Announced on Wednesday, February 12th, via a Xbox Wire article; Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios will be partnering with Unity Technologies in the creation of “Xbox Game Studios Game Camp” in New Orleans!
The news comes way of the 2nd annual Louisiana Entertainment Summit which was held this week. The partnership with Microsoft and Unity is centered around the aspiring game developers of every trade by having them work with industry leaders and mentors throughout the duration of the camp; whether they are a programmer, artist, sound designer, level designer, management, etc.
The program is open to all game developers of any skill level, and will take place starting April 24th and lasting until September 24th, meaning the camp’s duration is 5 months. The program will sort participants into various groups based on their common interests in both game concept and platform development. They’ll work alongside industry leaders from Xbox Game Studios as well as Unity Development mentors to work on their projects. Work spaces are being provided to all groups by Xbox Game Studios and their partners to give all developers an area to create their games.
Unity Entertainment is a big player in the creation the camp, being an industry leader as far as real time 3D development platform. They’ll be providing participants licenses to all of Unity’s products as well as onsite support staff to work with development teams through any issues or questions that may arise during the development cycle.
Another big key player in the Xbox Game Studios Game Camp is Autodesk, who’s a leader in 3D design and engineering. Autodesk will be providing various softwares and tools to aid in development, as well as provide software support similar to Unity Entertainment.
With all these companies working with one another to give developers the time, space, and tools, the goal of the five month long program is to have games ready to be displayed at an Expo taken place the day the program ends on September 24th. The expo will be open to those within industry and the games will be displayed and tested by industry leaders.
Applicants interested in participating in the program can find new information on the program soon on Xbox's official website. The Portal to register opens on March 9th, and more details will be given at that time.
What makes Game Camp so interesting?
All of the news is interesting for a wide range of reasons, the biggest I feel is the creation of news games and what it could lead. This is very similar to a game jam, or any other program where devs just try and create a game under a time constrain or under various conditions. Events such as Train Jam challenged developers to make a game while on a moving train traveling for 52 hours, or Global Game Jam which centers around new themes every January. There is an entire list of smaller indie game jams found here.
Xbox Game Studios Game Camp is a little different though, as the program is designed to be 5 months. Most Game Jams are typically a few days or weeks at the most, but Xbox Game Studios Game Camps is a 5 month experience. With the amount of time and support by Microsoft, Unity, Autodesk, and various partners, applicants can possibility create something magical. Just taking a look at past Game Jam success stories, games created within 48 hours or even a week have grown and became culture icons in the gaming space.
Goat Simulator is a prime example of a Game Jam game success story, which was originally designed as a physics engine in a in-house game jam by Coffee Stain Studios. Goat Simulator was a silly concept the team just had fun making within a few short weeks, and the game eventually generated $12 million in revenue, making 6 times the amount of their previous game Sanctum 2. The team was caught off guard with the overpowering success of Goat Simulator, and continued to support the game by adding various DLC content packs and updates. The game is still designed to have broken mechanics in it's core, as the game's official website's disclaimer states, "Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat."
Another great Game Jam Success story is Super Hot, which originally was apart of the 7 Day First Person Shooter Game Jam. Super Hot was the big standout title, and launched a KickStarter to fully develop the game shortly after the reveal. The Kickstarter hit their funding goal of $100,000 within a day and more than twice the goal by the end of the campaign. It's won multiple awards and was even ported to various VR products and home console releases. Super Hot is not only a Game Jam success story, but a KickStarter success story as well, and the game is still referenced to this day as it continues to lead in VR Sales Figure Charts.
Surgeon Simulator is another hit title, developed originally within 48 hours during Global Game Jam in 2013 by Bossa Studios. Part of the Global Game Jam's challenge for that year was to try and create a game using only ten button commands or less, to which the team worked around and created Surgeon Simulator mostly as a gag. After being critically acclaimed during the Game Jam, the team then spent another 48 days working on the game for an official release, which caught fire on YouTube increasing it's popularity. The game has been ported to consoles including switch and a sequel was announced in the 2019's Game Award Showcase.
To reiterate, these games were all made in short periods of times, and then because of interest and popularity expanded to become gaming trends. Given the extra backing from Xbox game Studios, and the time to really flesh out game concepts, the games that come out of the Xbox Game Studios Game Camp can end up being something no one could expect.
What could this lead to?
The Expo that will feature all the games created through the game camp is set to be held at the conclusion of the event in September. The games will be shown off to peers in the industry, and from there it's possible games can be picked up through various publishing partners.
We don't have a lot of details on this aspect of the event, but it might be safe to assume Xbox Game Studios has first dibs on helpings developers publish their games onto various platforms. We could start seeing Microsoft and Xbox helping push more indie games on a wider scale, possibly even bring back Summer of Arcade and highlight games that have been created in the Game Camp.
Summer of Arcade was an initiative by Microsoft to push smaller games back in 2008 on the Xbox platform, such games were Geometry Wars 2 and Castle Crashers, the later of which being one of the biggest games that represented what an indie game can do and have gone on to be ported to every modern console since it's 2008 release. Summer of Arcade pushed smaller games and gave them a space on the marketplace front and center for consumers to see. The program was more or less discontinued in 2013, and it's spiritual successor is known as ID@Xbox, where Xbox helps publish smaller games on the platform.
While ID@Xbox is a great initiative, it can't be overstated that it doesn't highlight games the same way Summer of Arcade was. Summer of Arcade was an event for the xbox community, every year players waited in anticipation for what unique crazy game will be in the Summer of Arcade. Because of Summer of Arcade, we got titles such as the previously mentioned Geometry Wars 2, Castle Crashers, along with great games like Braid, Trials HD, 'Splosion Man, LIMBO, Bastion, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and so many other great titles. Some of these games were eventually ported to other consoles, and continued their legacy to become critically acclaimed, but these were all titles that sparked a generation of gamers to take a moment and appreciate smaller games.
In those early days in 2008 it would be hard to convince a player that a smaller 10 arcade title is just as worthy of their time as a 60 retail game. Today the concept seems silly, but back then there was a clear divide from "big" games and "small" games. Summer of Arcade helped change that, it showed an entire generation the possibilities smaller games could bring, and Microsoft given smaller devs a platform to sell their games to a mainstream audience is one of the big factors to why indie games are as popular as they are today. Before the Xbox marketplace, the only place indie games could spread was on PC, and while the community back then did support it, getting the backing from Microsoft and a front page presence on a game system allowed indie games to spread in a way they haven't before. This of course lead to the PlayStation 3 also adding a marketplace for smaller indie games, and fast forward to today where indies are on the same level as big titles for Game of the Year Contender.
This might just be a personal pipe dream of mine, but with Xbox Game Studios starting this Game Camp initiative, it would be cool to see them do something special with the games that are developed. Pick a few of the great games designed, and flesh them out for a big reveal the following year as a return of Summer of Arcade. This of course would be the first summer the Xbox Series X console will see, so bringing back one of the key aspects that made the Xbox 360 so great would be an amazing way to show xbox fans just how much Microsoft cares.