Last month we asked for your nominations for the GamesIndustry International Innovation Awards - and the response has been incredible. We've seen companies, individuals and concepts from all areas of the business being put forward for one of the very first GamesIndustry International Innovation Awards, meaning that narrowing the list down to the finalists has been a harrowing task. We hope you agree that the names below represent the very best of new thinking in each of their respective fields - that there are ideas here worthy of recognition. These awards are a new way to highlight the ideas, shifts and decisions which are shaping the future of our business; it's up to you to choose which companies, products and people really represent that spirit.
The winners will be presented with their trophies at an award ceremony at GameHorizon in Newcastle, England on May 7, 2014.
Innovation in Technology - The shortlist
Evolving hardware is at the core of nearly everything we do - blurring the line between technology and magic is massively important in giving games the mesmerising, other-worldy qualities which have enraptured us all for over 30 years. Whilst the steady ticking of Moore's law keeps developers' skills at the cutting edge, it's the breakthrough devices, software and fresh approaches to product design which we're interested in here. It doesn't have to be an expensive high-end piece of kit, either - affordable and simple can be just as innovative! Controllers, engines, and gaming hardware all belong here.
Virtual reality and immersive displays have been a tech dream since the '80s, capturing the imagination of developers and the public from the days of polygonal pterodactyls and Lawnmower Man. Every now and then, someone will make another bid to turn that dream into a practical reality, but so far they've all fallen short. Can Oculus' Rift headset change that for good?
Special Effect's work isn't just about reaching out to those whose lives are affected by severe physical impairment - the charity is constantly breaking new technological ground with one-off machines to bring the joy of gaming back into their lives. Whether it's eye-controlled FIFA or custom-built pads for cerebral palsy sufferers, Special Effect will build it.
AMD's attempt at a universal graphical API is designed to have as low an impact on systems as possible, allowing developers to access the full power of the machines they're building for with every title. If it can become an industry standard, Mantle could change the face of PC development.
Mike Cook's AI Angelina is one step closer to Skynet: a program which can make its own games. It might not be putting Hideo Kojima out of a job anytime too soon, but Mike's work is the epitome of fresh technological thinking.
Nvidia's display smoothing technology takes aim at one of the key barriers to top-level graphical performance: framerates. By making 30 fps look almost like 60, and keeping those rates stable, G-Sync works for developers and consumers alike in creating a better user-experience.
We had nominations for a number of engines and toolsets in this category, but Unity's dominance over the last few months has earned it a place on the final list. Powering critically and commercially successful titles across the spectrum of genres and platforms, Unity's march towards ubiquity continues apace.
Mediatonic - Games Fuel
Mediatonic's experience in maintaining and updating games in a low-impact and agile way has given it the perfect perspective to create and run a service aimed at making it easier. Games Fuel is just that: a combined analytics, maintenance and update tool that takes the heavy lifting out of games as a service.
Innovation in Business - The shortlist
The Innovation in Business champion will be a person or company which has implemented a fresh approach to the organisation, structure or operation of their business. Equally, it could be a new business model, a new way of working or a uniquely productive workplace. Innovations in business are the keystone to any evolving industry, so the nominees here should be setting standards for the years to come.
World of Mass Development (Slightly Mad Studios)
WMD is a chimera of the concepts behind Kickstarter, GitHub and Early Access, allowing developers to float ideas, raise funds and collate feedback from a community of enthusiastic and well-informed gamers.
2013 was the year Kickstarter went game-crazy. Without it, games like Broken Age, Elite Dangerous and Pillars of Eternity might never have made it off the drawing board and Oculus Rift could still just be the name of a folder on Palmer Luckey's laptop.
Square Enix: the Collective
The continuing rise of indies as the industry's engines of innovation has attracted the attention of platform holders and publishers alike, but Square-Enix has put its money where its mouth is to help smaller studios benefit from a partnership with a worldwide brand.
Green Man Gaming
By going beyond the normal realms of a retailer, Green Man's model of gathering metrics and data on players in exchange for rewards makes them a pioneer with a focus on a mutually beneficial relationship with both clients and customers. Publishers get fresh insight into player behaviour, whilst the gamers themselves are incentivised to play.
Supercell's incredible balance sheet is quite the bottom line, but it's the way that the company has tweaked and focused its free-to-play offering that earns it a place here. By engaging with community through forums and in-game metrics, Supercell has created a feedback loop which has paid enormous dividends.
Infinity wasn't the first passenger on the increasingly busy toy crossover bandwagon, but by leveraging it as a platform, Disney has enormously reduced the risk associated with producing digital content for its incredible IP catalogue. The house of mouse has said that it doesn't expect to make game content in any other way in the near future - which gives you an idea of its ambitions for the system.
Between Big Picture, early access, Greenlight, Steam O/S and Steam Machines, 2013 was a vintage year for Valve. Whilst not all of these concepts may have reached fruition just yet, they're all prime examples of why Valve remains at the bleeding edge of the PC market.
Innovation in Marketing & PR - The shortlist
A fairly self explanatory category, the aim here is to recognise and reward new ideas in attracting customers to a product. Whether traditional marketing such as TV spots, online via viral or social campaigns, or crafty PR that helps sell a game, the winner of the Innovation in Marketing & PR trophy will have shown a hunger to change alongside the needs of its market. This is the category for PR heroes, your favourite promotional campaigns and crossbranding deals.
Surgeon Simulator: Bossa Studios
By harnessing the power of viral channels like YouTube, Surgeon Simulator's rise from game jam oddity to Steam chart topper was almost entirely organic. Supported by merchandising, a quirky events presence and UK agency Indigo Pearl, Bossa's sawbones game captured the public eye with a unique and hilarious picture of fun.
Armed Mind - Short Story Brand Extensions
Building post-release, transmedia content is a strong way to increase the engagement of loyal customers, and with Kindle novels “Rightful King” and “Devil's Breath,” Armed Mind expanded the backstory of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Call of Duty: Ghosts, reaching and cross-pollenating huge audiences, and rising to 15th globally on the Kindle sales list.
GATV - Deep Silver
Like everything it deals with, Saints Row makes light of its rivalry with Grand Theft Auto, but this DLC campaign took the release of the world's biggest ever game and turned it into its own marketing currency.
Ubisoft: Far Cry Blood Dragon
The larger than life action movie parody of Blood Dragon raised it well above the cut of most brand extensions, showing that one of the publisher's biggest brands wasn't above being lampooned by its own creators. Neon dragons, crushing kitsch and '80s futurism meant great reviews and strong sales.
The Sports Interactive 'Football Analyst'
Football Managers perennial appearances in the PC top-seller chart hasn't left its marketing team complacent. By hiring an analyst to ensure that the all-important data behind the game remains accurate, SI has kept its finger on the pulse.
Sony: “How to share games for the PS4”
For a massive multinational, Sony still has a remarkable appetite for a cheeky edge. Taking advantage of the slip-ups and miscommunications of the early Xbox One marketing, Sony saw an opportunity to both highlight what was a significant USP and give two key executives a real human angle.
Innovation in Retail - The shortlist
Innovation in retail is all about delivery to the customer, whether digitally as a download, streamed or sold at brick and mortar stores, getting your product to the end user has never been so diverse. Our winner here will be an organisation that has adapted to the changing retail market and brought in a new way of selling successfully to the public.
Steam Early Access
Minecraft might have brought the paid alpha model to the masses, but it was Valve which democratised it for developers. With games like Rust and DayZ seeing enormous benefits, this is a service which has changed the way customers support their favourite titles.
GAME - Community engagement
In another tough year for specialist high-street retailers, GAME has turned its attentions to building better relationships with customers by leveraging the very physical nature which has also been called its biggest problem by hosting events, special offers and late-night openings.
Sony's subscription-based service has brought exposure to developers, games to customers and an install base to the PlayStation eco-system. Already a key-differentiator, PS+ only looks to grow further.
Scalable merchandising solutions are a huge help for companies looking to extend their brand reach. By enabling smaller studios to produce 3D models of in-game content quickly, easily and cheaply, Fabzat hopes to revolutionise the industry.
Green Man Gaming
Alongside the data-gathering mentioned above, Green Man has been giving back to customers via its Playfire rewards scheme, keeping customers happy and engaged with its retail ecosystem.
Early Access pre-order incentive from Sports Interactive
A pre-cursor to Steam's system, SI's early access scheme gives both digital and physical customers the chance to engage early and help to shape the product they're buying.
Innovation in Game Design - The shortlist
Our Game Design award covers the fundamentals of game creation: anything which contributes to the end experience of the player. Not necessarily restricted to the realm of gameplay, art or UI, this award also includes areas as diverse as accessibility, control implementation, audio and enabling user generated content. The work of coders, character designers and creators of dialogue are all equally at home in this category.
Assassin's Creed 4: Naval combat
The Stanley Parable
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Innovation in Social Responsibility - The shortlist
Gaming has always been about fun: bringing some goodness into the world via the medium of play. With this prize we hope to celebrate those companies who choose to give something back to their communities and society at large either through direct work for charity (or by being a charity itself), making staff feel valued or the support of good causes with fundraising drives or sponsorship. With the mainstream press still happy to keep games at the front of the evil scapegoat folder, these are the initiatives which are fighting back.
Like any charity, DonateGames relies on the generosity of its patrons, but by focusing on the donation of unwanted games and hardware instead of cash, this group lets people clean their lofts and their consciences in one fell swoop.
What began as a way of garnering attention for indie titles whilst also giving to several charities, the Humble Bundle now attracts the world's biggest publishers. By giving the customer the power over how much goes where, Humble Bundle has made its giving completely transparent and hugely popular.
Encouraging young people to take an interest in the world of current affairs isn't easy, but Auroch Digital's project has produced 15 educational short games which bring today's key issues to the fore in a memorable and enjoyable fashion.
Special Effect changes lives. It might not have the scope of some of the projects here, but an incredible bespoke service and tremendous levels of engagement and after care have made it one of the industry's most treasured and admired outfits.
RuneScape - Well of Goodwill Initiative
Proof that free-to-play can definitely be used for good, this in-game fundraiser from Jagex raised over $90,000 for good causes as players donated in-game funds equivalent to thousands of hours of effort.
Supporting a wide range of charities voted for members, GamesAid is never afraid to try something new to raise money. A constant calendar of events and interesting new activities keeps this charity at the forefront of industry minds year round - raising over £1 million for good causes in the process.
A special day for James - Total War: ROME II
A truly personal event dedicated to a single member of the Total War community, A special day for James helped realise the dreams of a terminally ill young man suffering from liver cancer, bringing together the studio's staff and players for a cause which touched more than just one life.
Sony Online Entertainment's Gamers in Real Life (G.I.R.L.) Scholarship Program
The question of how to ease the gender imbalance inherent in the industry is a thorny issue, generating debate ranging from the profound ot the petty. Sony's approach has been a practical one, creating new opportunities for the brightest and best female developers to go on and inspire others.
By making a strong business case for charity engagement, PlayMob has removed the hurdle of profits from the process of encouraging the industry to help others. If you're looking to increase retention, raise ARPU and give something back, PlayMob can help.
Most Promising StartUp of 2013 - The shortlist
How many companies founded in the last twelve months have you seen flourish by delineating themselves with a new model, product or ethos? A good proportion of our more exciting headlines are taken up with the foundation of new ventures by industry veterans and newcomers alike, companies bursting with the urge to do things differently: disruptors full of promise and talent. If you know an outfit formed in 2013 that you think is going to be big, this is the place to make sure they get noticed.
Having worked on games like Warhammer 40K and Far Cry 3, Raphael Van Lierop had all the experience necessary to build his own team and strike out in a new direction with Hinterland. The studio's debut project, the Long dark, is a strikingly beautiful survival game coming soon to PC.
Loveshack is an Australian studio working on the visually striking and unique Framed - a noirish comic book adventure which asks players to rearrange the story's panels to switch up its narrative. Already gathering awards, Framed looks set to make waves.
What originally began as a side project turned into a full-time job when the founders of Modern Dream were made redundant. Given sharp new focus, the team has turned around a range of classy, quirky games which cite art, TV and popular culture as influences.
By getting in at the ground level of 3D printing, Fabzat hopes to ride the wave of affordable merchandising production which looks set to swell across the industry. A simple mobile API for publishers and approachable UI for consumers gives them a great headstart.
Stoic's small team formed in 2012, but it was 2013 when it released The Banner Saga, a beautifully rendered Viking Epic which captivated press and public. Talented, passionate and fiercely independent, Stoic is already punching upwards.
Star of the future - The shortlist
We're lucky enough to be an industry of entrepreneurs and highly motivated individuals, people who can turn their dreams into reality - be they simple ideas or grander plans - and it's something we should be celebrating. This is the prize for the individual who has burst onto the scene and started making their presence felt immediately - the place to pick out those specific achievers who will go from strength to strength. We're surrounded by ambition and growth, but we want the winner of this Innovation Award to be back on stage in three years, picking up the grand prize.
Alexander's arrival was heralded by the release of Antichamber - a twisted funhouse of perspective-based problem solving and wildly abstract thinking which packed in enough concepts for whole series of games. With an IGF already under his belt, the Australian looks set for great things.
The co-founder of Twitch is responsible not only for the rise of a new way to share gaming media, but also for a vast spike in the bandwidth usage of gamers worldwide. Within a very short space of time, Twitch has grown enormously, becoming the third biggest user of bandwidth on the world wide web last year.
Just 21 years old, Luckey has proven that he doesn't intend to make his name his nature by working incredibly hard to prototype and market the potentially game-changing technology of Oculus Rift. Although he still refers to himself as a 'regular Joe', Palmer's vision and tenacity have shown him to be anything but.
The winner of last year's Bafta Young Designer Award, this young artist has taken her work to experimental and exciting places, earning herself a residency at London's Victoria and Albert museum. George's company, Swallowtail Games makes art into games and games into art.
Ex-journalist tom Francis knew next to nothing about coding when he embarked on his Gunpoint project. Greeted with universal critical acclaim and tremendous sales upon release, the slickness and professionalism of his debut has earned Francis a well-deserved place in the limelight.
A man who doesn't aim small, Cook's experimental ambition looks set to carve him a groundbreaking role in the industry's future, even though he created an artificially intelligent monster which became obsessed with Rupert Murdoch. Work on Angelina continues, but Cook seems unlikely to stop there.
Champion of Innovation - The shortlist
There's been a lot of talk about newness, desire and enthusiasm so far, but most of us know all too well that keeping your ideas fresh only gets harder as time goes on. Our Champion of Innovation Award is for someone who has completely ignored that, a person who has consistently shown an ability to reinvent themselves and continue to offer a perspective which surprises and delights making a career out of breaking new ground. That might manifest in a consistent string of new plans of their own, or the facilitation of the vision of others through support or more tangible resources: anyone from inventors to investors.
Shahid Kamal Ahmad
Sony's kingpin of indie relations, and the head of strategic content, Ahmad's name is never spoken without affection by the developers he's worked with. Fresh off the back of transforming the Vita's catalogue and prospects, Ahmad goes from strength to strength.
Internet hero Gabe Newell commands respect from every corner of the industry. Generally credited as the powerhouse behind most of Valve's best ideas, Newell is still a relatively reclusive and humble man, despite changing the landscape of entire markets at will.
Even without the incredible imagination which has fuelled the worlds he creates, Schafer's enthusiasm and willingness to experiment make him one the industry's best loved figures. He kickstarted the Kickstarter revolution and fostered Amnesia Fortnight, which pulled Double Fine up by its bootstraps and launched a raft of new projects.
John Carmack is a man so clever he literally does rocket science in his spare time. An incredible mind which marries brilliance to a true sense of discovery, Carmack recently left id, the seminal studio he co-founded, to go and work with Palmer Luckey on Oculus, hoping to bring a new medium to a new audience just like he did with Doom.
Ian Livingstone's incredible ability to find new ways to apply himself would shame a business man half his age. Always at the forefront of new frontiers with projects ranging from government lobbying, mentoring and the founding of a new school, Livingstone never rests when there's work to be done.
Voting for the awards closes on April 9, 2014. you must be a registered member of GamesIndustry International to cast your vote. If you're not yet registered, apply here.