French government funds video game development

The French government has set aside $4.5 million this year to fund the development of video games in a move to boost its standing in the world gaming industry.

French companies have until Sept. 1 to submit proposals for games under development, which will be judged for innovation, commercial viability and other criteria. Those selected will receive up to 40% of the cost of developing their games and bringing them to market, the French Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

The goal is to support an industry in which France believes it has talent but which is struggling under tough economic conditions, the ministry said. France boasts several gaming enterprises, including Ubi Soft Entertainment SA, which puts out Splinter Cell, and Infogrames Entertainment SA, owner of the Atari brand.

The funding is being offered for all types of games, including those played online, off-line and on mobile devices. The ministry said it won't back games that depict violent characters or pornography.

One analyst praised the spirit of the initiative but noted that $4.5 million (4 million euros) is a relatively small sum in the economics of game development.

"Game development isn't cheap. The costs are larger on average than independent film development. Most hit games that make money require upwards of half a million to 2 million euros to get out the gate," said Richard Doherty, research director at The Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y.

"That said, many game publishers are great believers in competitions like this, and it can bring out the best in companies. Who knows, they might find the next Atari in there," he said.

The effort is being co-funded by France's National Center of Cinematography and the Ministry of Industry. Grants received must be repaid within a year of when a company signs a publishing contract for its game. Recipients whose games don't reach publication can apply to be excluded from repayment, the ministry said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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