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USC initiative to turn student devs into pros

Games Bridge Program wants to take projects made for class and build VC-ready companies out of them

With alumni founding studios like thatgamecompany, Giant Sparrow, and The Odd Gentlemen, the University of Southern California has a tradition of student game developers going on to great success. It's looking to build on that tradition with this summer's launch of the USC Games Bridge Program.

The program seeks to replicate those success stories and turn more student projects into start-ups "primed for venture capitalist investment or acquisition." Consisting mostly of recent graduates, the program pairs students with industry mentors who can help guide them through the first steps of establishing a company and attracting interest from investors and publishers.

The program is being run by Indiecade founding director Samuel Roberts and former IGDA and AIAS executive director Gordon Bellamy. The roster of mentors includes Riot Games product manager Paul Bellezza, Oculus COO Laird Malamed, Double Fine Productions brand manager Greg Rice, and Naughty Dog lead cinematics animator Josh Scherr.

"USC devotes its resources to supporting this new generation of the best and brightest game creators," Bellamy said. "Sam Roberts and I collaborate and leverage our experience to cultivate them into valuable independent game studios where the developers can thrive as owners of their vision."

While the developers will still own the company, they will owe 1 percent of revenues to USC Games program once they make $500,000. That money would go to re-fund the Games Bridge Program for future student developers. USC Games director Tracy Fullerton said it was important that the developers not have a formal investment from the school as it might make them less attractive to investors or other incubation programs.

There are three aspiring studios in the inaugural batch of Games Bridge Program projects, chosen from a field of 36 applicants. There's the VR world-building game ElemenTerra, a BAFTA-honored first-person local competitive sword fighting game called Chambara, and a transmedia-ready top-down 2D action game named Howie & Yarla.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.