InGAME: Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise

Lead Research Organisation: University of Abertay Dundee
Department Name: Sch of Arts Media and Computer Games

Abstract

As cultural artefacts, video games are complex, multi-faceted products that encompass creative practices from character and narrative, interaction and gameplay design, architecture, product and environment design to sound design and composition. Technically they bring together software engineering with maths and physics, AI with networks and user data. Bring these together with a dynamic and competitive commercial environment and a disrupted technology environment and a growing cultural significance and you can begin to appreciate the challenges faced by this industry. SMEs operating in the video games sector are subject to technological, market and platform disruption where platform access and 'discoverability' are significant challenges to product viability. These factors are exerting a downward pressure on innovation and the creation of original IP in the Dundee cluster. The InGame partnership will pursue a highly collaborative, embedded approach to R&D by establishing a dedicated a R&D centre at the heart of the cluster. Artists, designers and creative writers will be co-located with technologists and business specialists to offer a dynamic and responsive resource to engage with three significant high-level challenges - consolidated from issues raised through local consultation, a survey of over 700 UK games studios and the trade body's blueprint for growth - where combined collaborative R&D could lead to significant growth, sustainability and intensification for the computer games cluster in Dundee.

Creative Risk: Over the last decade the dominant business model in the Dundee games cluster has shifted from a publishing model where development costs are borne by the publisher in advance of sales income; to a platform model where individual games companies carry the cost of development in return for as larger proportion of the sales revenue. As a consequence the risk attendant with the development of original IP for the games market is, more often than not, fatal for start-up and micro-SME studios.

Technological Innovation: Working practices in this cluster are characteristically solution focused and iterative, and often inventive and ingenious. However, technology innovations are not systematically captured or tested for generalization or re-use value. Commercial pressure on value chains has inhibited SMEs from taking on the risk of high-value innovation activity resulting in lost economic opportunity and inhibited cluster growth.

Organisational Development: The cluster is characterized by a high number of dynamic micro-SMEs creating content for mobile, tablet and PC gaming platforms. The city is also home to a smaller number of mid-sized SME's with established product portfolios ranging from original franchises, sub-contracted development for established franchises and studios developing games for console. There is a growing professional services sector (accountancy, legal) and cultural scene (galleries and events). R&D in organisational development in this context relates to start-up at company level through to cluster and ecosystem development.

The education sector is foundational to the cluster; Abertay University's Center for Excellence in Computer Games Education is characterised by active and mature collaboration between businesses, universities, and agencies of every scale. The University's longstanding relationship with national and multi-national games companies offers a unique opportunity to catalyse the value chain in the Dundee cluster. The academic partnership with Dundee University in Design for Business, and St Andrews School of Management's expertise in Creative Industries offers a world-leading research base for the R&D partnership. The InGAME R&D Center and cohort of Creative R&D Fellows will establish a new mode of engagement for industry and universities to work effectively and responsively to meet the challenge of cross-sector collaborative R&D in the Creative Industries.

Planned Impact

InGAME Experimentation, will provide SMEs with access to partners to engage with creative experimentation utilising new and emerging games technologies and explore new audiences and interdisciplinary working relationships to rapidly prototype and test ideas to,
-Develop experimental processes for the generation of original creative content for new audiences
-Promote diversification of new product development through the novel application of games principles, processes and technologies in non-games contexts
-Innovate the use of digital/networked technologies for games and interactive entertainment
-Embed business modelling, user analytics and service design at the design stage

Creation of original IP will intensify and diversify the creative output of the cluster converting speculative content creation into product and service development to engage new audiences and new markets. Embedding user engagement, monetisation and service delivery in development will support the commercial potential of new content leading to increased profitability, sustainability and cluster intensification. R&D Fellows will work with projects to capture and develop experimental processes, undertake evaluation and assessment of processes to develop reproducible and repeatable benefits.

InGAME Intensification, delivers organizational development support that allows for cooperative engagement to provide scale while firms retain independence and innovative, outward looking potential. The partnership will,
-Establish new cross-sectoral networks that promote innovation and interdisciplinary creative practice
-Promote design-led product development that draw on successful models in related industries
-Develop new company formation and growth pipelines that develop and deliver competencies that support transitions across start-up, acceleration and growth
- Capture and distribute expertise and intelligence held in the to address the loss of experience from talent migration

To stabilise the dynamic turnover of micro-SMEs R&D will be aimed at developing resilient start-up, growth and sustainability plans for companies at all stages. Expert advice on design-led product and service development, audience and market engagement strategies that align with company growth cycles will reduce attrition rates in SMEs, and deliver company resilience leading to cluster growth.

InGAME Exploitation will identify technology and process innovations that have potential as standalone products, and will develop novel solutions and opportunities for commercialisation. The partnership will support new technology innovation by,
-Establishing a technology innovation assessment panel
-Developing rapid prototyping processes focussed on developing new technology products
-Providing access to a digital testbed to innovate next generation connected technologies
-Putting AI, machine learning and data analysis technology at the heart of technology innovation

Helping companies to undertake technology assessment aimed at identifying new technologies, processes and services with market potential. Companies will access development support and expert technology exploitation support to open up new commercial opportunities and markets.

The R&D voucher scheme and partner network, InGAME will deliver an integrated R&D, prototyping and product development service that will support companies to innovate new technologies for established and emerging markets, technologies and processes. The impact of this package of support will deliver,
-Increased profitability and sustainability in companies through high value original IP and technology innovation
-Cluster growth and diversification through interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration, market development and new audience and sector engagement
-improved growth, intensity and resilience in the cluster through dedicated, bespoke business modelling, market intelligence, and company and sector development

Publications

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