Expounding on its October announcement, Square Enix reached out to developers at GDC Next yesterday to talk about its Square Enix Collective
initiative, addressing frequently asked questions and revealing its first three available IPs.
One part publishing model and one part incubator, the Square Enix Collective is designed as a sort of low-impact vetting system by which pitched games receive feedback from the public and, if interest is high, will have their team and project proposal assessed by the publisher. Projects deemed viable are offered a distribution deal -- as well as assistance with budgeting, soliciting crowdfunds, and reaching project milestones.
On the developer end, said Square Enix community lead Phil Elliott, the impact is quite low. Apart from projects pitched for Square Enix's Eidos back catalog, ownership of any original IP remain with the developer. No fees are extracted or deals struck until after the free and public 28-day feedback period, and after this term, the developer is free to take any non-Eidos pitches to another crowdfunding site or publisher.
There are some considerable trade-offs for this arrangement. For one, Square Enix won't contribute to or match crowdfunds. While developers will have the benefit of a public focus testing and the vote of confidence that a publisher's backing represents, a game's production will still hinge on its IndieGoGo campaign, through which Square Enix has arranged a partnership.
"We're not trying to take over crowdfunding," said Elliott. "[Our goal is to] help small teams get creative ideas to market [and] help them find funding."
Developers are also on their own for marketing their games during or after the crowdfunding campaign -- although Elliott noted his team can help connect developers with marketing firms to corner that part of the process.
"I know what everyone's thinking: what part of your soul are we interested in the most?" Elliott joked.
In addition to original IPs staying with the developer, Elliott said the Square Enix Collective wanted to keep its cut of any resulting revenues to a minimum. Although he demurred on providing total percentages ("they're not mine to give"), a chart included with the presentation slides (below) offered a rough breakdown, taking into account taxes, fees, and potential licensing costs.
"No disrespect toward normal publishing folk, but Square Enix Collective isn't a normal publishing project," Elliott said candidly. "This was created with the mantra: we want the developer to have all the choices here."
First projects and the future of the Collective
Square Enix capped off its presentation by unveiling its first three available IPs for the new program, each from its Eidos back catalog: Fear Effect
. Elliot later clarified with Gamasutra that the three pilot projects will most likely not be based on these IPs, but rather original IPs created by the projects' developers.
Elliott said the idea behind this preliminary phase was to use pilot projects as a test case.
"Later we'll open it up for more and we'll look into what kind of things people are interested in," Elliott explained. Open submissions are expected to begin around March of next year.
Elliott also reiterated that the submission system and publishing arrangement was only the first phase of the Square Enix Collective -- the company saw opportunities down the line to promote other projects including game jams and charitable events.
In the meantime, Elliott indicated he was looking forward to putting himself out there as a point of contact for developers interested in learning more about the Collective or potentially pitching a project themselves. He is reachable through the initiative's website