Square Enix first announced its new platform for indie developers, the Collective, back in October, but today the site went live and the first three developers taking part in the initiative were revealed. The scheme aims to give indie developers a place to pitch their games straight to consumers, and then guide them through crowdfunding, development and distribution.
Ruffian, Kitfox Games and Tuque Games all contacted Square Enix after the Collective announcement in October, and were chosen to be part of the pilot phase.
"What I really want people to be able to do is benefit from the scale of publisher"
"There are other platforms out there that seem to do similar things, but I don't really see us as in competition with anyone " said Phil Elliott, project leader at Collective.
"What I really want people to be able to do is benefit from the scale of a publisher. By that I mean that at Square Enix we have an ability to access things which small teams and new teams don't. They just haven't got those relationships. Whether it's being able to talk to the press or having millions of people we can ping out a marketing email to - our social channels. It's easy for us to make those things available for teams."
"There are numerous examples around the industry of people who have great ideas and it really often depends on the relationships they have - if they get introduced to an influential journalist or maybe they just happen to be seen by a key YouTuber - the audience that those people can bring, well the rest is sort of history for those people."
Ruffian is of course known for its work on Crackdown 2, but Canadian teams Kitfox Games and Tuque Games are both new studios, and Elliott hopes that's where the Collective can have the biggest impact.
"It's really teams like that that don't have any track record in the industry yet, they're shipping their first game in a couple of months time, for them it hopefully represents a great opportunity to really get eyeballs on their ideas and hopefully they'll be able to take that and really run with it."
The system is simple, if developers can generate enough support for their game pitches on Collective then they have the chance to advance to crowdfunding through Indiegogo. If that's successful their final game could be distributed by Square Enix, but that's up to the developer as well.
"At the end of the feedback phase, if we feel the community is supportive of an idea, we may offer a team the opportunity to go through the Indiegogo process via the Collective campaign page. But they don't have to accept that, and can go to another publisher, or set up a crowdfunding campaign on another platform - it's up to them."
Some of benefits of the scheme include access to Square Enix's marketing and retail contacts, the chance to use Eidos IP, and advice from established developers.
"If a game goes into development we've got dozens of volunteers from our western studios who have volunteered to help teams if they have issues or challenges. And some of those are very very senior and experienced members. Even studio heads from a couple of our studios have volunteered their time."
In return Square Enix will take a cut at various stages of the process. 5 per cent of total crowdfunds raised through Collective Indiegogo, 10 per cent of net revenue if the game uses Eidos IP and another 10 per cent of net revenue if the developer chooses Square Enix to distribute the game.
Of course, Square Enix is a company that has had its share of financial troubles lately, so why has it chosen to invest in supporting indies, rather than concentrating on say, the AAA area of its business?
"We're not funding games directly. Normally in the publisher developer relationship the publisher brings the money and the developer brings the expertise. We are creating a platform and we're inviting developers to make use of that platform," Elliott explains.
"Revenue isn't the primary driver for us, launching Collective, we think it it's important for the industry that there are good pipelines for new talent and creativity to come through."
"Revenue isn't the primary driver for us"
"That said, there's always the opportunity for us to see a team that we think are doing something fantastic, and candidly, if a team comes along and they make something amazing and we see an opportunity for them to come and work on one of our IPs then maybe that's good for us. We find that new talent."
He obviously not keen to lose money and explained that costs would be kept low, with little or no expenditure on marketing and the use of existing infrastructure to make the Collective a success.
Ruffian producer James Cope was clear on what made the platform so attractive to the studio, which is currently working on a number of projects. It decided that the Collective was the right home for one of those titles, Game Of Glens.
"As an independent studio we've been looking at various ways of getting this project off the ground and we're really keen to look at crowdfunding as a model anyway. Collective really turned up at a time, more by coincidence than anything else, that just aligned with what we were doing," he told GamesIndustry International.
"Obviously we have a reputation already but it's still difficult to create a large momentum behind any kind of crowdfunding campaign. I think there's a number of examples of really good franchises and IPs that have gone through a company like that and failed so we were a little bit hesitant just stepping out of the door on our own completely."
Cope adds that its the reputation leant to the Collective by Square Enix and the idea of a platform where a developer and a publisher can work together with gamers taking part in the process, were all key factors in the decision.
More details about the scheme and the requirements can be found at the official site, and the pitches are live and ready to be examined and voted on now. Developers interested in submitting their games can also get in touch through the site.
"I hope that people see Collective as an additional route but we certainly have no ambition or intention to try and out do other platforms or make Collective a replacement for anything like Greenlight or Kickstarter," added Elliott.