Embedded or independent formats.
Many start-up and indie studios do not grow out of an academic environment, but as “splinters” from established companies. I.e. former employees – of all ages – decide to form their own company. They often are more aware than graduates or hobby developers of the need for understanding the business side of making games and related entrepreneurial skills.
However, they would feel in the wrong place if they joined a university-born incubator. A tech park or a combination of tech park and university environment might seem more attractive. Still, such a set-up might not responsive to those specific needs.
Usually, with these types of start-ups, there is a lot of experience in developing games and a more mature staff. The community seems better equipped to respond to their specific needs than the integrated models. This gave rise to different initiatives. These are e.g. dedicated co-working spaces with bespoke workshops, a peer-to-peer support culture and tailored mentorship.
Dedicated Short-Term Programmes
As an alternative, there are experienced game developers that respond to this more community-born call for “business development”. They offer their services as support for the community.
SpielFabrique1SpielFabrique: http://spielfabrique.eu/en/home-2/ is a typical example. They are short-termed and target companies who have already produced a game. This is why they are probably more accelerator than incubator. But terminology aside, what distinguishes them strongly from the “integrated” models is their financial and influential support by bigger companies (e.g. in the case of SpielFabrique, Ubisoft is supporting, and because Ubisoft is an important asset to the region, they also receive regional funding).
Stugan2Stugan: http://www.stugan.com/ is another such example: timed, short-termed developer support in the incubation phase (they only take young teams of 2 with a game in the making). Stugan is a summer camp in a secluded rural environment, financed by successful Swedish game businesses.
With a focus on peer-to-peer support and building upon the community’s characteristic knowledge-sharing and mutual assistance, the co-working or collective context is becoming increasingly popular as a result of fostering talent growth outside the university or tech park context.
The underlying approach means to facilitate both entrepreneurial skills through the proximity of young talents next to more experienced professionals. Additionally, this can be facilitated by continued learning through knowledge sharing with dedicated coaching, mentoring and peer-to-peer exchange. The co-working space operator might include the programme management or outsource it.
Though in many aspects this model seems similar to the tech park inclusion model, there are many aspects that will be less challenging in this model than in the other two models3Highly recommended: The Good Hubbing Guide (2015) – https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/831480/the-good-hubbing-guide-building-indie-game-maker-collectives or https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/PedroZambon/20200724/366304/The_map_of_hubs_in_the_digital_games_industry_a_trend_of_this_decade.php.
There are signs of an emerging model that would place games incubation in the vicinity of media incubation, e.g. the MediaTech Hub Potsdam4MediaTech Hub Potsdam: https://www.mth-potsdam.de/en/frontpage. Also, in terms of a university context, e.g. the Film University in Babelsberg5Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf: https://www.filmuniversitaet.de/en/ also offers game design courses, which – if gaining momentum – could provide a stronger basis for this community model.
Game events are an information exchange and conferences or fairs such as Baltic Dev Days6Baltic Dev Days: https://www.balticdevdays.com/ or devcom7devcom: https://www.devcom.global/ increasingly offer workshops and training for start-ups and indie studios. There are also game-curated jam events with coaches offering advice such as by the project GameCamps8GameCamps: http://gamecamps.info/.