Our friends over at IC Tomorrow recently contacted us with some information on various activities they’ve got planned that may be of interest to you:

1) ‘Digital innovation Contest – Data’

There is still time to apply for the IC tomorrow ‘Digital Innovation Contest – Data’ with £125K of funding available for innovative products and services, which explore the potential of working with multiple data sources.

Video briefings from each of the five contest partners: Ingram Content Group, digital communications group EE Limited, Ordnance Survey, Birmingham Community, Healthcare Trust and the British Library are now available online. These provide valuable insights into the motivations behind the challenges; the platforms, tools and datasets available for the contest; as well as highlighting the potential opportunities for collaboration with digital start-ups. Watch the videos: http://bit.ly/1mynbMo

The contest is open to EU-based start-ups and SMEs; it is not necessary to have an existing app or service to apply, or to be currently active in the challenge sectors.

Deadline for submissions: Noon on Wednesday 7th May 2014.

Briefing videos: http://bit.ly/1mynbMo

Find out more about the competition and to make an application go tohttp://bit.ly/dicdata

2) Learning Technologies: Design for Impact – Partner Finding Workshops

The Technology Strategy Board, IC tomorrow, the Knowledge Transfer Network, and the Education Foundation will be running a series of knowledge sharing and partner finding workshops that will highlight the challenges and opportunities specific to the design, adoption and implementation of digital technologies in the education sector used for learning and teaching.

These workshops will also provide information on the forthcoming Technology Strategy Board £1.1m Learning Technologies: Design for Impact competition.

Book a place at the free IC tomorrow ‘Digital Learning Workshop’ London briefing and partner finding event on Tuesday 6th May, 17.00-20.00 at Nesta: http://ow.ly/vwnYu

Information on the full UK briefing events programme can be found on the Technology Strategy Board website: http://ow.ly/w4SI8

3) IC tomorrow ‘Drop In’ Meet the Digital Team

Drop in, meet up, find out, apply…

If you are seeking opportunities to develop your digital product or service, looking for potential collaborators or just need hints or tips on securing funding, then this IC tomorrow event is for you.

Attendees will have the chance to meet key members of the Technology Strategy Board digital team and IC tomorrow representatives and if you have something you would like to share, then you can book a 5-minute slot and a projector (subject to availability) on the day. Please email ictomorrow@innovateuk.org to secure a space.

Details: Thursday 15th May, 13.00-15.00, IC tomorrow Offices, C A N Mezzanine, 49-51 East Road, London, N1 6AH.

More information:http://ow.ly/wemDO

More activities to follow next week!

KG

Mike Enoch, Portolio Manager, writes about his experiences at GDC 2014.

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The last time I attended GDC was around seven years ago, just before the boom in smartphones, at a time when virtual worlds and MMORPGS were all the rage and web-based free-to-play games were just starting to get noticed as big money spinners in the East. Perhaps my memory of the event is skewed as we’d just released Crackdown on the Xbox 360,  but I recall the focus was very much still on AAA console development at the time.  Xbox Live Arcade was seen as an upcoming space for independent developers (note that these were largely small studios rather than individuals at the time) and your best score in the Geometry Wars tournament was a popular topic over after-show drinks.

This year couldn’t be more different  –  the show itself is bigger,  with a record number of attendees and a vast array of tracks focussing not just on the usual job titles (programming, art, design, audio, etc.) but also on specific segments of the industry;  free-to-play, mobile and tablet, advocacy and so on.  The result is huge range of knowledge being shared,  with attendees having to be highly selective and decide whether they can really justify the nostalgic sessions about classic games and studios vs sessions focusing on their current business interests (sadly I myself had to skip Koji Igarashi’s talk on Metroidvania games).

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Communities of developers could be spotted flocking to the sessions most relevant to them: console developers with a series of highly specialised sessions within each discipline;  indies with their multiple hats taking on broader topics,  or discussing the merits of various platforms and strategies for getting noticed;  and a much more intense focus on the business of games,  economics of free-to-play markets and virtual goods, advertising and marketing. The range of topics and the size of the groups going along to each was much greater than I’ve seen before.

Overall I think GDC demonstrated that the industry is in good health with a much larger market and a much broader range of target platforms and demographics.  More so than ever before I think it’s becoming very important for developers to think about what they are making, who they are targeting,  and how best to achieve their goals.  There isn’t really a clear route to success;  instead it comes from recognising our own strengths and weaknesses,  focusing our efforts where it counts,  and ultimately choosing our own adventure in this crazy world of opportunities.

Paul Durrant, Director of Business Development, has been featured on the Connected Digital Economy website writing about the challenges facing the growth of digital innovation. This honest and thought-provoking blog entry, focusing on both investee and investor weaknesses, is well worth a read.

 

 

 

Stormcloud Games were at Edinburgh Zoo this weekend promoting their game Mr Shingu’s Paper Zoo.  Taking a bunch of devices, helpers and even a panda the team were inundated with interest from the general public in the game.

Frank Arnot from Stormcloud describes Mr Shingu’s Paper Zoo as “origami meets Tamagotchi”, encouraging children to fold and care for origami animals on an iPad, iPhone or Android phone or tablet.  A hugely popular feature of the game is the option offered to players to make origami animals in real life, a prominent feature in the event at Edinburgh zoo where users could play the game and then fold their own animals.  The paper pandas were surprisingly popular! 

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Stormcloud reported a small spike in sales after the event at the zoo but the biggest impact for the company has been the extensive user testing feedback such a promotional session can offer.  In just a short space of time Frank, the panda and the Stormcloud volunteers helped hundreds of children play the game, witnessing first-hand what delighted and thrilled, and what proved to be more challenging or frustrating.  Knowing what works and what doesn’t in a game for your target audience can be the most powerful tool in a developer’s arsenal. 

Mr Shingu’s Paper Zoo, as well as the cuddly panda mascot, no doubt have a new legion of fans thanks to the work with Edinburgh Zoo. 

KG

The Prototype Fund hosted a networking event in Shoreditch last week with a group of start-up games developers and invited guests.

Representatives from Sega,  Sony,  Microsoft,  Channel 4,  the Technology Strategy Board,  private investors and many others attended the event for an exclusive preview of over 20 games and digital products from UK-wide independent games developers.

The event at Modern Jago in Shoreditch saw over 80 people from the games industry and further afield together for the afternoon,  with the overall objective of bringing together a selection of funded projects and external parties with potential interest in working with the developers.

Paul Durrant,  Director of Business Development at Abertay said,  “We’re delighted to help facilitate the beginnings of productive working relationships by hosting the first ever Prototype Fund Showcase Event in central London.  The Prototype Fund has been running for almost 3 years and in that time we’ve awarded grants of £25,000 to over 60 companies across the UK for the development of their interactive digital IP.  Many of those we’ve supported are now in a position to showcase their products to interested parties;  with our extensive network of contacts within the gaming industry we want to help them do that.  The Prototype Fund project was set up to support fledgling and start-up games companies in this ever-changing industry.  We are also working on what comes next and we are actively fund raising and developing new funding partnerships for the next phase of the fund.  The Shoreditch event allowed us to continue those discussions in the context of our portfolio.”

The Prototype Fund project has been shortlisted for the Business Development award at the prestigious Develop Awards to take place this July in Brighton and has attracted considerable support from the portfolio companies along the way.

KG

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We’re delighted to announce that the Prototype Fund has been short listed for the Business Development Develop Award 2013. The Prototype Team has worked hard over the last few years to do what we can to support SMEs in the games sector; from the grants we provide to successful applicants, to setting up workshops where possible with industry experts on important business development skills such as marketing – we do all that we can to help the companies we work with be the best that they can be.

Thanks to all those who’ve supported this nomination. We look forward to the ceremony in Brighton in the summer!

KG

I was asked to chair a panel discussion on the topic of Managing Creative Teams in Dundee yesterday; I had prepared a few questions but was going into the session having not really thought much about how the discussion may go.

The panel was made up of several companies funded by the Prototype Fund, each at different stages in their business. I have to say the conversation flowed easily; the energy around the topic was evident and I was delighted to welcome a highly engaged audience to the discussion.

The panel made some interesting points about the Management of Creative Teams that got me thinking, is this true for all applicants to our Fund?

  • Don’t be scared of failure – in the creative industries failure is likely. The best companies often fail, but when they do, they pick themselves up and carry on.
  • Never underestimate the importance of ‘people skills’; being able to manage egos, conflict (constructive or otherwise) and delegation is a huge part of what can make or break a company.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are times in the life of all start-ups where help is needed, whatever the area of the business concerned.

With that last point in mind it’s worth reminding readers that any potential applicants to the current round are welcome to submit a one page overview of their proposal before completing an application form.

KG

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The Prototype Team and a group of grant recipients were in London this month to attend a marketing workshop focused around Acquiring and Retaining Players. Hosted by professional marketing executives from Squared the aim of the session was to help start-ups understand what’s needed to make a brilliant game commercially successful using tried and tested, as well as new and innovative, marketing techniques.

Guestspeakers included Kiip EMEA Director, Eamonn Carey and Howard Kingston from I Am Playr/We R Interactive.

Howard’s session focused on the lessons learned from I Am Playr, how the game acquired 3 million users in just 6 months.

It was highly recommended to the group that when setting marketing strategies they consider using the tried and tested SMART objective framework.

Objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

One of the key takeaways for us was the warning to beware vanity metrics; the number of Twitter followers a project or company has, for example, is often cited in applications made to the Fund as being a key metric to consider when projecting commercial success. But online social interaction is just one small piece of a very large and complex jigsaw; the numbers have real resonance when they translate to sales.

Having looked at how games companies might best set commercial objectives, we then looked at a metric framework with a very memorable mnemonic:

AARRR metrics

  • Acquisition – getting the product to the customer
  • Activation – having the customer use the product
  • Retention – losing customers at this stage is easy, getting the numbers back on an even keel is much harder. This can be the most difficult, but most important, number to maintain and grow
  • Referral  – having the customer recommend the product
  • Revenue  – making money!

The whole day, from Howard and Eamon’s speaker slots to the hands on practical with the Squares, provided a useful tool to the Prototype Team when assessing the importance of marketing strategies in applications to the Fund and, of course, to our funded companies who could take the learning on best practice to their own projects.

Our thanks to Squared for helping organise a fantastic day.

KG

2013 has already proven to be full of exciting news in the games industry, with the anticipation building around the launch of new consoles and annual predictions about the future trends in technology. Here we take a look back at the trends we’ve seen over the course of the Prototype Fund and look forward to whatever 2013 may bring.  

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen the very real fluctuations in the games industry reflected in the applications we’ve received. We’ve had over 300 applications to the Fund so far, many of which have come from start-ups. We’ve also seen a marked change in the target platforms from our applications; from Facebook and other social media sites making up the majority of platforms from our very first round back in 2010, to iOS and Android being the dominant platform of preference more recently.

The same can be said for business plans and planned routes to market. Studios now have a wealth of options available to them, from freemium monetisation models to funding their project through crowdfunding (Kickstarter being the runaway success). There’s no longer a “one size fits all” approach to games development.

The number of applications we’ve had is testament to the agility of the industry; as big name studios closed, indie start-ups opened.

So what will 2013 bring? Will we see more applications from companies targeting non-mainstream platforms? Only time will tell. We look forward to finding out!

KG

BBC Radio Scotland interview

Gillian Marles from the Business Scotland recently visited the Prototype Fund studio and spoke to our Director of Business Development, Paul Durrant, as well as grant recipients Quartic Llama. Focusing on developing gaming companies, the show explores how important the 25% tax relief recently announced in the budget is for the future of the industry.

Listen out for mention of the Prototype Fund and the work we do to support the games industry both in Dundee and across the UK.