IGN Entertainment, which operates some of the world’s biggest video game fan sites, wants to build itself into a vital social network for video game players and makers. Its latest move is an offer to give game startups free office space and advice.

The initiative is known as the Indie Open House project, and it’s meant to encourage young independent developers who are often the most creative people in the game industry. Unemcumbered by the need to make sequels for brands, indie developers take more risks when it comes to making content that surprises gamers.

At the same time, indies face the same uphill struggles that starving actors, musicians and filmmakers deal with as they try to make a living and earn big bucks for their work. IGN hopes that its offer of six months of free office space, alongside the offices for its editorial staff, will inspire the indies to give it a shot.

Developers with seven employees or less can apply to participate in the six-month rolling program. Those chosen can get office space inside IGN in San Francisco. They can also be granted exclusive demo days in front of the press, get free licenses to GameSpy online gaming technology, professional consultation, and technical support.

Roy Bahat (his Nintendo Mii character is pictured above), president of IGN Entertainment, said in an interview that developers don’t have to work in isolation when they’re just getting off the ground. The Indie Open House project will give developers access to peers as well as IGN’s reviewers (with limitations, given the need for both the developers and journalists to remain independent). The latter are important because a good review can make or break a game and give a developer the necessary visibility to get broader distribution for a game.

“IGN has come to respect the power of independent game teams which represent the very best of gaming with their originality, energy level, irreverence, and phenomenal products,” Bahat said.

In contrast to incubators that invest in startups, IGN will not take a stake in the game startups or give them money. Its services will be offered with no strings attached, Bahat said. IGN staff and executives will be available to give face-to-face feedback on games in progress. IGN will also invite outside industry players such as retailers, publishers, online distributors and others to offer advice. IGN’s staff will select the winning teams.

IGN and GameSpy are divisions of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

DB2010Getting content noticed is a challenge for everyone making apps. We’ll cover the topic at DiscoveryBeat 2010. Startups and big companies alike should consider entering our Needle in the Haystack discovery business idea competition. Early bird discounts are available until September 15. Sponsors can contact us at sponsors@venturebeat.com. To buy tickets, click on this link.