The Corporation for Public Gaming

“Funds for this game were provided by The Corporation for Public Gaming.”

When television and radio started, different countries took different choices in how the airwaves would be regulated. In England, taxes are levied on all radios and television sets to fund programming. Some countries have all media run directly by the state. In the US, a free market economy was formulated to let market take charge of content generation; A commercial system. But with the commercial system, there was a call for providing content that wasn’t commercially sustainable but culturally important. Content of instructional, educational, and cultural significance that it’s commercially viable but very important. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 among others did this for television and radio in the United States. I want to have an additional organization for electronic entertainment media.

I’m going to use the title Corporation for Public Gaming’ (CPG) to put a title on the idea. Barack Obama calls this initiative “Public Gaming 2.0″ in his technology initiatives. I’m not sold on either of these names, but I’m going to go with CPG for the time being.

My vision for a CPG is a roll mostly as a publisher for interactive media projects. The CPG won’t create much as the organization itself, but fund though the use of grants and other funding venues to developers of whatever size. Then the CPG would enact venues of publishing content for free (or at cost) to the public.

Development Funding Model

As I mentioned, the development of titles will be based off of grands to developers. If the developers applying propose a project that fits the mission statement of the CPG, and the developer[s] demonstrate that they are competent enough to produce a finish title, they get funding for that project with situations attached as outlines in this document. Well, a bit more vetting would be involved, but that’s the idea.

The funding would be on the stipulation that the CPG can distribute the game in the public. No up-sells; No Demo only modes; The full title for the public. This means that while the funds can provide the complete cost of developing a title including salary of the work, there wouldn’t be royalties of any sort since it’s all non-profit. That’s the trade-off. However, this would be a super awesome way for smaller independent developers to get some titles under their belt. Yea jobs!

Distribution Model

The goal of the CPG is to provide titles for the public. Because most of new media titles can be transmitted over the Internet, this comes as a no-brainer for distribution for personal computers. Obviously the CPG would have a platform for distributing games on their own website. As long as this site can promote itself and it’s content well, the costs of maintaining this site would be mostly around bandwidth. My only concern is making sure that the children’s section is on it’s on from the more not-children content, but otherwise it’s all in the implementation.

Ultimately, I don’t see much distribution in a traditional retail sense for any platform. Selling physical objects is extremely expensive! With the Internet as a viable distribution model, there’s no real need for physical objects. That isn’t to say it is forbidden, just not likely and that’s OK. I could see a combo pack of a DVD of a collection of titles for anyone really wanting physical media. This is similar to how shows on PBS tag an offer for DVDs at the end of a program. Cost involved, but certainly not the only means of distribution.

What about the consoles?

The difficulty would be console development. I think it would be a sin to exclude console systems in this initiative. However, the console platforms aren’t exactly the most open and public-friendly things to deal with. About the only one that comes close would be Microsoft’s XNA where one can at least develop on their own, use any Windows PC, and develop a console game (albeit with restrictive licenses). The other players (Nintendo and Sony) don’t come close to this development availability but are trying to catch up.

The problems are when developers are applying for projects. A proposal that places a title for more than one platform would certainly give more points for being able to repurpose a title in more than one venue. For personal computing, this isn’t much a problem and I would even go so far as make PC/Mac/Linux requirement for personal computer platforms. But consoles aren’t very cross-platform in a number of ways. Not to mention that there are a host of NDAs, restrictions, and enormous costs involved in any development on a console. It may mean that console development will be more along the lines of porting the personal computer titles into console titles. This would mean the CPG would need to fund developers purely on porting efforts as only a select few would have the viability to develop. Though the most efficient would be targeting for the platform at the start.

As far as distribution, this would be much easier and actually attractive to the consoles. Each console in this generation has some form of Internet distribution of game titles. If the CPG can convince each console to distribute CPG games for free, then it’s win-win for everyone. The public who have these consoles can obtain CPG titles for free and each console can claim more titles on their service.

Industry Response

The only major reason I can see for a position against a CPG would be the idea CPG projects will take away from commercial development. The purpose of the CPG is not to make the same kinds of games the commercial market is already handling. While there’s a bit of a case with children’s games or companies like Leapfrog that may have some case, I don’t believe that the CPG would completely dominate that sector completely. Simply put: PBS didn’t kill commercial television programing. PBS provides content not provided by other commercial means. This is the roll that CPG plays: Providing content not commercially viable but worth funding.

Closing Thoughts

I realize that this idea focused on video games, but I wouldn’t want such an organization to limit only to making flash based games that migrate to consoles. This is but one of many sectors which a different approach of funding projects warrants a public venue of funding that isn’t fit by current mandates. Nor is this approach meant to ‘replace’ the existing Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ultimately, this is just a starting point. I’d love to know what you think about this topic. There’s more nitty gritty details I can put up, but I still don’t have a solid mission statement. So please, share your thoughts!

* Yes, I’m quickly passing over the history of public broadcasting to a paragraph. There’s a lot more that went into public broadcasting!