Development costs are spiraling out of control. Studios are closing left and right. And yet the Cook Inlet Tribal Council of Alaska decided to invest its capital in a videogame company of all things. According to the nonprofit group, it will be the first indigenous-owned game studio in the United States.
Upper One Games announced its founding last week at the annual Games for Change Festival in New York. The developer is named in reference to the "Lower 48," a term denoting the contiguous United States. Upper One has partnered with E-Line Media, a company founded by former Activision executive Alan Gershenfeld, to release two titles next year.
One of the projects will be educational, with the other planned for commercial release. The latter is a platformer based on traditional Alaskan stories intended to appeal to fans of indie darlings like Journey, Braid, and Limbo.
Connecting with youth was major motivating factor behind founding the studio, rather than investing in a more conservative business venture. "What I love about it is that we can take our stories and our voice and it can live in the digital world," CITC President and CEO Gloria O'Neill said of the undertaking. "This is a tool to help us evolve as a people."
However, Upper One Games "is not just about making video games for Alaska natives," O'Neill added. "It's about making video games for a global audience." While the group's early efforts will be focused on Alaska's local history and indigenous peoples, Upper One hopes to make games based on other cultures in the future as well.
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