Your target group of marketing activities.
Attracting the Right Teams for Your Concept
Incubators more commonly harbour regional or national game dev teams. The two main reasons for this are:
- incubators with programmes spanning over one or more years and offering workspace on their premises, entail living in the vicinity of the incubator
- incubators are often part of a larger framework (university, tech & science park, cluster or co-working facilities) and depend on their regulations, which often include European or national / regional funding schemes dedicated and are limited to European or national start-up teams
Attracting talent to the incubation programme is obviously essential. Game developers with the right entrepreneurial mindset, ideas for new games, and the necessary development skills are the core ingredient of every game incubator. Therefore, considering where and how to approach new start-ups should be high on the priority list when setting up a game incubator – and also when it is up and running.
Collaborating with Game Education Institutions
Collaborating closely with game education institutions at the university-level (or similar) is highly recommended. This can ensure a direct relationship with potential game start-ups. Additionally, this can make it possible to start coaching start-ups in a pre-incubation set-up at a relatively early stage.
Collaborating with game education institutions can also prove helpful and save time for the incubator staff as well as for the game studios. Screening can happen as soon as possible to determine whether they would be a good fit for the incubator. Necessary changes to e.g. the competences and size of the start-ups teams can be spotted early.
Introducing Entrepreneurship Early
Direct collaboration between an incubator and game education institutions also reinforces the relevance of introducing topics related to entrepreneurship to students while they are still part of the education programme. This can prepare them for running their own company after graduating.
Local & Regional Start-Up / Entrepreneur Networks
Another way of scouting talent is to get in touch with local or regional networks of start-ups / entrepreneurs. In some areas company founders are likely to move in established networks well before joining the incubator.
Local & Regional Science Parks
Local and regional science parks who typically cater to other sectors might be approached by game studios due to their more established position. They should also be counted as potentially relevant partners.
Game Developer Networks
Game developer networks such as local / regional chapters of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)1 or networks who stand on their own are relevant in this relation. Such networks are able to gather developers based on their interest in developing games. Thus, they present oppportunities to reach out to start-ups, e.g. to established start-ups. These could also be start-ups in the making by e.g. either game development students who are potential entrepreneurs after graduation. Finally, these could be start-ups by game industry professionals. They might break away from their current position to follow a dream of developing their own games.
Branding the incubator in order to get the attention of potential participants is obviously important. This includes having a website that informs about and illustrates the content and phases of the incubation programme, the requirements for applying for it, etc. Such a website could also include relevant information about the local or regional ecosystem.
Catering to International Teams
Most incubators assert that they would gladly include international teams. Though, catering to international teams, in particular from outside Europe, might involve challenges that would require more resources than most incubators have available at this point in time. The most obvious challenges are:
- English as common language: in the incubator’s presentation (e.g. website), application (forms / communication), programme (tuition and mentoring), and for communication between the teams themselves
- support with visa permits
- eligibility of public funding for the incubator
The easiest way for an incubator to cater to international teams is to have mixed teams. These are regional teams with international team members who already have settled in the region (and thus are, if needed, already equipped with a visa permit). Where public support is involved, this would also solve the matter of eligibility of those funds. These teams would register as residents in the respective country.
Investing Extra Resources
For an incubator intent on attracting more international teams in order to create a truly international work environment for regional teams, they will need to invest extra resources to widely communicate their brand and programme across borders, and support non-European teams entering their country.
However, some incubators are ready to invest these extra resources. They are interested in widening their scope of “clients” and related sources of income. In this case, a physical presence by the teams would not necessarily be a requirement for joining the incubation programme. Thus, the challenge here will be to find suitable ways of remote tuition.
To cater either to international teams or to make use of international experts remotely, a set of proven online tools needs to be part of the incubation “fabric”. This will also require careful conceptualisation of online tuition to ensure active participation. Tuition is more difficult online than face to face. The incubation staff will need to do some in-depth investigation into existing practices of such online tuition. They will need to assess them for their value for the game development business.
English as a Basis
Whether it is remote or physical training, English will have to be the basic language for tuition and mentoring. This might pose a major challenge as there is already a significant shortage of competent game experts inclined to take on the role of coach or mentor, let alone fluent in English on top of that.
Of the incubators in the BGI project1EU-Interreg project Baltic Game Industry: http://baltic-games.eu/, only three incubators asserted the use of English as their common work language. Almost all others claimed that they could easily switch to English if required.