[Mana Rant] How To Do An Xbox Indie Charity Jam

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A few days back I read a forum thread from Dave Voyles of the Indie Games Summer Uprising about creating a game with the expressed intent to convince Microsoft to add achievements to the indies.  I know what achievements can do for that marketplace, however I’m not convinced that these games need achievements.  There are a lot more things needed on the marketplace before achievements should be implemented.

This idea he proposed did get me thinking about Firebase Industries.  In January, they donated all net profits of Orbitron Revolution to the BC Cancer Foundation’s Ride to Conquer Cancer event.  I’m really not sure what their sales totals were and if they did indeed meet their goal.  What I do know is that they have gone on record to say that “If someone wants to set it up we would be happy doing another weekend charity event with more dev and publicity support.”  They then added that this “needs MS dash support (sic).”

I’m not sure if other developers would agree to even be a part of an event like this, however I’ve seen first hand how generous gamers can be with all of this.  Dave had this great quote from his pitch: “there are 35 million active Xbox LIVE users. Would it be crazy to think that even 1% of those users (350,000 users) would be willing to throw in a buck to get this made? …it doesn’t hurt to try.” So I’ve been actively thinking it over trying to see how this would work and what factors need to be met for it to succeed.

[Making the Games]

There are actually quite a few ways to set up an event like this.  Firebase did the simple way and made it so their one game was donating all proceeds to charity between Day A and Day B.  It works with properties already established and helps to boost the brand, the developer and the event itself.  Should be a no brainer, but let’s look at other options.

Another version would to make a project from the ground up specifically for this event.  While this is a lot more complicated than selling your own wares for charity, having a game or games titled “A GAME FOR CHARITY” will get Microsoft and potential donators to look at you.  This seems like a simple solution akin to an indie jam that can be successful in a few different ways.

First is a group project.  A collaboration of developers, artists and musicians get together and create a really big awesome project which funds directly in to the charity event.  This is the easiest to create like the Indie Uprisings, but it comes with the most restrictions.  Hitting the right price would be key as this is the only revenue generator.  A major benefit allows for less kinks in getting the payments settled with only one property generating income.

Another option would be to run a system similar to the indie uprising.  Obviously Microsoft is not set up for bundle functionality, so this will be organized as an event similar to the Indie Uprising with a main website advertising which games are supporting this event.  This way we can get a large sampling of games that represent the marketplace.  The largest problem with this system will be collections.  Somebody will need to be responsible for collecting the money off these games.

If they are new properties, they should arguably be run under a single independent company.  If it’s a bundle of old properties, some management is going to have to be done to ensure all the money gets to where it belongs.  This is an extremely important step in validating this charity event.  Being able to prove numbers will also be important.  I know Onek Soft has a sales data analyzer that can be used for 3rd party verification.

[What to Charge]

You all know this is important on this marketplace.  Either way we look at it, these games will have to hit the $1, $5 and the highly unlikely but plausible $10 price range.  Posting $3 doesn’t cut it as it’s not an easy number for consumers to buy in points.  Depending on the scenarios outlined, the price will have to match the content available.  I know this is for charity, but people still want a deal.

Obviously this doesn’t matter with any titles already released on the market as their pricing is set.  However, that’s something that should be on people’s minds as Microsoft won’t let you put your money on something direct.

[Why This Needs Microsoft Support]

Microsoft support is a MAJOR thing that needs to be gathered for plenty of reasons.

First and foremost is to get that “NET” off of profits.  Not sure what every developers cut off the market is, but I’m assuming MS is taking somewhere around 30% of the money give or take.  If Microsoft can be petitioned to alleviate these restrictions to factor in processing fees or even to write it all off, this would change the perception of the event completely and would raise funds incredibly for the organization.

Second is the ability to advertise this as something Microsoft has sanctioned for these developers.  I might know who Adam Spragg Games is, but nobody else is going to trust those fundraisers.  People know who Microsoft is.  If Microsoft gives the okay, perception can increase and the event will gain a footing to stand on for the group to push on to media and donators.

The biggest thing the event could do is get official advertising from Microsoft.  Similar to how Microsoft sponsored the G3 event last year, this brings a host of major networks to push the product on.  Even something as small as a dashboard ad could multiply sales exponentially and ties in to raising perception on a central front.

[How To Get Microsoft Support]

First things first is that something has to be established.  A website, a company to run the event, and a meeting with the charity organizers to get all the appropriate paper work for your donation must be setup.  Make sure you know what is happening with the money from your hands to theirs.

Just saying you are donating the money isn’t going to cut it.

Once you have tax information and all of this set up, you have grounds to contact Microsoft reps and open a line of dialog about this event.  This doesn’t mean they will support it, but talking to officials from marketing to support side will make this better for everyone.

This will unfortunately be up to the developers as I’m not aware of the hierarchy you all have to deal with.  Larry Hyrb and [email protected] seems like a decent place to start.

[What Happens if Microsoft is Unwilling to Support This]

That would suck.  It’s not the end of the world though.  This has to start somewhere and the indie mentality has always been about raising awareness.  Whether it’s through the quality of the product or the creativity in design, indies have been fighting to put their showcase what they can do.  If the event is highly successful, it will showcase to Microsoft that an organized event like this can yield positive returns.  It also will put pressure on them to reduce their fees for future events.

Advertising will have to also follow an event similar to the Humble Bundle or Summer Uprising promotions.

I’m not sure if getting advanced codes will work, so I’m just going to assume a code system like Humble Bundle is impossible with Microsoft’s restrictions.  This means media campaigns and social networking.  The community has a lot of different outlets and options available.  However, the event will need a set promotional site.

The Winter Uprising became an event that Microsoft eventually caved in to support.  Same happened with the Summer Uprising.  It shouldn’t be impossible for this to happen for a charity event.

[Good Luck]
These are just a few ideas of where to get started on an event like this.So far, I’ve seen indie developers raise a lot of money on alternate platforms for charity and it is simply ridiculous to think the Indie Marketplace can’t achieve the same.  Doubly so when the market actually has people with extra change sitting there doing nothing.  The marketplace is currently buried and any push for advertising would be a great step forward.  
This is simply an open call for discussion.  I know that Firebase and a few others are throwing ideas around, so interest is indeed there.  Hopefully, the Xbox Indie Games market can do something more and raise some money to help people in need.
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About Author

(Senior Writer)

I have been gaming for 20 years and have seen this industry go from one geared towards children, to one that has grown to accept all demographics. I've grown up side by side with video games and I've seen it turn into this phenomenon. Of course I also enjoy entertainment in all mediums whether it be film, book or sports. I'm just a huge nerd that loves writing about his hobbies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405473713 Dusan

    It’s great when we get srrupised by our own fullness, and learn of that in others. I too have the photo thing, have taught courses in digital photography (there’s always a market for thatpeople so want to know how to use these tools.) With my recent jump into blogging I made a choice to work only with the small pin hole camera that comes in the blackberry curve. Working with those limitations, or parameters, is helping me grow. Giving time and energy to support others always pays off in a way greater than our gift. Few people seem to recognize this. Even when the results sought do not materialize (i.e. my hopes for AHA in Austin today) generosity changes things each and every time.Richard Reeve’s last blog post..