A million bullets, almost as large as a person, flying at you from all directions. The source of these dangerous flying projectiles: turrets.
Last week I sat down with Phil Elliot, Project Manager of Collective, to learn more about the platform, and what we could expect to see in the future.
For those who have not heard of the Collective, it is a platform that has been in development since last year, and was recently launched over a month ago. Developers can submit ideas for a 28-day feedback phase, where the community can vote whether they would be happy to support it through crowd-funding. If it is successful, Square Enix will offer to support them through their partnership with IndieGoGo.
One of the first things he mentioned, was how free the Collective was. When a developer submits a pitch, they are only signing up for the 28-day feedback phase. After that, they are free to take advantage of the support available, or go their own way. Support currently covers crowd-funding, and distribution.
With crowd-funding, they take a look at the skills of your team, the tools you are using, and your development plan. If they are happy that you will be able to deliver, they will endorse your IndieGoGo campaign, and help promote it. For gamers, this does not necessarily mean the Collective are promising a said developer will complete their game and fulfil the rewards, but are more likely to should everything go to plan.
In terms of distribution, Square Enix have developed professional relationships with various distributors, big name YouTubers, and media websites. They can, potentially, use all of these to help you reach a large audience, which is something that is hard to achieve these days with so many games coming out all the time.
Since the launch of the Square Enix Collective, how have both the developers and gaming community responded?
Initially with some mixed feelings, which I would absolutely expect. I would probably be worried if there was not a bit of scepticism.
I think it has been easier for me to talk to the development community about what we are doing, because they are part of the business and understand how hard it can be to generate awareness, particular for new IP or teams who do not have a big, public brand.
I remember Mike Bithell tweeting some concerns about the platform. I welcome that, because it shows people are looking at it, and they are concerned for the right reasons. I actually caught up with him last week, and once having time to explain it to him, he tweeted an update shortly after. That initial tweet from Mike was a good opportunity for me to start conversations with people, because it is only when questions are asked, that I can answer them.
Really good chat with a chap from square enix collective yesterday. Very clearly a passionate man building something cool. Convinced me.
— Mike Bithell (@mikeBithell) May 23, 2014
When it comes to gamers, it is a lot harder. I do not want to be critical to games, but it is a complicated business. It can be very confusing when you see one person build a game, like Banished, that looks like it should be built by a whole team. I think there is a kind of latent scepticism about the role of publishers, so I think it is going to be a harder sell, but we will keep plugging away.
What would happen if you were not happy to endorse a developer?
We try to be fairly transparent with the developer when going through the process of creating the report, so it should not be a surprise to them. If we do have any concerns, we will try to get to the bottom of it and get to the point where we are satisfied with what we see.
However, in the unlikely event that we do not feel able to endorse the campaign, then we would not be associated with it through crowd-funding. It would not be something we would announce, because we do not want to stigmatize the developer.
Debugger v1.36, a game that teaches you coding. Recently finished it’s feedback phase.
On the flip side, if we do endorse them, it means we really do believe in their ability to make the game. Of course we can’t guarantee that they will make the game. Crowd-funding is still a risk-based, trust relationship.
Square Enix obviously develop and publish their own games. If a Square Enix Collective title was set to compete with Square Enix’s own titles, how would it be handled?
What we would want to do is make sure the independent developer had the best chance for success. So, quite early on in the process, we would think about timings and how we were going to work with it to make sure it would not be to their detriment.
The other thing we need to consider, is opportunity cost. That is not so much with titles through Collective that would compete with our own, but potentially they could compete with each other.
RUN, a stealth-action game, with only 10 days left on it’s feedback phase.
If we had three that were ready to be released at the same time, we would probably want to look at staggering them so that we can use our channels more effectively to promote them in turn, rather than them having to compete. However, as I said earlier, that whole process is the developer’s choice.
If the funding campaign is successful, how involved can the Square Enix Collective be in the final two phases, development and distribution?
You pretty much hit the nail on the head there, when you say: How much CAN we be?
Firstly, we have no intention of dictating development. We see these as games belonging to the independent developer, and we think that independent direction is important. What we have got is a network of mentors throughout our western studios who have volunteered to help developers with challenges this may have. We currently have about 70-80 covering things like AI, user interface, audio, art and even legal and finance, community, PR and marketing. If a team, post-funding, has any questions, I can put them in touch with someone of the right specialism.
In return for QA and getting the game onto digital sales platforms, we would take the skinniest cut that I have ever seen for a distribution deal. However, the important thing to remember is that it is distribution, and not full on publishing. We will use our channels, and want the game to have the best success, but we have a defined input for a skinny revenue slice.