshoot that retains the core values of the original and then sell as a downloadable game is the right thing to do. That way the favorite IP lives on in some fashion.


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