How to get it right
Identifying the right approach
Defining the duration of a game incubation programme can be a difficult task to get right the first time round. However, a number of indicators can contribute to define how long or short a planned programme should ideally be – including how experienced the game developers it is intended for are, as this will play an important role in defining where the starting point of the incubatees is: is it e.g. from scratch, focusing on topics such as establishing your own company, or is it more advanced business development subjects that is at the core of the programme? It is, in other words, important to mould the duration (and content) of the incubation programme in relation to the target group(s) from which you recruit your new start-ups.
Fixed or flexible?
First and foremost, it is important to consider whether the programme should have a predetermined duration – or a more fluent one. An incubation programme with a fixed duration – and pre-set topics that are addressed during it – will allow the programme manager to operate in a closely defined process, and will also have control that the start-ups accepted into the programme become familiar with what they will be offered and for how long. Which again will give the organisation providing the incubation programme the opportunity to terminate the participation of teams that don’t follow the plan that was mapped out before they entered. Furthermore, the provider will have the freedom to define in detail which topics to work with during the duration of the programme, and also define which milestones the incubated team must reach within an already defined time frame if the start-up wants to stay eligible for support. Such a clearly defined programme can also be an advantage when negotiating with external financiers – e.g. public authorities – as it can be communicated clearly what it is that these are investing in. Also, it is easier to measure success.
Catering for a heterogeneous start-up group
A disadvantage of a programme that is fixed in terms of duration, content and milestones is that it to a lesser degree takes into account that not all start-ups in the game industry can be put into the same box. Some will always have other needs and/or pre-conditions than others, both in terms of what kind of business and/or game development support they need, and for how long. Some start-ups will, in other words, not thrive in a very fixed structure – and will, therefore, refrain from even applying for a fixed or long -term programme or voluntarily leave it before they have completed it.
Furthermore, a fixed structure can have the negative consequence that the programme can only handle a specific type of companies, who are at the same point in their journey – compared to, if they are met with less structure and a higher degree of flexibility in order to address the individual company’s needs at a given time, the ability to embrace a more heterogeneous start-up group, whether very inexperienced or with years of game development under the belt (e.g. as employee), or somewhere in between.
In other words, it is hard to suggest a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to determining the most appropriate duration of a game incubation programme. The individual incubation provider should take the above-mentioned considerations into account, decide which duration, topics and milestones that are right for the incubator profile – and in this sense keep a close eye on who their target group is. If it is e.g. graduates from the same university and thus typically teams with the same game development experience, the same age, and the same company structure, a fixed programme can often be beneficial. But if the programme provider is looking for incubation candidates with different backgrounds and levels of experience, a looser approach will often be the right one to take.