INplay 2010 Recap 

I missed posting about the nextMEDIA conference a few months back, so I figured I’d do a brief recap of INplay 2010.


The swanky Liberty Grand venue.

INplay is a kids media event with a loose focus on interactive products. Since most of our cash flow still comes from work-for-hire, I attended the show in order to meet potential partners.

Here are my notes from the 2-day event:

  • Somewhat surprisingly, TV representatives were fairly lukewarm about funding game development based on their IP’s. My guess is that this was mainly due to a somewhat recent tendency to foster in-house studios, and the fact that everyone is still waiting to see where the chips fall from the Telefilm/CMF transition.
  • Shaw has joined Bell, OMDC and the CMF with a small TV media fund, and individual TV producers (i.e., people who create custom teams to pitch for show concepts) were much more optimistic about the future. We received a few tentative proposals based on these funds, but they were obviously contingent on first getting the actual funding.
  • Pretty much everyone I talked to had worked with Flash-based web games at some point, but was interested in exploring other platforms. The iPhone was still seen as mostly a marketing tool, not a revenue generating one, but Unity was making some headways. Most people knew what it was, and many were interested in trying it out or were in the early stages of actually using it to create content.Interestingly enough, the major hurdle for Unity didn’t seem to be the need for a downloadable plugin, but rather the fact that it would splinter an existing site’s portfolio, i.e., if all the games on the website were in Flash, broadcasters were hesitant to add other formats to the mix.

1-on-1 meetings by a fireplace. Told you it was swanky.

  • We received some interest from broadcasters outside of North America, but it was all for smaller scale projects (under 50k).
  • The US broadcasters and toy manufacturers still hold the biggest IP’s and are currently the only solid option for large, branding-based games.
  • Funding for Flash games seems to have decreased on a global scale. Projects that used to cost 50k are now being pitched with 15k budgets in mind.
  • There’s still a decent amount of buzz about alternate — or enhanced — reality games, but the interested parties seemed very naive about their scope and technical potential.

Hanging out by the entrance after I grilled Nathan of Capy and Damir of Big Blue Bubble on videogame agents.

  • The most solid contract leads we received actually came from other developers who were either looking for outsourcing help or offered to pass on some work they declined.
  • Everyone loved the iPad, but no one seemed to have a realistic plan of how to use it to actually make money.

All in all the conference was great for networking, but, at least on a local scale, we’re all going to have to wait and see what happens with the CMF before we get a better idea of the funding opportunities out there.

Posted by Radek Koncewicz
@JustRadek, designer at Incubator Games
Ryan Henson Creighton Says:

“INplay is a kids media event with a loose focus on interactive products.”

With that, you’ve summed up what i feel was wrong with the conference. Agreed – the networking was the most valuable aspect, but the IN is supposed to refer to INTERACTIVE. Instead of bleeding-edge content and useful take-aways, we got a room full of television people discovering (for presumably the first time) that the iPhone is not the cash cow they were led to believe it was when the Globe & Mail broke the news about the device two months ago.

i honestly feel like i’m going back in time when i attend these interactive ontario events. i’d be thrilled to see them put together an event targeted at actual interactive industry people, not television people, with challenging aspirational content that i’ve never heard before.

Regarding the CMF, i just heard shocking news yesterday that they takes a percentage share of whatever IP they fund. If they put in 50% of the cash, they own 50% of the IP. The *IP*, not the project. That means they own 50% of any and all sequels, merchandising, etc.

Radek Says:

Well, I suppose Interactive Ontario’s GameOn Finance event was just that — a conference aimed at developers of interactive entertainment — but I can see how those shows are a bit more difficult to organize. Historically speaking, Canada has had lots of support from the government when it comes to TV/film funding; maybe not huge amounts, but enough to provide a starting boost. Since virtually all videogame funds piggy-back on top of these programs, and the panels that discuss them are usually a big draw, I’m not too surprised to see local conferences try to include both industries.

Ontario’s not a huge hotbed of developers either, at least not yet, so it’ll probably be a while before we get our own GDC.

Anyway, INplay’s panels that discussed interactive media were fairly unenlightening, but in a way that’s OK since so many participants were not experts of our industry. It gave developers like myself, you, Tony, etc., some talking points during all the networking opportunities, which were quite good.

As for the CMF, I heard that a prerequisite of the fund was giving up partial ownership of a project, but I didn’t realize it was proportional to the funding and carried across an entire IP. Where did you hear/read this?

Ryan Henson Creighton Says:

Radek – i heard it from someone in the know, and it’s been partially confirmed by others. The CMF is such a fustercluck of information to begin with; i don’t have the wherewithall to sort through it myself, so i subsist on rumours and innuendo.

We have our own events and groups, and naturally the Ontario television people have never heard of them (nor do they care, in any likelihood): Gamercamp, TOJam, the Hand Eye Society, the Artsy Games Incubator, FITC, the Toronto Mobile User Group, the Toronto Flash User Group, Flex Camp, SproutUp, DemoCamp … the useful content is coming from bona fide industry people, not a politically angling (so-called) industry association pandering to an entirely different industry.

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Jason J Kee Says:

“Regarding the CMF, i just heard shocking news yesterday that they takes a percentage share of whatever IP they fund. If they put in 50% of the cash, they own 50% of the IP. The *IP*, not the project. That means they own 50% of any and all sequels, merchandising, etc.”

My understanding is that the CMF is still developing their rules regarding “equity” and “profit participation” (eg taking an ownership interest in the IP to guarantee profit participation in all exploitation of the IP). While initial proposals were along the lines of what you described (primarily because this is how the funding works in television, and it was assumed the same model would work for interactive), but after a number of folks on the games and interactive side reacted negatively, they’re reconsidering. Last I’d heard is that the CMF expects to release the “equity” rules for the experimental stream sometime in early to mid June.

Radek Says:

Well, yes, the CMF has been a little confusing so far. Every time I hear about it, some fairly major news seems to pop-up. It’s also very odd that they’d announce the details of their profit-sharing structure in early-to-mid June, when the deadline for the application itself (at least the first round) is June 21st.

Do you have any more info or references that discuss this, Jason?

CaRteR Says:

Ryan, the reason why they take a percentage of the IP is because film/tv people have no fear of selling IP. And that is because they know how to negotiate extremely good contracts that allow the IP owners to whom they sell the ability to pay them in every conceivable way for how the IP is exploited. Many a film writer or director has gotten very very wealthy doing it this way.

It’s the way I really really wish the game industry would function because it has the effect of freeing up creators from the need to manage IP.

The only thing you’re left to worry about it is creative control, but those terms too can be contracted without the need to actually own anything.

CaRteR Says:

One thing that bothers me about game people is the way they come out of a junior industry that evolved in just the past couple of years inside a bubble, and decide they have nothing to learn from a mature, creative industry that has been around for almost a century and has fostered a medium that is culturally relevant to far more people than games.

Ryan Henson Creighton Says:

CaRteR – teevee has 60 years on games – i would *hope* it would be culturally relevant to far more people with that kind of head start.

But just as radio was put out to pasture and relegated to providing background noise at hardware stores and auto body shops, we’ll take teevee to a pleasant place where its food is pre-chewed and the grandkids visit at Hannukah. Don’t worry. Teevee will be well look-after.

Point taken about teevee and IP contracts. But since the industry is so young, and since many of the players are extremely small shops, there’s a very high potential for these people to get completely screwed. It’ll be like trading beads and blankets to the First Nations. i worry about smallpox wiping out the industry. And by smallpox, i mean television broadcasters.