Talent scouts

R.E.D. steps in to rep top vidgame talent

Move over William Morris and Creative Artists, there’s a new agency in town. Representing Entertainers and Developers has taken a page from its Hollywood counterparts by linking vidgame talent with the top publishers in the biz.

Based in Southern California, R.E.D. was spun off earlier this year from Interact, a leading headhunting firm for individual vidgame designers. Founded by Paul Cunningham and partner Jeff Brunner in 1993, Interact was originally designed to track talent and fill project development holes by matching the skill sets of producers, designers, programmers and animators with individual game publishers.

However, like major Hollywood studios, big vidgame publishers need a steady supply of product from independent players to fill the pipelines.

Consider a company such as Electronic Artists: While supporting several internal development teams, it still farms out around 15 projects a year to third-party game developers, paying between $3 million to $5 million for each.

R.E.D. will use its time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which began Wednesday and will run through Saturday, not only to meet with gaming publishers but to sign talent to fill a swelling demand. Last year at the confab, the firm signed Studio Gigante, formed last year by John Tobias of “Mortal Kombat” game fame.

R.E.D. represents more than 30 development teams and has relationships with more than 100 individual developers.

“We have far more complete information of available projects and talent than either the publisher or the developers do,” says Cunningham, Interact’s CEO and founding partner in R.E.D. “It’s pretty under-the-table information and we’re ahead of the curve. We built Interact as the largest recruiting company dedicated to this space and now leverage all the information we gather, aggregating and (organizing) to create another revenue stream that R.E.D. exploits.”

Not only does R.E.D. know what projects a publisher is developing, but it takes the lead when an independent company wants to pitch an original idea.

Since its launch, R.E.D. has brokered 15 such deals. Like its tenpercentery brethren, the agency usually takes 10% of the upfront deal for its services, although that percentage is negotiable. Depending on the deal, R.E.D. also receives a cut of the royalties.

R.E.D. is also taking its role as agent a step further, establishing relationships with the entertainment biz to generate other opportunities for its clients, pitching vidgame ideas as concepts for films or television shows.

Similar to a handful of other agencies that are popping up in the space, R.E.D. is looking forward to the anticipated boom in the vidgame business over the next five years, driven by the console wars between Sony’s PlayStation2, Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s Gamecube.

As these hardware companies slug it out, paychecks to vidgame developers will increase as each console wants to have exclusive rights to certain game titles, according to David Christensen, a vidgame development team rep at R.E.D.

“There’s massive competition for developers,” he explains. “There are just not enough good programmers, animators and producers when these companies want exclusive games for their console. Talent gets spread out and more developers are needed to meet the demand.”