Channel 4 ramps up game funding

Education commissioner Alice Taylor signs UK indies as part of £4.5m investment in new content
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UK TV giant Channel 4 has invested a multi-million pound figure in the development of its own Xbox and PC games.

The broadcaster, famous for shows like Big Brother and Skins, has turned to gaming as a way to reach new audiences as part of its educational content remit, Develop can reveal.

The firm has commissioned a clutch of independent UK studios to create entertaining online projects that ‘don’t preach to their audience’.

The move is part of a £4.5m fund – half of which is finding its way to UK independent companies such as Tuna Technologies, Beatnik Games, Zombie Cow Studios, Six to Start, Preloaded and Littleloud to fund projects up to £800,000 in size.

“To reach 14 to 19 year olds we took all of our investment and moved it online to support television on the web, mobile and games projects,” Alice Taylor, the commissioning editor at Channel 4 Education, told Develop.

All of the games are new IPs that touch on themes and issues teenagers encounter – areas the industry otherwise holds at arms’ length. “They are Broad themes that turn up during your teenage years,” said Taylor.

The games will start to appear later this year and will all be digitally-distributed and free, said Taylor.

“Our games have to be free at the point of consumption for UK players. The web is really easy, as is PC and Mac download. XBLA, PSN and WiiWare are all guarded, gated communities and you have to go through somebody and get permission to a degree.

“However, our plan with the Zombie Cow game is to get it on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel,” Taylor explained.

The broadcaster’s first foray into gaming already bagged it a BAFTA, for online game Bow Street Runner, so the channel is keen to keep exploring what it can do in games, said Taylor. Sister channel E4 is also becoming more active in games.

“Channel 4 Education’s output in the past couple of years has performed far better than television ever did. It’s got a lot of attention and it’s got a lot of positive feedback from both teachers and from the industry. In the Digital Britain report the stuff that Education is doing was noted as being what Channel 4 should do more of.”

The full interview with Taylor can be read in the latest issue of Develop - click here to find out how you can get a free digital copy.