Universal Taking Pitches on Some of its Classic IP, Including Back to the Future and Jaws

Fans of Jaws, Battlestar Galactica, Back to the Future, Turok, and Voltron: Legendary Defender, good news: you may be getting a video game of any one of these IP, in the near future.

That's right, thanks to a competition launched by Unity in partnership with NBCUniversal, developers around the globe now have access to the above-mentioned classic IP.

More specifically, Unity and NBCUniversal have announced Universal GameDev Challenge, a competition extended to game developers to create a new game concept based off said IP. The competition began today at GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2018, and is notably being supported by the likes of Intel and Microsoft.

Here are the parameters: developers have one month to pitch a game concept to a panel of judges who will choose six semi-finalists. From here, these six studios will create a vertical slice of the concept. The winner from this pool will then be announced sometime later this year.

So what's the prize? Well, for starters $250,000 cash money. But the even bigger award is a consulting contract with NBCUniversal, and the chance to develop a vertical slice into a full game.

According to Unity's vice president of marketing Katrina Strafford, the competition is a result of Universal's desire to create closer ties with the gaming industry. But this begs the question: why not just work with larger companies, such as EA or Ubisoft. Well, according Chris Heatherly, executive vice president of games and digital platforms at Universal, the mega company is looking to interact and work with developers that otherwise would have always flown under its radar.

"This is a new way for us to find developers that maybe wouldn't have been on our radar previously and see what they are capable of, said Heatherly. “We have developers approach us all the time with ideas for our IP but this is a much more organized way of doing it.”

"And it takes a lot of the friction out of the process for everyone - so we don't have to do a bunch of contracts and negotiations upfront and can just focus on whether there is a compelling idea. The proof with games is in the pudding so this skips the 'talking' stage and gets us right into the 'show it' stage where good developers shine the best."

Interestingly, the door is open to all developers, and all who participate will have utter creative freedom when it comes to the IP, at least for the pitch. If the product is developed into a full game, that's a different story. However, the point of this according to Universal and Unity is for fresh and out-of-the-box ideas to emerge, so it sounds like restriction will be limited.

Most consequentially, this competition marks the first-step in a new initiative by Universal to embed itself within the gaming landscape.

“I'm hoping that we make some new developer connections that we can parlay into long term partnerships, and see some great new concepts that are compelling enough to be made into full games," says Heatherly. "If only the former happens, it will be a success in our eyes, but ideally, the latter happens too.”

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"We have means and determination to [support a full game], so it really comes down to the ideas. We're 100% committed to this contest and have confidence that we'll see something from this contest come to market."

For more information and insight on the competition, Universal's gaming ambitions, and more, be sure to check out the full GamesIndustry article.