The University of Southern California said today that it would publishing games created by its own students through a label dubbed USC Games Publishing.
The label will published games produced by students and faculty on the PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and mobile platforms. The label’s creation says something about the state of the game industry, where many complain that there’s very little creativity or true innovation. In this case, students might provide the antidote to that problem.
“Curation is one of the most important things that players deserve these days,” says Tracy Fullerton, director of USC Games, told Wired in an interview. “There’s a tremendous amount of content available for people to find, and yet it’s very difficult to find. One of the ways that this label that we’re establishing can participate is by curating important voices, really innovative work, and putting it out there under our publishing label.”
Fullerton has been director of USC Games since May 2014. The faculty includes people like Danny Bilson, former creative director at THQ and now a lecturer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts; and Richard Lemarchand, the former Naughty Dog game designer who helped create the Uncharted series.
The program has been lauded by the Princeton Review for having the best graduate and undergraduate schools for creating video games in the country. The USC Games grads have created titles like Flow, The Unfinished Swan, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Fullerton told Wired that USC Games Publishing will be similar to the MIT Press in books. We have frequently covered the work that the students in the game program do. Earlier this year, USC was encouraging students to create their own game studios. Now it’s doing even more as a publisher.
“We are not expecting to make a profit,” she said. “We hope that what we reap from this is cultural recognition of this form.”
Of course, there are headaches that come from being a publisher. Some of the students will need extra money to publish and market games. Should university funds be used for that? If there are profits from a game, then who gets to share it? And if one of the game creators gets into any legal trouble, what happens next?
In an email to GamesBeat, Fullerton said the creators own the intellectual property and license the publishing rights to USC Games Publishing. She said there is a generous royalty split, where the school gets a small royalty for the help it gives in getting on to platforms and doing quality assurance and marketing. She said, “The industry has created methods for indies to self-publish, but that doesn’t help players find the games. What we hope to do is to curate important, interesting work through our publishing label. We are starting with USC pieces while we get going, but hope to reach out to the broader indie and experimental community as well once we’re more established.”
In the long term, the label could also open up to developers outside of the school. USC Games is a cross-disciplinary program that teaches students the various skills needed to make games. The new label will become active this spring.