Case Study: Baltic Sea Game Incubation Network
The Baltic Sea region has the largest amount of dedicated game incubators in Europe. At the same time, there is a recent tendency to widen the concept of “incubation” to include curated game co-working environments. These are e.g. Arcade 5 in Helsinki or Game Habitat in Malmö1Game Habitat: http://www.gamehabitat.se/ with “peer- to-peer learning”.
Others to include are accelerator programmes such as the ones offered by Sting (Stockholm)2Sting: https://sting.co/ or Game Hub Denmark (Greena)3Game Hub Denmark: https://gamehubdenmark.com/. Included are also educational programmes such as PlaygroundSquad in Falun4PlaygroundSquad: https://www.playgroundsquad.com/?lang=en, a vocational training organisation, DE:HIVE in Berlin5DE:HIVE: https://gamedesign.htw-berlin.de/dehive/, or stand-alone programmes within tech and science parks such as Krakow6Digital Dragons Incubator: https://www.kpt.krakow.pl/en/startups/inkubator-digital-dragons/, Ventspils7VHTP: https://www.vatp.lv/en/home, Kaunas8GamesPOT Kaunas: http://kaunomtp.lt/gamespotkaunas and Tartu9Baltic Game Industry Incubation Program: https://teaduspark.ee/en/incubation/baltic-game-industry-incubation-program/.
For the initiative “Baltic Sea Game Incubation Network”, we chose to invite organisations that fit into this wider concept, as we believe that the boundaries between those different approaches and categories are already becoming permeable10We propose to follow the model of the EBN network with their EU|BICs, defined as “[…] quality-certified business support organisations, which dedicate their efforts and resources to help entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, turn those ideas into viable, successful and sustainable businesses”.
All game incubation staff agree that a network would make sense and be beneficial in principle. But all have already too little resources to operate their incubators as intensively as they would wish to. Investing resources into a network is an additional challenge that will quickly be pushed to the bottom of the priority list.
With the understanding that establishing a formal network with membership constraints, shared responsibilities and allocated management tasks that are easily arranged, but are always at risk of becoming a “sleeping commitment”, is difficult, we deferred from insisting that the interested incubators join a network in a formal way right from its inception.
Instead, we opted for an approach that would convince the participating organisations of the added value of committing to a game incubation network. The benefits are knowledge and experience exchange in physical and online discussions. This will gradually and in an uncoerced fashion stimulate the wish for a more formal network.
The First Meetups
Consequently, we invited different organisations to join us at the first “Baltic Dev Days”11Baltic Dev Days: https://www.balticdevdays.com/ in Kiel in September 2019. Our different incubation approaches in terms of selection procedures, duration and focus came to light when presenting our respective programmes. Quickly a range of questions appeared reflecting common topics of interest and challenges.
Of these, we selected one for our next meeting in an online conference four weeks later: “Creating a knowledge base for game incubation – Part 1: Are there reproducible recipes for success?” Soon afterwards, we attempted another physical meeting at the event “GameOn” in Vilnius in November 2019.
This, however, attested to one of the real challenges of establishing a functioning network. The full agendas of the individual participants and the constraints of the travel budgets, makes travelling and short-term schedules impossible for a larger group. Such meetings would best be scheduled in correlation with events where most incubation staff are likely to visit anyway. These could be e.g. the big conferences “Gamescom” in Cologne, Germany, or “Nordic Game” in Malmö, Sweden. Many also go to the renowned “GDC” in San Francisco, US.
In Vilnius, we discussed with the few organisations that were present, the topic of “Women in Game Incubation”: How to approach women as an incubator, as only few women join incubation programmes or take on the role of mentor / coach. We took up the same topic in an online meeting, as it has been identified to be of strong interest to all participants in the earlier Kiel workshop.
Another online meeting has been planned where BGI12EU-Interreg project Baltic Game Industry: http://baltic-games.eu/ will present their findings with respect to profile requirements of game developers for non-entertainment industries. The topic will introduce the question of whether incubation for not-for-entertainment game development and marketing requires specific knowledge and a different approach than entertainment games.
The aim of the case study is to find a feasible and durable model for a functioning and collaborating network. The initial step was knowledge exchange and sharing ideas to stimulate member interest. The next step should be collaborative actions and the formalisation of the network with management / governance regulations to steer its networking activities.