Whilst the proliferation of small indie teams has heralded an explosion of creative opportunities for the UK's industry, it's also means that the long sought-after Hollywood model of employment might finally become a reality. With big studios increasingly seeking short term contracts for skilled teams, and indie studios looking for reliable streams of work-for-hire revenue to shore up their own projects, the stage is set for somebody to facilitate their coming together.
Step Forward Gary Dunn, who brings 12 years of experience leading game development at SEGA and Codemasters to the table - experience which has given him vital perspective on just how well developers of different scales can compliment each other's working processes. With his new venture, The Indigo Directory, he thinks he's found a way to bring maximum flexibility and stability to the worlds of AAA and indie development.
"I don't want to put permanent jobs on there," he explains to me when I ask him what makes the directory different from any other jobs board. "It's great if I get someone saying I want an animator for three weeks - but the sort of job I'm after is like the one that Marmalade just posted, they want a team or an individual to port a game from iOS to Android using their tool chain. It's jobs like that, contracts, that I'm trying to get - to provide reliable income to indies to try and balance the creation of their own IP."
Work for hire has formed the spine of many of the UK's most durable outfits, but the shift away from mid-tier operations to teams of less than 20 has meant that many of the most talented studios don't really have the capacity to take on entire projects for the big publishers. Couple that with the increasing polarisation of games to huge and tiny budgets and Dunn says you have a problem. What's emerging, though, is a new opportunity for partitioned contracts and porting work.
"I think you'll see larger studios increasingly moving into contracting - they may contract parts of games, multiplayer etc."
"One of my inspirations for this was that, when I was running production for SEGA, I could never find enough small teams to put one of our old legacy PC titles onto Steam box or get on iOS game onto Android or Windows phone. We just didn't have those resources and we couldn't find them. I don't believe I was in a unique position there, especially as when I moved back to Codemasters, I was in the same position.
"I think you'll see larger studios increasingly moving into contracting - they may contract parts of games, multiplayer etc. I think if the economy doesn't shift again, if it's to sustain, they need to feed themselves, so I'm trying to build that bridge between larger studios and the micro-developers, to try and get a more flexible workforce for the larger studios and a more reliable income for the smaller.
"I'm trying to fix what I see as an emerging problem from what I've seen at Creative Assembly and Sports Interactive and speaking to the indies. One of things I'm really passionate about is improving the peer to peer collaboration in the indie scene. Most co-operation happens on the personal level or on social networks. That's great, but if you sit down in the cold light of day and ask yourself whether you're likely to get the best partner by tweeting 'can anyone do some 3D modelling for me,' the answer is going to be, 'unlikely'.
"So the collaboration centre on the directory is there so you can post the things you want to do with other people - opportunities. The idea works at scale - if people can build a profile there where people can check out their softography, see what they've worked on, that's a great way to build out a sustainable indie scene."
The Indigo Directory is in its infancy, having only launched a couple of months ago, but it's already gathering pace. There are currently 23 contracts up for grabs and several of the UK's best respected employers and small teams are registered. What's more, for now it's completely free. Monetising the project will come later, says Dunn, but for now he's concentrating on reaching a critical mass.
"I think over time we'll generate sufficient value to monetise it, but I won't try to do that until it's worth it"
"This only works at scale," he explains. "To date there's about 75 standard members and about 20 employee members, so we're trying to drive more people. At the moment, I'm not going to charge. I don't see the point in trying to charge when there's no value. At scale there'll be opportunities to monetise the site, either through advertising or premium subscriptions or services.
"I'd like to keep those fees as small as possible. It's got to be a no-brainer purchase otherwise it won't work. It would never be more than $5-10 a month for subscription, but I'd prefer to subsidise it with advertising, or even pass the site over to larger partners for revenue generation.
"It's a bit of a build it and they will come approach. I think over time we'll generate sufficient value to monetise it, but I won't try to do that until it's worth it."
Whether you're looking to post a contract or find work for your team, you can do so now by registering at the Indigo Directory Homepage