The NYU Game Center Incubator

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The NYU Game Center is a unique place that sits at the intersection of academia and the game industry. Our students strive to push the boundaries of what games can be – inventing, exploring, and discovering new forms of play. Part of our commitment to fostering innovative work means providing our students with opportunities to begin successful careers immediately after graduation.

The NYU Game Center Incubator is a three-month program where select graduating student projects are given time, space, mentorship, and resources to maximize their chances of commercial success. The purpose of the Incubator is to bridge the experimental and highly creative work being done at the Game Center with the realities of the marketplace. The Incubator helps projects conceived at school, outside of the direct influence of publishers, investors, and other financial constraints, enter the marketplace as commercial products. In collaboration with Industry Partners and an Advisory Board, the Incubator gives NYU students a context to launch their projects and begin careers.

The first cohort of the NYU Game Center Incubator ran through the summer of 2014 with a showcase event on September 5th. Now in its second year, there are eight projects across thirteen developers in the Incubator. You can follow their development through our embedded reporting series and by visiting us at Playtest Thursday, our public playtesting event that happens every Thursday from 5-7PM.

The Games

The initial selection of games for the 2014 pilot version of the Incubator came from MFA projects – games that were in a fairly finished and robust state already after year of development. This year we’ve expanded the roster of games, accepting recently graduated undergraduate and PhD students. All of the games in the Incubator were conceived at school, a design context that is less shaped by the commercial pressures most developers face. Similar to other incubators like Y Combinator and Execution Labs, we share the mission of enabling nascent developers and entrepreneurs realize their visions, but we see an important distinction between these commercial-focused ventures and our Incubator: The starting point of the games in the NYU Game Center Incubator is expression. This is a unique affordance of an Incubator situated within a University- our projects were not conceived as products. Instead, the Game Center Incubator is a reverse engineering of the business model, starting with a nearly finished game and asking: How does experimental work, reintroduced back into the pressures of the marketplace, create a successful business model?

In this way, The NYU Game Center Incubator is more than a means to help NYU graduates in the Incubator, we aim to provide examples of developers creating groundbreaking work that can also sustain careers. We hope aspiring developers can look to our Incubator to find examples of effective marketing strategies or innovative funding techniques and business models. Together with our Industry Partners we’re channeling energy into these projects to build outposts on the fringes of what’s possible in game design.

The NYU Game Center is the place where talented developers committed to experimental game design go to develop the skills to lead successful careers in games. You can learn more information about the games in the 2014 Incubator here. Details about the 2015 cohort’s games are here.

Industry Partners & Advisory Board

The Incubator is not an extension of graduate school, it’s a new context where developers are given a structure to address the marketing, legal, financial, and other production issues of launching a successful commercial game.

In order to create that context, we are developing genuine partnerships with individuals and organizations from the games industry. We’re building a group of carefully selected partners who collaborate with the Game Center to develop the Incubator program and advise the teams. This group of volunteers includes representatives from technology companies and publishers, designers, lawyers, consultants, journalists, and other industry experts who will lend their expertise to help the teams launch successful games. More information about the ways Industry Partners work with the teams can be found on the Incubator curriculum page.

Together with our Industry Partners and Advisory Board, we’re creating a new context for cultivating truly innovative and groundbreaking games, The NYU Game Center Incubator. The full list of our Advisory Board is available here.

Curriculum

Once accepted to the Incubator, the teams begin three months of intensive, full-time work to bring their projects to market. The Incubator provides scaffolding for success, but structured curriculum and direct management kept to a minimum. Every member of the Incubator is well-prepared to manage their development process, so the curriculum of the Incubator foregrounds interaction with Advisors and unscheduled working time over traditional curriculum. At the onset, teams set a distribution goal, either public launch, the start of a crowdfunding campaign, or pitch to publisher and then dedicate the duration of the program to preparing their game to meet that distribution goal.

Learn more about the curriculum, including distribution goals, the weekly experience, and interaction with the Advisory Board here.

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Selection Criteria

Students at the Game Center work in a variety of disciplines, making digital games, organizing conferences, curating interactive exhibitions, and much more. The Incubator is for the subsection of those projects that are most suited for a commercial release. To determine which projects are accepted into the Incubator, applying students present to members of the Advisory Board, who evaluate the games on three criteria:

  • Commercial Potential: Does this game have the possibility of finding success when launched to the public?
  • Production Feasibility: Can this game be completed and launched in three months with the proposed team?
  • Innovation: Does this game reflect the Incubator’s mission of facilitating new kinds of games?

The projects from the debut year that demonstrated their ability to meet these criteria ranged across game genres from the exploratory, emotionally-driven Gemini to the experimental twin-stick action game Soft Body and the space rescue puzzle game Sunburn!. More information about each project from the 2014 cohort is available here.

The 2015 cohort is similarly wide-ranging in style, more information on the current projects here.

Currently the NYU Game Center Incubator is open only to NYU students, however as the department and the program expand we’ll be looking for ways to continue to foster experimental work in the marketplace. In the future the incubator may include space for other talented developers who looking for the right context to realize their creative vision.