Developer-run digital publisher takes shape

Developer-run digital publisher takes shape
Michael French

By Michael French

February 3rd 2011 at 11:00AM

Payne picked to lead NESTA-backed 'Games Consortium' - hunt begins for eight stakeholders

A new publishing force is being established exclusive for UK games studios - and it even invites them to own a stake in the business.

Develop this morning can reveal the first official details of skills agency NESTA's radical new effort to empower a select set of UK developers.

'The Games Consortium' will be led by former Mastertronic founder Andy Payne, and is designed to build an operation for studios to publish their games digitally, and perhaps at retail too, by pooling their resources.

Eight studios will be allowed to buy into the initiative by taking a £20k stake each, with some funds also supplied by NESTA. But after the first year, it is expected that the business will become self-sustaining.

(If you're a studio leader interested in taking part, details on eligibility and how to apply can be found at the end of this story.)

Drawing together a group of talented studios should help attract better investment at a time when publishers are entrenched in internally-made games and external investment is thin on the ground.

It will also allow for sharing of knowledge and best practices – and thus help support UK businesses overall.

“There hasn’t been enough of small independent developers holding on to their IP and exploiting it outside of iPhone, and a few hits on PSN or XBLA,” Payne told MCV.

“When there has, they’ve been bought by someone else, usually American – all that means is that the IP goes off to some tax haven. That brings the long-term viability of our industry into question.

“This approach can help keep ownership in Britain, help grow businesses here through collaboration, and spread the risk by letting a studio share its experience with seven other developers.”

Payne’s first duty as leader of the new publisher consortium is to pick the eight studios, with a deadline for submissions on February 14th, before working with the group to establish a publishing brand for the group to collectively use when it comes to promoting games to the public.

Added Payne: “This is a noble approach in terms of its aspirations, but ultimately our aim is to make money and release some successful games."

Jon Kingsbury, programme director for the creative economy at NESTA, added: “The UK has the world’s best developer talent. The Consortium tests how games businesses might work together to exploit successfully their own intellectual property.”

Payne isn't the only games industry vet that has been helping the Consortium take off – NESTA has drawn on input from key developers, such as Charles Cecil, to help shape the vision.

He said: “With a wealth of experience from both a games development and publishing perspective, Andy is the ideal person to lead the establishment of the Consortium. Blessed with boundless energy, Andy commands admiration and trust from all sectors of the games industry.”

Those studios wishing to take part have until 12 noon on February 14th, 2011 to send in their expressions of interest.

Studios must fulfil the following criteria:

•    UK independent developer ( i.e. not publisher-owned and a UK business with staff in a UK base)
•    SME status (fewer than 250 staff and a turnover below £50m)
•    A track record of published IP with royalties/income to demonstrate success
•    Capable of self-financing development
•    Experience in developing games that can be delivered digitally
•    Demonstrate the ability to create valuable original IP
•    Willing to take a risk and invest in a new and unproven model
•    Able to invest £20,000 into the venture within the first year


Fuller details can be found on the NESTA website at www.nesta.org.uk. Applications should be sent to  gamesconsortium@nesta.org.uk