The Live Aid of Games?

As charity and giving back initiatives slowly become more commonplace in the games industry, some are also providing new economic opportunities for games companies the world over.

Even though it’s over 3 decades old, our (surely by now) mature industry could certainly boast a better track record when it comes to giving back to society. As a matter of fact, OneBigGame, the world’s first non-profit games publisher, was set up partially because of this strange situation. We felt it was slightly embarrassing that an industry continuously boasting it’s bigger than music and movies and worth some $40 billion, was doing so much less in terms of giving back than our entertainment industry cousins. 

So, taking our inspiration from the best entertainment industry charity case imaginable, Live Aid, we set out to see if we could do something similar for videogames: an industry-wide charity initiative, spearheaded by the industry’s most famous designers and developers. Initially, the idea was to create one big game, with voluntary contributions from a number of individual famous game designers, similar to the Band Aid hit single. Soon though, we realized it wouldn’t be industry-wide if limit it just to 10 or so people. Also, creating one big game would take several years and we wanted to see results more quickly.

Fortunately, we were helped by the growing popularity of casual games, indie style games, webgames and all other flawed monikers for small, bite sized chunks of game entertainment. If web portals and console channels with these games are economically viable (and increasingly they are), that means they could equally serve our purpose of raising funds for charity. So next to publishing one big game with a few individual designers, we looked at many small games, created by the development community at large.

Our proposal to developers, both famous individual names and studios, was simple and still the same: don’t give us money. Give us your time and creativity. In this case, give us a unique small casual game, potentially based on a brand you’re famous for, we’ll publish it and all profits will go to children’s charities the world over. It means that our non-profit publisher of OneBigGame suddenly becomes a casual games portal publisher, with some of the most unique casual games in the industry.

That portal is to launch later this year, and on it we‘ll be experimenting with all kinds of business models (subscriptions, pay per game, pay in-game, play for free ad-funded) to raise money for our charity partners.

Effectively then, OneBigGame, once it officially launches, will be entrepreneurial charity: different from traditional fundraising in the sense that it’s effectively a business with risks but also greater rewards; instead of relying on financial donations, OneBigGame takes in-kind donations (games) and multiplies them into profit, acting as an accelerator for fundraising. That’s not to say we won’t be doing any traditional fundraising at all. Next year for example, OneBigGame is organizing the OneBigBikeRide, a 1 week fund-raising cycle tour through California for games industry people keen to support our cause and who wish to have fun at the same time (sign up at onebiggame.org!).

Our core business remains fundraising through games though, hopefully with exponential growth. Not only should that prove beneficial to our children’s charity partners who will be receiving all OneBigGame’s profit at the end of each financial period, but our non-profit initiative also provides opportunities for developers who are participating.

First of all because we offer developers a 12 month time-frame during which we distribute their OneBigGame. After this, developers can do with the game whatever they want as long as it’s clear to our consumers that from that moment on, the game is no longer generating funds for OneBigGame. So once the game has proven popular on any of the OneBigGame distribution channels (and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, considering the amount of publicity the game is likely to receive), they can release their own version or a sequel for that matter.

Secondly, if developers are clever, they can have their casual OBG contribution coincide with any commercial project they are working on. A popular OneBigGame game related to a brand, may likely stir up interest in the brand that the developer is working on or about to release.

Finally, OneBigGame will provide full insight to each developer into how their game has generated revenue for charities, proving a unique opportunity for traditional developers to explore the casual gaming space or online distribution business models.

All developers who have jumped on board so far are doing this for pure philanthropic reasons and because they think it’s a great initiative. But at the same time, these developers are all doing it voluntarily and have to find time in their busy schedules to contribute. And if we can then also offer indirect advantages by participating, it helps in making the participation that bit more feasible. Simply put, we will do what we can to help them help us.

So OneBigGame, even if it’s a non-profit publisher, shouldn’t just be looked at as a charity. Instead, developers should realize the potential it offers as a launch pad for anything they are working on, whilst at the same time they can do something good for children the world over, who need our help 24/7.