UPDATED: ‘We need a Kitemark for indie developers,’ says Square Enix Collective boss

Alex Calvin
UPDATED: ‘We need a Kitemark for indie developers,’ says Square Enix Collective boss

Update: Since the publication of this story, Square Enix Collective has contacted MCV to clarify Elliott's remarks. His statement can be found below.

Original story:

The head of Square Enix's Collective indie initiative Phil Elliott has said that the industry should do more to help the cream of the indie crop rise to the top.

Speaking to MCV, Elliott said that the biggest challenge currently facing games publishers is the sheer number of indie developers in the market. Thus, Elliott says that responsbility to set a quality baseline for smaller studios is a consideration that the industry must tackle.

The sheer number of games is a challenge for developers and publishers. How does a publisher find a new game?” Elliott said.

That's the biggest challenge the industry faces. How do we deal with curation?

One of the things we like to do is due diligence for teams going through our Kickstarter process, so the trust relationship is bolstered. Trust is very important. What can the industry do to help with that?

Not just Collective, but what if UKIE or the IGDA or some body launched a Kitemark for quality? What if there was a network of mentors for certain territories or instead globally who come together and do what we do but on a much bigger scale. We would love to be part of that.

We don't want it to just be about Collective. We want to see more games succeed and that route of funding become increasingly viable. Let's try and encourage some of the trust.

Who is objective or neutral that can have access to lots of people with experience of shipping games, who can be trustworthy? If Collective can do seven or eight games a year, what if there was a scheme that could do 20 or 30 games a year? It would be interesting to see.”

Update:

Since the publication of this story, Square Enix Collective has been in touch to clarify the remarks Phil Elliott made to MCV.

Below is his statement in full:

Just as a follow-up to the MCV news story I would like to clarify my point as I don't want people to get the wrong impression here.

We're not in any way suggesting the industry needs some kind of ‘brand of approval' to tell people which developers are good, and which aren't. The point about the ‘kitemark' idea is specifically about support for crowdfunding. Currently Collective supports around 7-8 developers each year with their Kickstarter campaigns – part of that support is helping with awareness, but the other is going through a due diligence process.

We do this second part to help the trust relationship between backers, and creators – the latter of whom most backers will never have heard of, let alone have met or feel they know. We think this process helps because some of the negative headlines in the past have dented that trust, particularly in new teams with original ideas - and in turn made it harder to succeed with funding campaigns at that level.

We believe crowdfunding is an important source of funding to help people turn their ideas into reality – hence why we try to support that. But our capacity is limited; the point about the ‘kitemark' idea is to see if more teams could benefit from a similar scheme conducted by other industry groups (separately, or together) – and would that be an improvement on the current situation? If we're supporting 7 or 8 teams per year, maybe more successes would result if other schemes could support 30 or 40? It's not an answer to everything, but does it take us one step further?

I know some would disagree, and have done already – which is great. Debate is important to understanding as many perspectives as possible.

Meanwhile, on the subject of more and more games being made - the wider point here isn't that it's hard for publishers like Square Enix to find new games, and that's somehow a bad thing.

Yes, it's true to an extent; it is harder than it used to be, since years ago there were far fewer teams, and knowing who was making what, and where new talent was coming from was easier. But that's a good thing – no complaints from me.

Actually, by far the more important consideration, is the level of challenge for new teams with original IP in finding visibility for their games.

Don't get me wrong - it's fantastic that the barriers to making a game are lower than they've ever been – but what that leads inevitably to is vastly more games being made/released. And while there are loads of gamers out there interested in indie games and new ideas, there's a limit to the attention that's available. So if it's more of a challenge for a publisher to find new games, that's a side-effect… but not the real issue here.

For us, we have our own solutions – partly with the Collective website, partly by being active at developer events, etc. But I meet a lot of teams from all around the world with good ideas/pitches – far more than we can support/sign – and because there are so many teams, they struggle.

Sometimes the challenge is in finding funding to get the first game released. Sometimes it's about selling enough copies of that first game to be able to make another game – both are problems we try to help teams with in different ways.

But in the end, a developer can only improve by making more games. While it's not impossible for a talented team to create something amazing the first time out, I believe there are some teams with a lot of potential that – for whatever reason – we end up losing to other industries.

I don't think this isn't just a problem for developers, or publishers, or retailers. It's something we all have a stake in, because in the end we need to ensure the new talent of the future has a viable route to building sustainable businesses. It's not something we can afford to assume will just happen – and that's where curation is an issue for the whole industry to ponder.

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