Some people have been quite critical of a new service called Callvention. It supposedly allows gamers to call developers directly through an online scheduler, and then get charged per minute to talk with the developers about the game they worked on.
According to the about page for Callvention…
“Callvention brings fans closer to their favorite video games. Go behind the scenes, read about the people behind favorite games, or even talk to game makers.
“Only Callvention enables fans to have a phone call with a game maker, for a chance to learn stories first-hand about a game they love.”
The point is to schedule a one-on-one phone call between a fan and a gamer. Callvention takes a cut of the money and the developer also earns something as well.
According to the site…
“Callvention works with game makers to schedule 1-on-1 phone calls with fans, and helps game makers earn money on a per-call basis.”
The site was started by Bryan Cashman, a supposed 18-year veteran in the game industry. The site is supposed to be somewhat of a developer repository with information and blogs about game development as well, but those sections of the site aren’t open.
What is open is a directory of various games that allow fans to call and “hear a story, get advice, or just have fun” with a developer. Callers are charged per minute and it states that the money “may help fund the speaker’s next game”.
There’s really no guarantees about any of it, and there’s a 15 minute minimum limit for the call at $3.38 per minute. There’s an example of what the shopping page looks like, where fans can add various developers to the cart and schedule calls with them for a fee.
It’s true that people like Matt Durgavich are veteran developers; he worked on the games in his list and is a ten year veteran. However, Durgavich mostly works on mobile apps, so information about the inner workings on Rockstar or the process of developing something like Red Dead Redemption may be limited. The directors, department managers and sectional producers would likely have the most insight.
Instead of listing the developers in the directory, they list the various games, ranging from Call of Duty Black Ops 2 to Halo: Reach to Yakuza 4.
Some people like Bret Berry, who worked as the senior vice president of product development on Yakuza 4, have varying costs for chatting with fans. While the 15 minute minimum is still in play, it’s only $2.85 to chat with Berry as opposed to chatting with Durgavich, despite Berry having a much fuller and more varied portfolio of gamers he’s worked on over the course of 25 years.
Some gamers felt as if Callvention came across as a quick money scheme to part gamers from their money by scheduling expensive calls with basically any developer who worked on or contributed to the development of some top name games.
For instance, Ken Taya is available to talk about Halo: Reach for the Xbox 360, even though Taya only worked on some campaign environmental art for Halo: Reach and Halo 3. It’s not to say that there’s no valuable insight to be learned, but Ken Taya isn’t Marcus Lehto, so there’s going to be a different array of knowledge shared from an environment artist compared to the creative director.
Some people didn’t mind this at all, feeling as if any kind of direct connection between gamers and developers was fine so long as Callvention was upfront about the costs.
Some people felt as if the site wasn’t entirely upfront about the fact that the developers may or may not have had a vastly significant role in the development of a game. For instance, Damien Bull is the developer you get if you click on Borderlands, but his only attachment to the series is having worked at Darkside Game Studios, who were assistant developers to Gearbox Software on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel… not the original Borderlands. The outfit was mostly known as a port-house assistant.
Essentially, Callvention managed to catch the attention of some gamers for looking shady. Others don’t mind it so long as they actually deliver what they advertise. At the end of the day, though, most people never heard of it.
(Thanks for the news tip Lisa M.)