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Q&A: OneBigGame's de Ronde - Creating The LiveAid Of Games?

In this Gamasutra Q&A, we talk with OneBigGame's Martin de Ronde about his hopes to see simple, casual Flash games from big name designers raise money for worldwide children's charities, also discussing the goals and wider future prospects for his 'game i
In March of this year, shortly before GDC, former Guerrilla Games (Killzone) co-founder Martin de Ronde announced OneBigGame, a non-profit video game publisher dedicated to raising money for children's charities around the world. According to a statement at the time, the group had already garnered the support of a number of notable developers and designers, including Charles Cecil (Revolution Software), Eric Zimmerman (Gamelab), Ernest Adams (International Hobo), Avalanche Studios, Relentless, Kuju and Freestyle, prior to fully going public. Following the GDC announcement we talked with de Ronde to learn more about the organization's genesis, its goals, and how it will be shaping itself in the future. (Developers interested in volunteering or learning more can visit OneBigGame's website for more information.) I know you've previously mentioned LiveAid as an inspiration for OneBigGame -- can you talk a bit about how and when you were inspired to start the organization? Did it come out of talks with colleagues or was it late-night inspiration? It literally was a late-night inspiration. I was watching a documentary on the 20th anniversary of Band Aid and said to myself: Why shouldn't something similar be possible in the games industry? I then sat down with a number of friends and colleagues from the industry to test the water and we then started shaping the plans based on that original idea. Throughout 2006 we laid the foundations, and we officially started on the 1st of January, announcing our venture just before GDC. What were the reactions like to the GDC announcement? Response at GDC was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people want to help us in whatever way they can and I am pleased to say that our industry appears to be full of people who are keen to do something good. Next to original games, which is the main thing we ask people to donate, we had people offering us all kinds of services, ranging from next-gen middleware engines to PR services to graphic design skills. What stage is the company in at the moment? Have you started to receive any definite plans for games, or games themselves? We are currently talking to a number of developers to create the first content for our portal, and we hope to start development on this first batch of games soon. We are looking to launch the portal in the first half of 2008 with a small number of launch titles, after which games will be added on a regular basis. Has it been difficult to convince studios to allocate valuable resources? Getting people excited abut the initiative has not been difficult. Nearly everybody we have spoken to wants to contribute. Of course there are time pressures and restraints for all developers and each one has a different solution. Nearly all the developers we spoke to are working on their next-gen masterpieces and are generously carving out time to create small casual games for our charity initiative. Other developers said that they are able to make good use of down time in between projects. Some other studios as well as individual designers (including one man bands) are looking to work with talented teams at universities or schools to shape their contribution. Needless to say, these students would give their left arm to work with well known designers on a game and for studios it may also be a good way to recruit new talent. Finally, some designers are considering working with small independent developers and there have even been well known but small development studios that hinted at collaborating with a larger (befriended) studio (with ample resources) to shape their contribution. Where has funding for the company come from? Are you asking industry companies for charitable donations? The company is privately funded at the moment, but we are currently soliciting for donations from the bigger companies in our industry, grants from foundations as well as money from corporate sponsors. Has there been or are you planning on industry-wide collaborations on bigger games, or do you expect to collect a number of smaller titles from individuals and studios? The initial focus will be to ask top designers and top development studios to individually create a small casual game, either based on an existing IP that they own or something completely original for OneBigGame. That could be a pet project that somebody in the studio has been working on, could be an enhanced mini-game from their upcoming masterpiece, could be a side story, basically, it could be anything. We will leave the developers free to do what they want, with our only guideline being that the game should be original (it hasnt been released yet) and should not contain over the top excessive violence. In the longer run, we may decide to commission projects and even fund these ourselves, which could indeed be bigger games and could also involve a collaboration of talent. Are there any requests specific for political/awareness based games? Our games will simply be entertainment titles first and foremost. We will leave developers free to incorporate a message, but its not required. Far from it. When all these artists were performing at the Live Aid concerts all those years ago, they were singing their own songs, not songs about the message of that day. That message still came through just as our message will come through on our website and through the marketing surrounding the release of our games. Are you open to submissions from independent or un-established developers or are you looking primarily to big names to help sell games Big names will lead the charge, but I really would like to see the development community at large contribute to OneBigGame. There is so much talent out there, proven again by the quality of the Independent Games Festival awards, and I would like to call upon these developers to approach us with their ideas. Can you talk a bit about how you plan on delivering content? OneBigGame will have its own portal where people can play or download the games. In addition, we are looking to establish distribution agreements with large aggregators and well-known digital distribution services to syndicate our content so that we may reach more people and raise more money and awareness for charity. Have you talked with any of the console manufacturers about distribution to the living room? There have been no official talks yet. Are there plans for retail distribution as well? Yes, we will be looking at all options to maximize our reach in order to raise money for the charities we will be supporting. Where do you see the organization in 5 years? Is this a one-off event or something you plan to extend? It started life as an idea for a one-off event, but we soon realized that OneBigGame could become an umbrella brand for bringing hundreds of games to market for the sake of charity, and so the idea for the non-profit publisher of videogames was born. I hope in 5 years time we will have laid the foundation for a company that is here to stay, that we will have raised considerable amounts of money for our charities and that we have shown how this industry, with all its creative people, can do something good for the world. Do you foresee a time where the company could support itself as a non-profit doing full commercial (even if smaller, say handheld, for instance) titles rather than casual Flash games? Yes, in the future, OneBigGame may re-invest some of the revenues it generates in the creation of specifically commissioned games, but only if these games will indeed be furthering the causes OneBigGame supports, likely bigger ones than the games we can hope to receive from developers in their down time. Finally, I remember you expressing some interest in the One Laptop Per Child campaign -- what's been your reaction to what they're doing, and have you talked with them about partnering on any initiatives? We haven't had any official talks with them yet, I only briefly spoke to them at GDC. All I can say is that I really like their initiative and I would love to see if we could work together. I think the idea is great and I was pleased to see so many developers interested in developing for it. Again a sign of people wanting to give back to society.

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