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Square Enix Collective - the story so far

Some musings on the pilot phase to-date - what we've learned so far, and what the next steps are... plus an update on when submissions will open!

Phil Elliott, Blogger

February 11, 2014

7 Min Read

So it’s been just over two weeks since the Square Enix Collective pilot phase went live, and it’s been really interesting to watch the data. I’ll be blogging here every so often with more thoughts and learnings over time, but starting at the beginning:

First up, it’s great to see the three teams get a nice push from the launch announcement, and obviously when the aim of the platform is to help those projects get more visibility ahead of a potential crowdfund campaign, the votes and the comments are supremely useful. I wrote a little update on the Collective site at the end of last week noting that we’d had around 50,000 unique visitors and around 150,000 page views to that point – it’s a decent start.

Secondly, in terms of the ‘message’ on what Collective is here for, I’m well aware that it’s not the easiest of concepts to sell. There’s no really great one-liner that tells you everything you need to know, because it’s something that has to work for developers (who are looking for one thing) and the community (who have varying levels of understanding on how the industry works).

When we first announced the project back in October last year, I had to contact a few sites to give them clarifications on what the concept actually involved. And I jumped into the comments sections on here, on Kotaku, on Neogaf and so on to try and answer queries, explain anything that wasn’t clear, etc. As a platform, Collective is somewhat of an intangible, because the benefits to the end user are entirely dependent on the pitches that the dev teams bring… so at least that part of it was easier when launching the pilot phase, because there was actually stuff to see.

That said, with the platform live, with content live and with tens of thousands of users, it’s much easier to see those areas which need more work. For example, comments – which we built into the pitch and update pages so they’d have more context – are actually a long way from the top of the page. Or votes – right now the box changes to red when you click either yes or no, but a bunch of people aren’t clear on whether that means the vote has registered or not.

So we’re making a myriad of tweaks to these systems ahead of the full platform launch – this is exactly the sort of feedback we wanted when setting up the pilot phase. It’s great to have this data to work with, and based on the overall reaction to Collective so far, reassuring that those developers and core gamers that read about it – mostly – are pretty positive.

So what’s next? The crowdfunding phase!

Well, the three pilot projects have just under two weeks to go until the feedback phase closes. We’ve been pushing all of them in different places (our own comms channels, email distribution list, social networks, etc) since launch and we have a few more bits of activity to come. As we get closer to the pilot phase end date of Feb 23, I’ll be looking at the feedback and thinking about the crowdfund phase – here’s how that works.

Basically, if we think the community supports a concept enough – and that’s a case of looking at the total number of yes votes as well as the overall proportion of yes to no – we will offer the developer the chance to be part of our Indiegogo campaign page. At this point, if the developer is using their own IP, they can choose whether to accept or not, and if they don’t, they walk away without paying anything – no strings attached.

But if they do accept, it means a couple of things – first of all, we’ll notify everybody that voted yes when the crowdfunding campaign starts, which hopefully means a strong first day. For anybody that follows crowdfunding campaigns, you’ll know how important a strong start to a campaign actually is, and of course we’ll continue to use our Square Enix channels (media, social, etc) to promote the campaign itself – so that overall it’ll have a fair amount more exposure than might otherwise be the case.

The Team Assessment

But there’s an extra step before the campaign goes live – which is the team assessment. This takes the form of a questionnaire about your game’s development plans, about the tools, software and services you have/will need access to, and the expertise that the team has/will need to have in order to build the game. When you’ve returned that to us, we’ll schedule a call to talk it through, and we’ll then compile a report that just explains that stuff to potential backers.

However – the team assessment is not a guarantee that the game is going to be exactly as the developer promises. We’re not funding the game, and we’re not directing development, so only the developer can provide that guarantee – but we think it’s important that we can help the devs sense check their plans/capabilities/needs/budget/timeframe etc, and also that we can give that information to help the crowd really understand what’s behind the game’s development.

We won’t be giving teams a rating; it’s not an exercise to stigmatise people. We’ll share the report with the developer before they commit to the Indiegogo phase, so if they strongly disagree with that report they can change their minds about coming through crowdfunding with us – although, frankly, I don’t think that’s something we’ll find happens except in unusual circumstances.

So then the crowdfunding phase begins, and if the funding target is hit – and these campaigns will have to have fixed funding – then we take 5% of what’s left after the Indiegogo cut and credit card payment fees are taken out. And then you start (or continue) building the game.

Later there’s also the possibility for us to offer to distribute the finished game – we’ll have more information on what that entails in the future.

So when will submissions open again?

This is a question I’ve had quite a lot, so apologies for a lack of clear information on this. At the moment, the pilot phase is locked to the three projects you see right now. Once they’re done, we’ll be making some upgrades to the platform, and then a little after that we’ll open up the submission CMS – meaning that registered users will be able to start putting their content onto the Collective back end, and submitting for consideration.

Once a project is submitted, I’ll check it against our parameters (PC only, digital only, crowdfundable budget, no obvious copyright issues, whoever submits must be able to lead development); as long as it passes those checks, it’ll then go into the holding queue ready to publish. If it doesn’t, you’ll get an email explaining why. Developers will be able to edit one pitch at a time; once a project has been accepted you’ll be able to add another if you want to, while if it’s rejected you’ll be able to edit the original.

We’ll be publishing new projects every Monday – quite how many per week remains to be seen, and is dependent on how many pitches are submitted. It’s possible we may close submissions temporarily if demand is too high, as discoverability is very important to us – time will tell.

Right now I’m expecting submissions to open… drum roll please… in the second half of March, but keep checking the Collective website (or follow @SQEXCollective, or http://facebook.com/SquareEnixCollective) for more news and a specific date in due course.

If you have any questions, I’ll address them in the comments – or you can get me directly via email: [email protected]

Thanks for reading!

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