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At the start of the award ceremony for this year's Imagine Cup, Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President and Chief Evengalist at Microsoft, greeted the participants and guests at Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. "Microsoft also started a student startup," Guggenheimer said, comparing the software giant to the event. And before the winners were announced, Microsoft Russia director Nikolay Pryanishnikov promised that Microsoft would continued supporting and promoting students in any case. He added that young startups and government policy enjoy a very good relationship in Russia.
There was no preliminary selection during the finals, which were held over the previous days. So it was very difficult to predict the favorites among the 87 participating teams. Journalists were given an opportunity to view the individual projects at a press showcase on Tuesday evening, but even the large number of different ideas made predictions very difficult. But the best and most promising projects were finally revealed.
Game Schein takes gold
In the Games category, an Austrian team from Zeppelin Studio was in the running with the game Schein and was hoping for a spot on the winner's rostrum. The four-member team was competing with five other teams in its category – and came out on top. The game took gold, edging out Indonesia (second place) and France (third place). The Austrians took home not only the medal, but also USD 50,000 in prize money. The award was presented by Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov.
"In the end, it was all or nothing," Tiare Feuchtner from Zeppelin Studio told futurezone shortly after the team accepted its prize. The four young founders were visibly pleased. They were of course hoping to win, and the feedback from the jury after the hands-on was very good, the team related. "But you can never know for sure." The worst part was the long wait for the decision during the day.
The game Schein is about the myth of the will-o'-the-wisp. The will-o'-the-wisp sends the protagonist, a sad young man who has lost his son, on a fantastic journey. The game was originally designed for Windows with a total of twelve levels that would take between four and eight hours to complete. The designers are considering porting the game to Android consoles, as well.
Schein is to be officially launched at the end of the summer. After the Imagine Cup, the startup now wants to look for funding and then also find private investors. Schein is a platform game in which the player must solve puzzles, and is intended for players about 25 or older.
From innovation to making the world a better place
The main categories also included World Citizenship and Innovation. Here, the gold medals went to the project For A Better World (Portugal) for World Citizenship and the startup Colinked (Great Britain) in the category of Innovation. The Windows Phone Challenge was won by the vSoft Studio team (Singapore), first place in the Windows Azure Challenge went to India with the Y-Nots projects, and the winner of the Windows 8 App Challenge was Italy with the TeamNameException project.
Aside from the six main categories, various special prizes were also awarded with purses of up to EUR 50,000. Microsoft brought numerous partners and sponsors on board, with prizes also being awarded by Samsung and Facebook. An overview of all participating teams for this year can be found here.
The Microsoft Imagine Cup is part of the YouthSpark Initiative and was held for the eleventh time this year; the finals are hosted in a different city every year. The Imagine Cup will be hosted in Seattle next year, the first time that the event is coming to the city.