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Sony launches a crowdfunding platform for internal projects

First Flight will let its employees assess "the needs of the market" for innovative new concepts

Sony's very public endorsement of the Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3 was only the start of its interest in crowdfunding. Today, the company's Japanese business has launched its own crowdfunding service for internal projects.

First Flight is an extension of the company's Seed Acceleration Program, which was started in April last year to foster innovation within the company. Participants in the program are all Sony employees, who seek funding for new business and product ideas from people both inside and outside the company.

First Flight will be broadly similar: a platform for Sony's Japanese employees to seek funding for innovative ideas, only this time from the crowd rather than investors. Successful projects will also receive assistance with e-commerce.

"Through the First Flight platform, Sony will support the launch and growth of new business ventures," the company said in a statement. "The platform will give nascent projects the opportunity to ascertain the actual needs of the market; realize a co-creation model of product development and improvement through direct dialogue with customers; and ensure timely sales operations that are also optimal for their business size."

The ability to "ascertain the actual needs of the market" is likely Sony's main incentive with First Flight. A great many Kickstarter projects, games included, don't raise every cent of their funding from the crowd. Very often, crowdfunding is used as a way to prove the market for a given product exists, raise enough money to get started, and justify more investment from other sources.

First Flight effectively lets Sony offload some of the expense of generating and selecting bold new ideas - something that the company acknowledges has always been a part of its DNA. To be frank, this is likely to prove divisive.

"Sony's innovation is ingrained in the company's founding spirit of `doing what has never been done before.' Nothing embodies this spirit more than passionate entrepreneurs who give shape to their ground-breaking ideas and introduce them to the world, without fear of failure," Said Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony Corp.

"Sony itself originated as a start-up, and we are challenging ourselves to return to our entrepreneurial roots"

"The First Flight platform and other Seed Acceleration Program initiatives accelerate and optimise this process. Sony itself originated as a start-up, and through the Seed Acceleration Program we are challenging ourselves to return to our entrepreneurial roots. At Sony we will continue to explore ways of delivering new, emotionally compelling experiences and enhanced customer value."

The first project to hit First Flight will be Huis, and e-paper based adaptive remote controller. There is no explicit mention of gaming in the official release, but given the importance of PlayStation to the health of Sony's overall business there's a very good chance that games and related devices will feature at some point.

This assumption is lent a great deal of credence by the Kickstarter for Shenmue 3, which Sony launched from its E3 press conference, pledging to assist with its development if the project hit its funding target. As you are no doubt aware, it did - and how.

Yahoo Japan Corporation is also involved with First Flight, though the nature of its role is unclear. Also unclear is whether First Flight will be extended to the company's offices elsewhere in the world.

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Latest comments (10)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend3 years ago
Hmmm, I don't know. I still have mixed feelings when a company as large as Sony decides it wants to use crowdfunding for projects. Now as some will quickly tell me "People will vote with their wallets and there is no law saying Sony can't utilize their customers cash to offset their risk" and of course they are correct.

I get that its a good thing to engage your customers and give them a voice in development, I agree with that wholeheartedly. But when money starts changing hands before development, I just get a sick feeling in my gut when its companies that have millions/billions in the bank doing it.

Note to Sony: Remove the crowdfunding bit and its a great idea.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 1st July 2015 10:12am

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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
I disagree, I think their is more weight behind fans words when they put their money where their mouth is, anybody can click an up-vote button, and some may even create multiple accounts to inflate the vote. A scheme like this, if publicized in the right way, would be a great tool to identify how strong the desire is for certain projects
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Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop3 years ago
Remove the crowdfunding bit and you have a website poll saying "do you want this?" with no commitment from customers that they actually will buy what they're saying they will.

Still, seems a bit odd that a company the size of Sony is scattershotting new ideas and asking its customers to fund its innovations.
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Show all comments (10)
Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend3 years ago
I would be fine with it all if no money was changing hands or if it was a small company that could not absorb the cost doing it. Sony on the other hand could easily afford a little up front risk and to panhandle it off on your customers just feels really wrong.

On one hand they are telling everyone how well their system is doing and how they have a large portion of the console market and the other hand is begging for cash to make new games. Just doesn't sit right with me I am sorry.

Fans have been campaigning for remakes or continuation of cancelled games for many years now with little success because the risk is the publishers/developers. The only thing that has changed is that companies can now put all that risk in the hands of their customers, which I still feel is wrong if you are a huge company.

And one last thing; To say that "hey anyone can upvote" would be fine if the companies had actually set up sites which do exactly what we are talking about in the past. But to the best of my knowledge I can't recall any game company asking the community for interest in a game or product via a site or poll.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 1st July 2015 12:48pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.3 years ago
EA's Moore: "A lot of publishers just throw stuff up against a wall". Funny that quote and this one the same day.

As a nest of creativity, I love this project.
As a business model, I hate this project.

The cynic in me wonders if if this is Sony's way of admitting that outside of games it no longer knows what consumers want and that the losses over the past several years have forced them to ask for consumer hand outs since their bond rating went to junk status...meaning damn expensive credit where this is interest free credit.

The consumer in me doesn't care so long as they start making great products again. Samsung and LG have knocked Sony down a few rungs in the consumer electronics department lately.
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James Boulton Owner, Retro HQ Ltd3 years ago
Is this supposed to be an investment, though? Will there be royalties returned on the money people put up, or is this a black hole for money like Kickstarter?

If its an investment, it changes the whole nature of the thing. Otherwise it just looks like a money grabbing pre-order scheme...
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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix3 years ago
Will be interested to see how this works out. For Collective we want to help indie devs find success on Kickstarter, but would we Kickstart our own games...? Not sure the public would want us to work that way. Glad to see Sony agrees on the potential benefits of "doing what has never [quite] been done before" though ;-)
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 3 years ago
For Collective we want to help indie devs find success on Kickstarter, but would we Kickstart our own games...? Not sure the public would want us to work that way
I don't think the majority of the general public would want any big publisher to work that way either. For comparison, if Microsoft were the one doing this then right now there would be at least 60 comments in this story with 98% of them being overwhelmingly negative. I would also question Microsoft's decision to do that so I won't give Sony a free pass(as most of the internet has done this entire generation so far) either. But I do like your companies initiative about helping indies Phil. If Sony were doing this to fund nothing but indie games then I would find it easier to support. But as it stands now it just looks like a very large international multi-million dollar company is looking for free hand outs in order to take risk for new products.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 2nd July 2015 5:35pm

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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments3 years ago
The site seems to be japanese only at the moment, so this is going off google translate, but it sounds like it's explicitly a pre-order - if enough people pre order, it gets made and you get yours shipped, if not enough people back, then you either don't pay or get a refund. Presumably if they have to scrap the project, your order would be cancelled, so again a refund - they talk about invoicing you etc, so it sounds like it's much more explicit than kickstarter?
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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix3 years ago
Actually, to be fair, the ability to get your money back if a product never sees the light of day could be interesting for people. There's likely to be a grey area though - what if a project 'changes' in nature through development... and in those situations, who judges whether or not the variance from promise to product is enough to warrant a refund?

I'll be interested to see how Sony handles it, and how people respond as and when products start to ship.
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