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