Chan­nel 4 news

The UK broad­caster’s pub­lish­ing arm aims to merge TV and games


Chan­nel 4 has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with games for some years now, com­mis­sion­ing ed­u­ca­tional projects and spinoffs from its ros­ter of shows. But newly formed pub­lish­ing arm All 4 Games, a mo­bile-fo­cused en­deav­our based in Glas­gow that’s just an­nounced its launch ti­tles, is set to deepen the chan­nel’s re­la­tion­ship with in­die de­vel­op­ers. Here we speak to games com­mis­sion­ing editor, and in­dus­try vet­eran, Colin Macdon­ald about his am­bi­tious plans for the pro­ject.

How did All 4 Games come into be­ing?

I started four years ago and be­fore my time here most of Chan­nel 4’s in­volve­ment [in videogames] had been from an ed­u­ca­tional point of view. My job isn’t to ed­u­cate but to pro­duce high-qual­ity games that pro­mote Chan­nel 4’s shows to a new au­di­ence and en­gage our ex­ist­ing au­di­ence. We got to a point a year ago where we were look­ing at the suc­cess we’ve had and think­ing about how to build on it. At the time we were speak­ing to lots of in­die de­vel­op­ers be­cause a bunch of them were mak­ing the games we were com­mis­sion­ing. At the same time, we were speak­ing to them about their own IP and see­ing devs start­ing to have big prob­lems with dis­cov­er­abil­ity. So we thought, ‘Well, Chan­nel 4 has this big au­di­ence; th­ese indies have th­ese great games but no au­di­ence. It feels like there’s a fit there.’

How does All 4 Games fit in with the games you’ve been com­mis­sion­ing?

I’ve com­mis­sioned half-a-dozen games a year that have been re­ally quite high qual­ity, and have done well. But the prob­lem is that I launch one of those ti­tles, get it pro­moted across the chan­nel, drive hun­dreds of thou­sands – maybe mil­lions – of peo­ple to that game and by the time my next one is out most of those play­ers have dropped off and moved on to some­thing else. As a re­sult, I’ve never built up a Chan­nel 4 game com­mu­nity where I can push peo­ple from one game to the next, the way the big­ger pub­lish­ers do. So part of the think­ing was, if I launch a Snow­man game or a Made In Chelsea game, rather than those play­ers all just dis­ap­pear­ing off to play a Zynga game, could we launch an­other game two weeks later and push that to an ex­ist­ing au­di­ence? I can’t af­ford to launch a [com­mis­sioned] game ev­ery two weeks, but if I can get games from the in­die com­mu­nity and fill the gaps be­tween those, I can help other peo­ple’s games and in re­turn they can help mine.

“I’ve had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence turn­ing TV into games, and my dream is to do it the other way around”

Why fo­cus on mo­bile?

We’ve got a dis­pro­por­tion­ately large amount of peo­ple who watch TV catch-up, and in­creas­ingly on mo­bile. So Chan­nel 4 knows it wants to be more ac­tive in mo­bile and that ev­ery­thing’s con­verg­ing.

What makes All 4 Games dif­fer­ent to any other pub­lisher?

Well, partly do­ing this is to ful­fil Chan­nel 4’s re­mit to ex­plore what the fu­ture of tech­nol­ogy and en­ter­tain­ment is, but it’s also about do­ing our bit to help the com­mu­nity. As a long-stand­ing game de­vel­oper, it feels nice to be able to go, ‘Right, I spent 25 years mak­ing games: here are the frus­tra­tions, here are all the ways some of the big, bad pub­lish­ers treat peo­ple – let’s not do any of that.’ We want to be an in­die-friendly game la­bel that can bring the ben­e­fits of a big TV chan­nel, but with­out the down­sides of work­ing with a cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion – we don’t want own­er­ship of IP, we don’t want con­trol of the game, and we’ve got much more eq­ui­table rev­enue share.

What rev­enue split are you of­fer­ing?

Chan­nel 4 takes 15 per cent for the first £100,000 – the the­ory be­ing that if a game ‘only’ makes that, then the de­vel­oper needs the money more than us, so we keep our rev­enue share low. It then ramps up slightly as it hits dif­fer­ent rev­enue tar­gets, but it caps at 25 per cent, so we’ll never take more than that. The money just goes back into the pot and helps us to sup­port more games.

How closely will you be work­ing with the TV com­mis­sion­ing de­part­ments?

We’re based up in Glas­gow and, while we’ve got the ben­e­fit of tap­ping into the wider Chan­nel 4 or­gan­i­sa­tion, and I come down once a week, as long as ev­ery­one knows what we’re do­ing, we’re more or less left to get on with it. I’m con­scious that we’ll be sign­ing up and work­ing with games that have amaz­ing nar­ra­tives, worlds to ex­plore and char­ac­ters to meet and all that stuff. And that can all be ex­tended in a num­ber of ways – es­pe­cially into TV. I’m sit­ting down with the TV com­mis­sion­ers ev­ery week and can go, ‘Right, we’re al­ways say­ing we’re short of ideas – here are some great ideas.’ I’m not sure what the hit rate would be – it’s not go­ing to be ev­ery game, prob­a­bly not even one in 20. But I’ve had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence turn­ing TV into games, and my dream is to do it the other way around.

Prior to be­com­ing Chan­nel 4’s games com­mis­sion­ing editor, Colin Macdon­ald was a pro­ducer at DMA De­sign and co-founded Crack­down and APB stu­dio Re­al­time Worlds

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