Channel 4 has begun to properly commission games content alongside its TV and cross-media efforts – and has turned to indie team Introversion for one of its first projects.
The channel is also looking to fund games for the likes of Miniclip.com and Kongregate.com, plus console downloads, mobile games and ARGs.
Speaking at yesterday’s NESTA event unveiling a new half-million pound fund for games studios, one of the UK broadcaster’s commissioning editors Adam Gee named the Introversion title as ‘Chronometer’, but added little other details, except to say that the game was the first of Channel 4’s planned downloadable PC games.
Signing Introversion – a small team of developers famed for its guerrilla approach to distribution and creators Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon – is just one part of Channel 4’s new multi-faceted approach to games development.
The broadcaster had previously experimented with a number of factual cross-media projects, including documentaries with web and mobile components, but Gee said the channel is now using initiatives include new £50m fund called 4IP to “go beyond those limited ambitions” and encourage “a deliberate, extreme swing of the pendulum by taking public service beyond television and deliberately shy away from projects with a TV component.”
(Channel 4, for non-UK readers, is considered a public service broadcaster, similar to the BBC, but makes its money via advertising rather than being publicly funded by a TV licence.)
That means, Gee said, more projects in the games sphere – because for Channel 4’s main 16-34 year-old demographic “that’s where there attention is”.
Gee said that the 4IP was a more freely available fund that could be described as “quick and dirty seed money” to speed projects into production.
Gee also named other Channel 4 games projects, including a sophisticated Flash game called Bow Street Runners which uses assets from its companion TV show, and three alternate reality games (ARGs) being developed for the 14 to 19 year old audience.
Mobile and console downloads are also a possibility, he said.
Gee commented: “There is also a discussion going on about console downloads – specifically talking with Xbox, Nintendo and Sony, but I think we’re not looking to create from scratch in that market but looking how we can reuse what we’ve leveraged in other areas on those platforms.”
Channel 4 is also famously backing Dare to be Digital with a substantial cash investment.
“Supporting UK talent is absolutely critical,” said Gee. “There’s a hell of a lot of UK talent getting sucked up by overseas producers and we’d like to do what we can to swing things back in the other direction.”
In many respects the moves effectively turn Channel 4 into a publisher-like organisation looking to find new ideas and talent that fulfil its remit - although unlike commercial publishers the remit is public service content, not specifically profit.
Ultimately, Gee said, Channel 4 had switched on to the multitude of new distribution channels available to games and now wants to take advantage of and experiment with them.
“With distribution through Miniclip and Kongregate it’s really opened the ground for us to make new investments,” said Gee.
“The new distribution models just free up space and offer new opportunities that just weren’t there a year or two ago and enables us to really take the strength of Channel 4 and the assets and talent we have and plug it into the games space.”