Umbrella models and spin-offs.
The most common environments in which game incubators are created are educational institutions and technology parks. These environments will shape your complete business plan, at least in its initial phase: from target groups, to financial requirements and capitalisation, and the scope of your programme.
An incubator within or in the vicinity of a university obviously caters to academic graduates or students: This model most often is strongly affiliated with an existing game design or game development study programme. Such programmes offer students help in the transition from studying to becoming professionals.
The environment allows for progressive upscaling from using the same rooms as the students (e.g. DE:HIVE1DE:HIVE (HTW Berlin): https://gamedesign.htw-berlin.de/dehive/) to receiving an own separate location within the university premises much like a lab (e.g. Cologne Game Lab2Cologne Game Lab: https://colognegamelab.de/), and eventually becoming a “spin-off” and having a location independent of the university management (e.g. Game Hub Denmark3Game Hub Denmark: https://gamehubdenmark.com/ – they provide their incubatees with location, furniture, access to meeting rooms).
In this model the incubatees are working with equipment held and provided by universities or private schools. These institutions often have access to comparatively high-end technology, facilities, studios, showrooms, or meeting rooms.
Tech Park Context
The inclusion of a game incubator in the larger context of a technology park (e.g. The Game Incubator4The Game Incubator: https://www.thegameincubator.se/, part of Sweden Game Arena5Sweden Game Arena: http://swedengamearena.com/) or an umbrella incubation programme (e.g. Sting6Sting: https://sting.co/en/, VHTP GameDev Incubator7VHTP GameDev Incubator: https://www.vatp.lv/en/business-support): The advantage is the proximity to enterprises located in the park and the availability of coaches to share cross-cutting or more generic topics (e.g. legal aspects or accounting requirements, but also enhancing skills such as programming for startups).
The overall management of the tech park or umbrella programme will provide for essential parts of the game incubation. There will also be sharing of facilities and costs. However, you have to consider that the management and financial requirements are likely to be much more challenging than the university model. Meanwhile, the demands and expectations in terms of workplace equipment and infrastructure will depend on the financial model and the standard and goals of the programme promoted to the target groups.
An example that is slightly different, but fits the context, is the game incubator by “STING”8STING: https://sting.co/sting-takes-first-step-toward-gaming-incubator/ in Stockholm, which is a public-private foundation and tech accelerator, providing like a tech park would, an environment of general incubation and a dedicated approach for game incubation as part of the larger fabric of their incubation/acceleration programme.
One renowned example where the incubator starts off as an independent entity is the “Dutch Game Garden”10Dutch Game Garden: https://www.dutchgamegarden.nl/ in Utrecht, a game incubator (and more) which was launched in 2008 as an initiative supported by a mix of game experts, university members, and the regional support foundation “Taskforce Innovation”, a promising venture that was financed by the municipality of Utrecht.
The other highly successful game incubator is “Game BCN”11GameBCN: https://gamebcn.co/ in Barcelona, established in 2014 and which had a strong mix of supporters: a joint between the business incubator Incubio, the Department of Culture of Catalonia through the Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals, and Caixa Capital Risc, the venture capital arm of the bank La Caixa. It also had a partnership with Barcelona Activa, a public business development agency, which managed the space where the programs were carried out, and sponsorship from the legal and corporate advisory office Osborne Clarke.
Both “cluster-initiated” incubators have been encouraged by the growing game education programme, with a political university support, but not as part of the university’s own (start-up or post-graduate) programme or a university lab on the university premises, but as an organisation of their own.