New College Students Win Grand Prize in 2018 Aldag Business Plan Competition

From the May 2018 Desktop News | High Five Studios, a video game design company based in Tuscaloosa and run by UA students, took home the grand prize at the Culverhouse College of Business’s Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan competition.

High Five Studios were winners of the grand prize of $50,000 in the 2018 Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition.
High Five Studios were winners of the grand prize of $50,000 in the 2018 Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition.

The indie gaming studio won over $50,000 at this year’s Aldag competition, where they pitched their first game, “Prisoner,” to a panel of judges. The game received the grand prize and was also awarded third place for community affairs and named crowd favorite.

“That was jaw-droppingly shocking,” said Alex Haisting, a 2018 New College graduate and the CEO of High Five Studios. “We had no idea that would happen going into it.”

The annual competition allows students to pitch their business plans to judges, awarding grants to those who impress them the most, as well as an office at The EDGE, an office space in Tuscaloosa dedicated to helping upstart companies.

High Five Studios plans to use the winnings to update “Prisoner,” which has already been released to the public.  The game follows World War II prisoner of war Kurt Davis as he navigates through the Japanese prison camp and experiences severe hallucinations.

“One of the aspects of the game is if something is real or not,” Haisting said. “It’s a question of ‘do other people see this, or is it just me?’”

Many of the hallucinatory aspects involve monsters from traditional Japanese folklore.

Haisting’s team consists of two other New College majors: Robert Petit, the game designer, technical artist, and programmer, as well as lead artist Rachel Christ. Lead programmer Cody Fletcher and business manager Josh Mokwa are also UA students.

The company was born after some of the team travelled to South by Southwest, or SXSW, in the spring of 2017. There, they were introduced to the world of indie gaming studios and decided that they may be able to develop a game themselves. From there, the group formed their own company and started work on “Prisoner,” which was released in March of 2018.

A year later, High Five Studios returned to  SXSW, but this time, as presenters. Haisting and his team travelled to Austin, Texas, where they met with other developers and introduced “Prisoner” to the gaming world.

“That was one of the coolest things,” Haisting said. “We were there in 2017 just looking and thought ‘wow, this is cool,’ and a year later, we’re coming as developers. The community there is very exciting.”

Since presenting at SXSW and winning the Aldag grant, High Five Studios decided to purchase new equipment and computers to make their game more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. After these edits are complete, they plan to re-release the game on Steam, a website that sells indie video games internationally.