Manticore Games promises a lot with its new game development, publishing, and play platform Core.
The platform is free-to-play and free-to-create, and allows aspiring developers to build any kind of game they fancy, without any prior experience.
Since 2017, Manticore has attracted around $45 million in investments for the development of Core. Tens of thousands of people have joined the platform since the Alpha went live around four months ago, and last week Manticore announced it was launching a $1 million creator fund.
Until recently, Manticore hasn't clarified how it intends to monetise the platform, but revealed that it will introduce a revenue sharing model and monetisation programme. Manticore didn't mention ads, but clarified that creators will be able to monetise their games through microtransactions, patronage, or battle passes.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz earlier this year, co-founder and CEO Frédéric Descamps described Core as a "truly level playing field" in the creation and distribution of games. Engineered to be a highly accessible platform, Core promises to do for game development what YouTube did for video.
Depending on your view of YouTube, this could elicit mixed feelings. On the one hand, YouTube is an open platform that allows creators -- regardless of their background or training -- to make and freely distribute video content. It is, unquestionably, a powerful tool for communication and artistic expression.
However, YouTube is also a platform positively riddled with barely disguised neo-Nazis propagating hate through dog-whistle politics, where wild conspiracy theories about the shape of the earth or climate change are relentlessly pushed by content creators riding the platform's algorithm to profitable notoriety.
"You want to have a proactive approach very early on, and it starts with the existing community. Even down to our Discord, we are very clear what is acceptable and what is not"
With serious money floating around -- and lofty goals aspired to -- it raises questions around how Manticore will address the same content and community moderation issues faced by other platforms like YouTube.
"Guess what? It's not new," Descamps adds. "[User generated content], whether it's YouTube, Twitch, Discord, Steam... this is not new. It comes with the territory of operating a UGC platform.... It is on you to define very early on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
"The black and white is easy, but it's more about the grey. You want to have a proactive approach very early on, and it starts with the existing community. Even down to our Discord, we are very clear what is acceptable and what is not. We want to create a very supportive, open, collaborative, positive, constructive community."
When deciding what content is acceptable on Core, Descamps says it's "not a libertarian, absolute free speech position." He argues that such an unmitigated approach will drag the community towards the most "unsavoury parts of the internet."
"We are very proactive, we have the tools, we have hired general counsel who used to work at Sony, and also worked on Second Life... so she knows very well this type of UGC community [and] their behaviours," he adds.
"All of these UGC platforms face it, so we're ready, we welcome it, it's part of doing the business. But we're not naive about it"
"Rely on your community, the creators, the players. We give them all the tools to be able to report the content, flag the content. Also, partly, it's an arms race... You have to learn and you're gonna have to scale it. We're ready for it. Nothing very different from a YouTube, from a Twitch, etc. perspective. All of these UGC platforms face it, so we're ready, we welcome it, it's part of doing the business. But we're not naive about it."
Whether such an approach inspires confidence in the platform, or raises concerns, will depend entirely on your perspective of how well these issues have been handled by the platforms Descamps says Core will emulate.
Speaking with Descamps, however, his excitement over Core is palpable; it has the potential to be transformative, and it's hard not to recognise Descamps' enthusiasm.
"It's gonna be a marketplace of ideas," he says. "It's a multiverse. It's not necessarily like a metaverse which is the big, open-ended, top-down world. Here it's more an infinite series of universes, games, experiences, worlds that are connected in all sorts of ways decided by the players and the creators.
"And then you have this wonderful interaction between the players and the creators, which is something we haven't seen anywhere else... I think we're going to see a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation on the platform, and our goal is to reward the best games as defined by the players."
In an industry where women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community face limitless hostility, the democratisation of game development is an exciting prospect. There is an issue with gatekeeping in this industry, where influential members leverage their power to lock those gates, and stifle those voices. Considering this, Core is a promising proposition.
"We think the biggest opportunity in games today is what we are doing," says Descamps. "You could say 'that's very self-serving of you Frédéric,' and you would be right. It's something we've been thinking about for years and years.
"The fact that gaming is an amazing industry -- it's part software, part multiplayer, online, music, audio, story, narrative, PvP, open worlds. It's amazing, the best form of entertainment ever made in the history of mankind. And yet it's so closed. To get into gaming, to make games, you have all these barriers that prevent you from doing anything. Our first principle is to remove all these barriers. And then we see what happens."