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OneBigGame's Martin de Ronde

Non-profit label's founder reveals iPhone and console dev plans as first game is unveiled

OneBigGame founder Martin de Ronde has been working for nearly three years on his publishing concept - to create a non-profit publishing label that benefits all parties. The developers that donate their time and creativity to it, who are rewarded with support and exposure for games that otherwise might not have been created; the consumers who get to play unique games created by big name designers and up and coming indies alike; and, of course, the children's charities that will receive a lion's share of the profits.

Today OneBigGame has named its first development partners as Zoe Mode - who will kick off the scheme with XLA music game Chime later this year - Dave Perry, Charles Cecil and Masaya Matsuura. In the wake of the publisher's final stretch to full operation, spoke exclusively with de Ronde on his plans for the label and how non profit publishing could benefit the whole industry in a wealth of ways. We spoke at the start of last year when several decisions about OneBigGame were still being made. What has been happening since then?
Martin de Ronde

Well, by the end of 2007 it was clear that things were going to take a while - but we still hoped the games would be ready in the course of 2008.

Then what happened to make matters complicated was that some developers came back to us and said, 'Martin we think it's a great idea, we want to do a fresh game, but we're actually much better equipped to do a PlayStation game or an Xbox game because our whole production pipe line within the studio is geared towards that. If we want to prototype something, it's easier for us to do in XNA than it is in Flash.'

Flash is a great prototype tool which is used by several studios, but other studios have their own custom engine or their own production pipe line that makes it easier for them. So some developers asically came back and said do you mind if we actually do a full blown console download game? To which we obviously said - from a commercial perspective, raising the profile even further - of course. By then we also started to see that the online, free-to-play flash games weren't necessarily going to be the be all and end all - it wasn't going to overtake the industry overnight - so we felt it would be great if we could have flash games as well as what I would call premium downloadables sitting alongside them, with the flash games serving as the traffic generator, on the promotional side of things, driving people towards the website where they can potentially buy the PC version, the downloadable version, or pointing people towards XBLA, WiiWare, whatever format it would be developed for.

But then it made things for us more complicated because we were now forced to go out to see if we could get an XBL publishing license. We were always going to be the publisher, but being a PC publisher of a flash game requires you to put up a store front online and that's it. So we went from 'one big game' - which is still on the cards as far as we're concerned - towards multiple games - which is a lot more work - to multiple games on multiple different platforms.

So that's why 2008 went by and 2009 arrived. But now we're in a position where, not all of them are in full blown development, but there are 15 games which I can say we have at least discussed the concept and scope and it's signed off by all the parties that are on board and we know where we're heading, and development has started. Whether that's very early days and whether that's a schedule that's very slow because some people know they're going to take 15 months to develop a game than would normally take them three months simply because they're going to spread it out over a longer time period. With the new, realistic publishing schedule of doing initially one game per quarter then slowly moving to one game per month, I think we've got enough content for the foreseeable future. So what developers do you have on board now that you can tell us about?
Martin de Ronde

I can officially confirm several, although there are plenty more in the pipeline. David Perry, founder of Shiny - he's doing a remake of one of his favourite games of all time, which is a classic ZX Spectrum game. I hadn't heard of it before, but I've been playing it on an emulator and I can imagine that back in the day it must have been really good. I can understand why he's chosen it.

Masaya Matsuura, creator of Parappa the Rapper, he's going to be doing a sort of reinvention of the genre. All of the music games out there seem to be a highway of coloured blocks coming your way and you just have to press the right colour at the right time. I wouldn't say it couldn't be further from music but it's become disconnected I think in a way. So with this title, Matsuura-san is going to try and bring rhythm back into the music rhythm action genre. And he's doing it on iPhone.

And then there's Charles Cecil. His heritage is adventure games. He's an adventure games guru - so when I approached him to do a small indie style game for OneBigGame, he said, well why don't I do an adventure game version of one of the most abstract and the most played games in the world, which is Minesweeper. Charles is going to come up with a back story as to why the mines are there and why the war is being fought, and he's come up with a character and a storyline and it's going to be an action adventure hybrid.

I think that last example epitomises OneBigGame in a way, because it shows we've given free rein to the developers. They can do whatever they want to do. Ideally it's connected to your heritage as a game designer, or one of the IPs you're famous for. It needs to be E for Everyone - that's quite a logical requirement. And, we do not want it to contain our charity message. Our charity message is about helping children around the world who are facing problems. We didn't want to build a number of games revolving around that.

We definitely wanted to say - I always give this example - if you went to a U2 concert and you knew the proceeds would go to charity, you've bought your ticket and you go to the concert, you'd be pretty disappointed if they'd written a bunch of new material revolving around famine and earthquakes and disasters. You would want them to perform their hits, and you would feel good about the fact that you'd bought a ticket anyway. So we said, just create an entertainment game. Create something that can compete with other titles out there. We want people to buy it and enjoy it and be happy to find out that alongside that the majority of the proceeds are going to charity.

Or you can say it the other way around. You make a donation to charity and you get a great game free. Considering that the price points of a title will be, roughly speaking, GBP 5 - 10, I think it's going to be a no-brainer. I hope that people will buy the games because of their entertainment value, and that the charity angle is basically the icing on the cake. I wouldn't want people to buy it and think, it's a shitty game but it's for charity. That's something I definitely want to achieve with this initiative - that people just view it as entertainment so that the mass market can see that entertainment games in their own right can be a mechanism to be leveraged for charity, rather than as a cheap vehicle.

I see games that come out - flash games - that are just there to draw you into the website, that are used as a vehicle to promote. That's something we don't want to do. We want the games to stand on their own two feet. But at the same time, and this is important because people keep asking me 'what do you think you're going to be achieving in terms of financials?' We've got some rough figures in our minds, but it's not just about the financials. I want to be positive about the amount of effort that's gone in and the revenue that comes out, but I also want people's goodwill. I want people to consider the fact that if one of the games doesn't sell well, the message has still gone out.

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