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IGN Offers Free Rent for Indie Game Developers

IGN Offers Free Rent for Indie Game Developers (photo)

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IGN’s been one of the heavyweights of internet video game culture for the better part of a decade now. Many see it as a bastion of hardcore gamer orthodoxy, as the network of sites often scores first looks at high-profile titles before anyone else. But, in a surprise announcement yesterday, IGN unveiled a new Indie Open House program that offers free office space to indie developers. Along with gratis accommodations, small-team developers will also get resources from IGN-affiliated companies:

 
·       24-hour access to IGN headquarters located in San Francisco’s SOMA district, including conference rooms and kitchens

·       Daily interaction with IGN editorial and executive teams, including face-to-face opportunities to receive feedback on your project while still in development

·       Participation in Demo Days and the opportunity to showcase your game(s) directly to publishers, retailers, online distributors and the IGN / GameSpy editorial teams

·       Free licensing of GameSpy Technology’s Open Services Platform supporting essential online features like Leaderboards, Matchmaking, Deep User Stats, In-Game Commerce and more across multiple systems

·       Consultation with GameSpy Technology’s Professional Services team at no cost

·       Customized demo space in GameSpy Tech’s booth at GDC 2011 in San Francisco

·       Free advertising and promotional opportunities showcasing your projects on the IGN Network (if applicable)

Submissions are open now and the winning developers will be chosen by a team of IGN executives and editorial staff, who are joined by Eddy Boxerman, founder of Hemisphere Games, responsible for the award-winning “Osmos.” I caught up with Roy Bahat, President of IGN Entertainment to find out about the genesis of the program.

Can you talk a little bit about what the thinking was to initiate this program?

So, pretty simple and straight forward, our goal is to serve the audience of gamers. And we recognized that–across so many different parts of what we do–indie teams are more and more important. They’re producing better and better product every year. And in a lot of ways, I think they really exemplify what making games is all about. They take creative risks. They do it with personality. They work for the love of the product that they produce. Of course, they want to produce excellent product too and many of them want careers in the industry, although not all. But we just respect the power of what they do, and think that the next generation of breakthrough games is very likely to come from that community.

There’s plenty of people who are doing financial prizes and traditional incubators where they make investments. And we realize that that’s not something we know a lot about how to do. But we have a community of people who love games and don’t make games. In the different divisions of IGN Entertainment, we thought, “Well, what if we just opened it up, and invited a few indie teams to work out of our offices, and basically give them access to each other?”

And that’s a really important point. One of the things we always hear from independent teams is how their greatest learnings always come from each other. So we just thought, let’s just formalize that and give them a place where a handful of teams can work together. And where, we as IGN, can develop relationships with them, and help them out. Once we realized we wanted to have this residency we just thought, “OK, what’s all the other stuff we can offer them?” We decided to set up demo days, where they can present to IGN editors, and get feedback an their games. Present to publishers and retailers, et cetera. We decided to give them advice on digital distribution, since we run a digital distribution service, Direct2Drive. Since we have the GameSpy online match-making technology, we decided to give them free access to GameSpy technology and advice on how to integrate that.

But that’s kind of secondary to the main event. The main event is really this residency, which is let them spend six months working side-by-side with other teams and with our folks. You never know what kind of serendipity comes out of that.

OK, so, in terms of the resources you guys are providing, will that include with things like workstations, Internet infrastructure, that kind of thing?

I actually think that plenty of folks like to use their own equipment. But we’re definitely providing them with office space, Internet access, all the stuff that kind of comes with that. Look, we recognize that they still have to bring a lot. We’re not giving them any money. We’re not paying for their accommodation if they don’t live in San Francisco. So like a lot of things in life, you’ve got to meet us halfway. But what we’re excited about is that it also comes with no strings attached.

The only requirement for the program is that you work out of our offices, and kind of participate. We don’t take any ownership rights in your game. There’s absolutely no obligation. You’re not committed to deliver anything. We respect that the creative process is unpredictable. And so, the fact that this program comes with no strings attached, is also we think a pretty special thing.

My first thought upon hearing about this and reading the press release is that it kind of runs counter to the way that most people understand IGN’s interface with game coverage. You guys are kind of like the 800 pound gorilla, and you focus on the big mainstream stuff. Was there any thinking along those lines about counter-messaging, or is that all just in my head?

No, it has nothing to do with counter-messaging. But it has to do with reflecting the reality of how we think about the games business. We actually care about the whole gaming ecosystem. I mean, we’ve got an editor who’s solely focused on social games. And we’ve got folks who already have relationships with the indie community and cover indie titles. We believe that if we’re going to be serving the audience of gamers, we got to serve the full audience of gamers. We bought What They Play, which is a parent-focused game site.

So, it is definitely not the case that we are exclusively focused on the mainstream AAA releases. We think those are really important, too, but you got to look at the whole spectrum. And by the way, the lines are really starting to blur. We’re starting to see a lot of the AAA publishers and game developers really focused on the indie community as well. So, we see this as an example of where the whole industry is going.

Fair enough. And I think the other question, then, is about editorial coverage. Is it a little too close for comfort if they are going to be right next to the journalist who cover the games business at IGN? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Yeah, the coverage thing is actually pretty straightforward to describe. It’s always about how it’s done. Which is, the journalists at IGN are not obligated to cover these games and the indie teams are not obligated to disclose anything they don’t want to disclose. So you just happen to work in the same building. They are actually going to be on different floors, for what it’s worth. But it’s more how it’s managed than anything else. Do I think that an IGN editor will see a game they never heard of before and get interested in it and write about it? Probably. But we’re not making any promises. And they’ll write about it if they think, in their journalistic best judgment, it’s worth writing about. And the ultimate arbiters of that are the audience. That’s how we think of it. If people like to read our stuff, then we are doing something right, and if they don’t, then we’re doing something wrong. That’s kind of the ultimate guide for us, what gamers want to hear.

And applications are open now?

Yeah. We’re accepting applications right now. It basically is going to go in waves because we’re recognizing that this is like a first-time experiment for us and we are going to have to iterate and learn as we go. So, we are going to accept a first wave of applicants, and submissions close on October 10th, or something like that. And then we’ll accept a first group into the open house, and then we’ll add as we go.

And you’re guaranteeing a demo space at next year’s GDC. The demo days, are those things that you are going to set-up specifically for these titles?

Exactly. Exactly. That’s something that we’ve never done before that we’re going to set-up specifically for these titles.

Was the Indie Open House an initiative that somebody brought to you? Or has there been indie games that you’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years and said, hey, we need to get involved in this somehow?

This is an idea that really came out of our digital distribution team, because they started working with indie games as games that were unlikely to be distributed at retail. Digital distribution turned out to be uniquely suited to these games. And so, we made a concerted effort starting about two years ago to reach out to the indie community. We sponsored this thing at GDC called the D2D Vision Award. And one of the winners were the creators of this game “Osmos,” which has since become a really big hit.

Yeah, I love “Osmos.”

Yeah, it’s a great game. And they were our winners. And actually one of the guys who built the game, Eddie is involved in being one of the judges for who should be invited into our Indie Open House. So this really grew out of us trying to figure out, kind of scratching our heads, and saying, what else could we do to get more involved in the indie community that would be true to who we are. Because we’re not a game developer. We don’t know how to make games. But we love games. And we got a great community of people in our company that love games, so how could we take advantage of what we have?

Yeah, and part of that is also distribution as well.

Yeah. I mean look, distribution, online game services, they’re all things we do, and media coverage obviously as well. And indie kind of touches all of those things. So we’re sort of crossing our fingers and hoping that good unexpected things come out of this.

It’s interesting. It seems like you’re basically are offering, not quite a blank check but like a staging ground for people to come and apply.

Yeah. We wanted to cast the net as wide as possible. We’re hoping that the applications are going to be really competitive. And then we’ll get to choose teams that are super-committed and then they’ll get a lot out of it and we’ll get a lot out of it.

So what’s the requirement for an application at this point? Do they have to have a playable prototype? Or what?

No, they don’t have to have playable prototypes. The requirements are all actually posted online. They basically have to describe their team and their game concept and a few other things. And then, we’ll look at kind of a balanced set of criteria that we have posted.

But I expect that we’ll have people at very different phases of development. We don’t have a particular point of view on exactly what phase of development this program is best suited for. And that’s something we’ll learn. We’ll try out a few different things. We might learn that something like this is really useful in the concept phase but less useful in the beta testing phase. I’m just making up an example. Once we get into it, we’ll just have to kind of improvise as we go.     

Can the six month program residency be extended?

Yeah. It’s a six month program with renewal at our discretion, basically.

So this is not like a one time thing?

No, no. We’re planning to run this continuously, kind of an ongoing basis. But it’s an experiment, so we have to kind of see how it goes. But our idea is to continue to run it and basically do it on a rolling basis, where, we accept this first group in, and then a few months later, we take in another group. Some people will rotate out, and some people will rotate in and we’ll just see how it evolves.

Do you think that there’ll be more PC-centric development or a focus on consoles?

We’re not taking a point of view on what platforms people should be developing for. So this could be people developing social games. It could be iPhone and Android games. It could be Xbox Live Arcade. It could be PSN. It could be WiiWare. It could be PC downloadables, browser-based games. We’re sort of wide, wide open to the broadest possible range of any monetization model. We care a lot more about the game concept, the team, the energy level of the team, that kind of stuff, than we do about what platform they’re developing for.

You say any monetization model, is there going to be profit-sharing of any kind?

No, no. We have no participation. What I meant was I don’t care whether they’re developing like a downloadable game that you pay for up front. Or something that’s free to play with micro-transactions. Or just flat-out free. I don’t care. Look, we’ve all seen the breakout games that have become real big successes. “Osmos” is a wonderful example. A lot of people anointed “Audiosurf” as another. And both of those games are games that I thought were just terrific. And I think those games also influence game design as a whole because people look at them and they see what they like and they start to adapt and evolve. So, we just want to be part of that process.

 

Fair enough. And I think the other big question, then, is about editorial coverage. Is it a little too close for comfort if they are going to be right next to the journalist who cover the games business at IGN? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Yeah, the coverage thing is actually pretty straightforward to describe. It’s always about how it’s done. Which is, the journalists at IGN are not obligated to cover these games and the indie teams are not obligated to disclose anything they don’t want to disclose. So you just happen to work in the same building. They are actually going to be on different floors, for what it’s worth. But it’s more how it’s managed than anything else. Do I think that an IGN editor will see a game they never heard of before and get interested in it and write about it? Probably. But we’re not making any promises. And they’ll write about it if they think, in their journalistic best judgment, it’s worth writing about. And the ultimate arbiters of that are the audience. That’s how we think of it. If people like to read our stuff, then we are doing something right, and if they don’t, then we’re doing something wrong. That’s kind of the ultimate guide for us, what gamers want to hear.

And applications are open now?

Yeah. We’re accepting applications right now. It basically is going to go in waves because we’re recognizing that this is like a first-time experiment for us and we are going to have to iterate and learn as we go. So, we are going to accept a first wave of applicants, and submissions close on October 10th, or something like that. And then we’ll accept a first group into the open house, and then we’ll add as we go.

And you’re guaranteeing a demo space at next year’s GDC. The demo days, are those things that you are going to set-up specifically for these titles?

Exactly. Exactly. That’s something that we’ve never done before that we’re going to set-up specifically for these titles.

Was the Indie Open House an initiative that somebody brought to you? Or has there been indie games that you’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years and said, hey, we need to get involved in this somehow?

This is an idea that really came out of our digital distribution team, because they started working with indie games as games that were unlikely to be distributed at retail. Digital distribution turned out to be uniquely suited to these games. And so, we made a concerted effort starting about two years ago to reach out to the indie community. We sponsored this thing at GDC called the D2D Vision Award. And one of the winners were the creators of this game “Osmos,” which has since become a really big hit.

Yeah, I love “Osmos.”

Yeah, it’s a great game. And they were our winners. And actually one of the guys who built the game, Eddie is involved in being one of the judges for who should be invited into our Indie Open House. So this really grew out of us trying to figure out, kind of scratching our heads, and saying, what else could we do to get more involved in the indie community that would be true to who we are. Because we’re not a game developer. We don’t know how to make games. But we love games. And we got a great community of people in our company that love games, so how could we take advantage of what we have?

Yeah, and part of that is also distribution as well.

Yeah. I mean look, distribution, online game services, they’re all things we do, and media coverage obviously as well. And indie kind of touches all of those things. So we’re sort of crossing our fingers and hoping that good unexpected things come out of this.

It’s interesting. It seems like you basically are offering, if not quite a blank check, then a staging ground for people to come and apply.

Yeah. We wanted to cast the net as wide as possible. We’re hoping that the applications are going to be really competitive. And then we’ll get to choose teams that are super-committed and then they’ll get a lot out of it and we’ll get a lot out of it.

So what’s the requirement for an application at this point? Do they have to have a playable prototype? Or what?

No, they don’t have to have playable prototypes. The requirements are all actually posted online. They basically have to describe their team and their game concept and a few other things. And then, we’ll look at kind of a balanced set of criteria that we have posted.

But I expect that we’ll have people at very different phases of development. We don’t have a particular point of view on exactly what phase of development this program is best suited for. And that’s something we’ll learn. We’ll try out a few different things. We might learn that something like this is really useful in the concept phase but less useful in the beta testing phase. I’m just making up an example. Once we get into it, we’ll just have to kind of improvise as we go.

Can the six month program residency be extended?

Yeah. It’s a six month program with renewal at our discretion, basically.

So this is not like a one time thing?

No, no. We’re planning to run this continuously, kind of an ongoing basis. But it’s an experiment, so we have to kind of see how it goes. But our idea is to continue to run it and basically do it on a rolling basis, where, we accept this first group in, and then a few months later, we take in another group. Some people will rotate out, and some people will rotate in and we’ll just see how it evolves.

Do you think that there’ll be more PC-centric development or a focus on consoles?

We’re not taking a point of view on what platforms people should be developing for. So this could be people developing social games. It could be iPhone and Android games. It could be Xbox Live Arcade. It could be PSN. It could be WiiWare. It could be PC downloadables, browser-based games. We’re sort of wide, wide open to the broadest possible range of any monetization model. We care a lot more about the game concept, the team, the energy level of the team, that kind of stuff, than we do about what platform they’re developing for.

You say any monetization model, is there going to be profit-sharing of any kind?

No, no. We have no participation. What I meant was I don’t care whether they’re developing like a downloadable game that you pay for up front. Or something that’s free to play with micro-transactions. Or just flat-out free. I don’t care. Look, we’ve all seen the breakout games that have become real big successes. “Osmos” is a wonderful example. A lot of people anointed “Audiosurf” as another. And both of those games are games that I thought were just terrific. And I think those games also influence game design as a whole because people look at them and they see what they like and they start to adapt and evolve. So, we just want to be part of that process.

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

IFC_Portlandia-S8_pick-a-lane_subaru-blog

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…