Microsoft Spotlight: Greenshoots for start-ups

Microsoft Spotlight: Greenshoots for start-ups
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

October 31st 2013 at 10:15AM

Creative England and Microsoft have launched the Greenshoots initiative, which is set to help fund up-and-coming studios

[This feature was published in the October 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad]

Greenshoots
Company: Creative England
Who are they?
Microsoft and Creative England are working on the initiative. Creative England is an agency devoted to funding and supporting all creative industries across its home nation
What is it? A funding and support programme to help ten studios bring a game to mobile and tablet platforms
greenshoots.creativeengland.co.uk

Of all the funding and support bodies that serve games developers in the UK, Creative England is a relatively new entity.

Formed two years ago to serve the entire spectrum of creative industries in the country, the agency this year set up a devoted games division, which debuted with the GamesLab programme. Still underway, the initiative supports developers in the South West of England, and boasts an impressive £1 million pool.

But Creative England’s ambitions to support games makers does not stop in the West country, and recently the body has collaborated with Microsoft to debut the Greenshoots programme, which offers up to ten independent developer start-ups funding of as much as £25,000, along with a wealth of technology, services and technical support.

“As part of my strategy to get Creative England more involved in games, I was looking to strike up some partnerships with key industry players, and Microsoft are one of the biggest players in the industry,” explains Jaspal Sohal, who stepped up as Creative England’s head of games this year.

“We approached them and told them about what we do, and what we want to do in the games space, having seen that they’d been very proactive in their own way making their technology and systems more available and more open to developers that wanted to use them,” he continues.

THE SEED OF AN IDEA

That conversation was the catalyst that led to the establishment of the Greenshoots initiative. As well as the cash injection from Creative England, Greenshoots provides eligible companies access to Microsoft’s long-standing BizSpark programme to support the studios involved with a wealth of development software, expert guidance, and importantly, access to Microsoft’s cloud back-end.

“We have created something that has brought together investment and technological nous, and it’s proving to be a really good partnership,” explains Sohal. “We really want to help these ten studios develop tablet, indie or mobile games, be they freemium or premium, and a really key point on this is that exclusivity to Microsoft platforms is not a requirement.”

Unusually for a project backed by a giant tech company famed for its hardware, Greenshoots welcomes teams interested in not just Microsoft’s own OSes, but cross-platform releases that also target the likes of Android, iOS and BlackBerry. Greenshoots-backed cross-platform games must support Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but they are in no way discouraged from developing across all platforms. Greenshoots has been conceived to liberate – and not constrain – up-and-coming developers.

“We’re looking for studios that are less than five years old. They don’t necessarily have to have a stable of released products,” states Sohal. “This could even be for their first product, but we are looking for studios that are fairly well into their company development cycle. The application process started on September 26th, and it will close fairly quickly, by October 18th, so it will all happen rather fast.”

A ROUTE TO SUCCESS

Access to funds will be granted more rapidly than with traditional funding methods, so interested parties should apply as soon as possible.

“It’s a revenue share investment, so they can receive up to £25,000, and they can use that to complete development on a game or use it for marketing,” elaborates Sohal, moving on to the technical details of how Greenshoots functions. “They obviously need to provide us with a very brief overview of how they plan to spend that, and then after they have finished and released their game, as soon as it begins to start to make revenue, 50 per cent of that revenue is paid until that £25,000 is repaid.”

No interest is added to the investment, so only the capital amount needs to be paid back. And, ultimately, if the game fails to make revenue, repayments are not required. The funding is for specific titles, and ports or extensions to existing games are not eligible.

Such is Creative England’s remit, the offer is open to the North West, North East, Yorkshire, Humberside, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol and Bath. Funds will be allocated this November.

Those interested in applying should visit the official Greenshoots website, which sets out the application process and full terms and conditions.

greenshoots.creativeengland.co.uk

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