Mudlark unaffected by 4iP closure, certain C4 will fund more games
MD Barnes confident Channel 4 will still experiment after restructuring, but praises 4iP's 'black ops' innovation
Toby Barnes, MD of 4iP fundee Mudlark, has dismissed concerns that the closure of the Channel 4 digital innovation wing will negatively impact current or future projects.
"I don't think anyone's being harmed by it," the boss of cross-platform media outfit Mudlark told GamesIndustry.biz.
"It's something that I've known about for quite a while, and none of our projects are going to be affected. Anyone who's been contracted up until now ... their contract is going to be carried on and respected."
Echoing Channel 4 acting cross-platform commissioner Matt Locke's concerns that some outlets had over-dramatised the story, Barnes claimed that the broadcaster's company-wide restructuring meant "a much stronger focus on cross-platform development, including games."
Mudlark was working on a number of projects with Channel 4, including a mobile game, Chromaroma, that tracked and responded to Oyster card usage. On whether there would be future Channel 4 and Mudlark projects, Barnes stated "Absolutely. Without a doubt.
"The great thing is that it gives us the opportunity to talk to other people within Channel 4 anyway. So we've had conversation with 4Rights, the people that run events, the finance department, the commissioning people: we have relationships with them already."
Nonetheless, he had high praise for 4iP's achievements. "It was a really brave step for a traditional TV broadcaster... One of a number of steps Channel 4 have done to make them relevant in the current climate.
"We used to describe 4iP as the paramilitary wing. It was very much the black ops on the side where they could experiment with things. A lot of this stuff is 'let's see what happens.' You look at examples like Newspaper Club, which has been hugely successful - it just wouldn't have happened without 4iP."
He also felt that 4iP had provided a middle ground of investment budgets that UK game projects rarely enjoyed. "Someone told me once that in America there are more millionaires. That means there are more people with more money who are interested in taking a risk... in high-tech firms, looking to get into games.
"In this country you have a big gap. You have a lot of venture capitalists who are looking for proven projects with massive turnovers and revenues [from investments of] £50m down to £10m.
"There's also this stuff at the bottom, the £10, 20, 30,000s. But there's this big gap in the middle where we don't have angel investors, and 4iP was very useful in being one of the first large organisations to see if they can fill that gap."
Barnes did not think 4iP's closure meant its parent company's innovation would come to an end, however.
"Channel 4 doesn't just see themselves as a television broadcaster, they see themselves as a modern, 21st Century publishing company. They're also continuing to do stuff online with the C4 Education games, and there's a lot of other stuff we don't see.
"I think Channel 4 will always be known as a home for experimentation and innovation and I hope that continues. I'm convinced it will."