Games Consortium – Developer Driven Publisher

The meeting which took place at the DCA in Dundee on Friday, drew in representatives from many of Scotland’s game studios.

Organised by NESTA, the meeting outlined the concept for the creation of a new games publisher, in which a number of developers have equity.

NESTA itself would ‘prime the pump’ with a significant injection of money and then around seven or eight development companies, would each invest £20-25K, giving themselves a position on the board and an opportunity to publish their games through the publisher.

While this sounds somewhat similar to the late lamented (if you ever attended one of their parties) Gathering of Developers, the actual structure is being designed to provide a far more solid and commercially viable business model than Gathering achieved during its brief life.

The as-yet-unnamed-publisher will carry out the normal publishing functions – marketing and distribution primarily.  While it may eventually incorporate all platforms, initially, it focus on digital distribution channels such as PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, iPhone, iPad, Steam, Android, etc.

The publisher will have a CEO who’s responsibility will be to run the company on a commercially viable basis.  As investors and board members, the developers will have input into the company’s goals and objectives, as well as an avenue to publish their games.  Commercially successful games will increase the equity of the development studio within the organisation, ensuring healthy competition is the order of the day.

Crucially, the publisher will not be obliged to publish everything from the development investors.  Each game will looked at commercially and critically and games can be refused if they either do not meet quality and/or technical requirements, or if they do not fit within the publisher’s overall portfolio.

While this does require the developers to have other publishing channels available, it also ensures developers are not tied to a single publisher and can release content through other partners.

The publisher will be a limited company, which in in turn part of a limited liability partnership, this particular structure offering tax benefits and providing the greatest flexibility in adding/removing investors should companies wish to leave, or new developers invited to join.

NESTA and a team of very experienced and high profile game development veterans are already interviewing candidates for the CEO position.  The CEO will then be responsible for appointing the rest of the management team and setting up the rest of the corporate structure.

The CEO role is clearly crucial in the overall creation of the company.  NESTA confirmed on Friday that over 60 candidates had already been interviewed and an announcement of the successful applicant would take place ‘in the next couple of weeks’.

NESTA is now looking for developers who would be interested in joining the consortium as investors and board members.  There are several provisions however.

  • The developer must be an independent UK organisation (i.e. not publisher owned and registered as a UK business)
  • It must be an SME (<250 staff and turnover <£50M)
  • It must have a track record of published original titles (their own intellectual property)
  • Capable of self-financing development
  • Experience in developing digitally-delivered games
  • Willing to take a risk in a new business model
  • Have £20K to invest

Applications from developers close at 12 NOON on 14/02/2011.  Interested parties should contact NESTA directly.

The Games Consortium concept is being backed by both UKIE and TIGA.

[We’ve been informed that some of our posts have ‘too many words’ so we’re sticking rigidly to the facts on this one.  For debate, discussion and analysis, await our separate post, later this week…  In the meantime, feel free to make use of the comments facility, thoughtfully provided below]

8 thoughts on “Games Consortium – Developer Driven Publisher

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  1. Great stuff – good to see a new entrant into the small title publishing market – it’s been stale for too long. Hopefully the stronger developer focus will also lead to a more healthy developer / publisher relationship in the longer term. I look forward to potentially working with this new organisation in the future.

  2. So what are the actual functions of this publisher? If the developer is self funding and distribution is digital, that really only leaves marketing. Why would I entrust this function to a non-specialist organisation with no track record, managed by my competitors? If the CEO is that good I might as well hire him myself. Audacious waste of £25k. Fail.

  3. The economy of scale would make it far simpler for a publisher to rope in all of the other functions such as QA, localisation, audio, etc. providing them to the development studios far more cost effectively. In terms of competition, having a board seat alongside other developers is far more advantageous than being simply one more anonymous developer, with zero power, entirely beholden to a disinterested third party. No?

    1. Economy of scale would only be achieved with a high volume of products. As the developers are self-funding I don’t imagine that their output would increase sufficiently to be able to command significant discounts on these services, certainly not that much more than a tenacious producer could achieve on their own.

      I just don’t agree that having several anonymous developers (3, 4 tops?) rather than one would wield any more than zero power. And which is better, a disinterested 3rd party or a group of fiercely self-interested parties. Two party JV’s are hard enough to make work, consortia of under funded developers?…Nah.

      1. I’m not claiming it would be easy, or problem free, but I can see a number of advantages in having several developers all working for the same ends. It was noted, by several people, that the meeting in Scotland, was far more open and receptive to the idea, than that in London, where it was a lot more cynical. I wonder if it’s due to the companies north of the border cooperating a little more regularly and seeing others, less as competition or rivals and more as someone to learn from…?

      2. Playing the ‘Scots are just friendlier’ card just sounds naive. Maybe the reception in London was different because they are more aware of the commercial realities of these types of deals. Still bunkum.

  4. I think the labelling cooperation between developers as naive is taking the idea of independence to a damaging degree. I’ve seen the results of cooperation between a number of studios and they’ve almost without exception come out of it for the better. Maybe the reception in London was different because they are less aware of the benefits of these type of deals? Still wondering…

  5. to clarify a couple of points made above. We expect the consortium to have around 8 developer members. the membership fee is 20k, not 25k, which is considerably less than the hiring costs of a CEO, a Board, legal and financial support and a marketing and distribution arm. In essence, we are creating a ‘games label’ for the independent developer who sees the benefits of commercial collaboration.

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