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Interview: IGN Provides Free Office Space To Indies With New 'Open House' Program

Interview: IGN Provides Free Office Space To Indies With New 'Open House' Program Exclusive

September 15, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

September 15, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Media site, distribution and tools provider IGN Entertainment says it'll begin offering San Francisco office space to indie game developers for free, hoping new talent can benefit from a collaborative workspace, access to its games media arm and potential relationships with its Direct2Drive PC/Mac digital game distribution network.

"Across every single thing that we do, we are growing this enormous respect for the power of new, nimble, small, free game development teams," IGN president Roy Bahat tells Gamasutra.

"Whether it's to create something compelling, or experiment around gameplay or try different art styles -- whatever it is, the power of indie development teams is well-understood. So we decided to create this program, which is basically a residency program."

For IGN, the biggest gain for indies with this "Indie Open House" initiative is that they can avail themselves of six months of free office space in IGN's San Francisco building without giving away any of the rights to their work, and without being obligated to any kind of revenue-sharing. Teams apply on a rolling basis, and receive six-month access windows that can be renewed.

"We spoke to indie teams, and we asked them, 'what do you guys need help with?' And they constantly talked about how much they learned from each other; they said that the best sources of learning are other indie teams," explains Bahat. "And so we figured, why don't we just formalize that, and give them space where a bunch of indie teams can work side by side?"

The IGN organization wants to benefit from that kind of relationship with the indie community -- if the theory is that the next big hit is going to come out of the indie space, then IGN puts itself in a position to be the first to discover it on its media side.

It also raises the possibility of a Direct2Drive distribution relationship early on, and to possibly even integrate its GameSpy matchmaking and social tech for online. And yet, Bahat says that if teams would rather not share their work with the press, that's provided for; the Open House space is situated on a separate floor from the editorial team.

In addition to offering free demo space at GameSpy's Game Developers Conference 2011 booth, the company also has the connections to stage "demo days" where publishers and retailers can be invited to view the work of the indie teams that are developing in the Indie Open House space, and has the expertise to offer marketing and media relations advice, too. "With all these different dimensions anchored by the residency, we felt we could do something really special for the indie game community," Bahat says.

He tells us indies can be at any stage of development, from concept to midcycle, in order to apply for the space -- a process that happens starting with a simple online form. All IGN hopes for in return is participation, but is flexible about even that

"It's like that class where you get the grade by showing up," says Bahat. "We want them to be working on their game, we don't have specific milestones. They'll be working out of the space, and then we'll do demo days and that kind of thing, and we want them to participate in all that stuff. If they can't, they can't; the idea is that it's for them. And if it's not the right timing for them, they don't want to show their game to publishers and retailers and editors, they don't have to."

"What's most special about this program is it's like an incubator -- except it has no strings attached," he reinforces. "Typically, incubators will ask for a piece of equity, or distribution rights, and in our case we decided, let's make it a really easy choice for the biggest indie teams. Our aspiration is to attract the best indie teams."

"Just because you're indie doesn't mean you have to work alone, and we get a lot out of it," he adds. "We're doing this because we really need to learn from indie teams, and we think their energy is infectious and we want to have that energy pervade our organization."

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