The purpose of the NYU Game Center Incubator is to bridge experimental work with the realities of the marketplace. The Incubator gives promising games time, space, guidance, and resources to maximize opportunities for commercial success.
Participating projects are provided a structure to address the marketing, legal, financial, and other business issues of launching a successful commercial game. The Game Center fosters partnerships with publishers, technology companies, veteran developers, lawyers, journalists, and other industry experts who guide the Incubator participants towards their launch goal. Through a combination of curriculum development, events programming, production assistance, and financial support, the goal of the Incubator is to bring to market innovative work that might not otherwise get there.
The pilot program of the NYU Game Center Incubator ran the summer of 2014 with a group of nine MFA graduates working across six games. The second cohort NYU Game Center Incubator expanded to include more projects from NYU undergraduates and PhDs and ran the summer of 2015. In its third year, with support from an Empire State Development Grant, the Incubator piloted an open-to-the public program, where NYU graduates work alongside other talented developers from the wider community. See work from our third cohort of designers in 2016. The 2017 cohort of seven projects continued to blend students and local developers, and we’re continuing that path in 2018.
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. In the second year, we expanded the roster of games, accepting recently graduated undergraduate and PhD students. In 2016 we piloted an open to the public cohort, adding energy from the exciting work happening outside the department. Similar to other incubators like Y Combinator, we share the mission of enabling nascent developers and entrepreneurs realize their visions. However, 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, not profit. 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 the developers who go through the program. 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.
In the first three years of the program alone, the Incubator has generated a wide range of success stories. Softbody was backed by IndieFund and launched on PS4 in 2016. Peter Panic parts I & II was published by Adult Swim Games and was downloaded by millions of people. Rewordable, The Splits, and Sumer all exceeded their Kickstarter goals. Beglitched won the Student Game IGF in 2016, in a year where 3 of 6 finalists, Circa Infinity and Ape Out, were also Finalists in the category. Incubator games have been PAX10 finalists, IndieCade winners, have had dozens of major and minor iOS features, and were written about in Kotaku, Killscreen, and much more.
Industry Partners & Advisory Board
The Incubator gives talented developers committed to experimental game design the context to address the marketing, legal, financial, and other production challenges of launching their artistic project. The program helps game makers develop the skills required to lead a successful career in games.
To provide these resources, we build genuine partnerships with individuals and organizations from the games industry. We collaborate with a group of carefully selected partners who work with the Game Center to develop the Incubator program and advise the teams. This group of volunteers includes representatives from technology companies and publishers, game designers, lawyers, consultants, journalists, and other game industry experts who will lend their expertise to help the developers 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.
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, with structured curriculum and direct management kept to a minimum. 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.
The Incubator aims to enable a productive meeting of art and commerce. The selection of games is a critical aspect of this consideration. The Advisory Board looks for projects that grapple with this tension. We seek games that have the potential for commercial success, but might not get the traction they need without the Incubator. To see this in practice, check out games from the 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017 Incubator. To determine which projects are accepted into the Incubator, applicants present to members of the Advisory Board, who evaluate the games on the following criteria:
- Production Feasibility: Can these developers bring the game from its current place to its commercial potential?
- Innovation: The Incubator is most interested in games that aren’t obviously commercially viable from the onset. Is this the kind of interesting/experimental/innovative game that could benefit from the Incubator?
- Commercial Potential: Does this game have the possibility to meet or exceed development costs?
- Commercial Potential or Potential Impact (ReFIG Grant Only): Through commercial success or otherwise, does this game have the potential to reach its intended audience and significantly advance the conversation around games?
The first two years of the program were only open to NYU students. However in 2016, thanks to a New York state grant, we were able to offer the opportunities created by the Incubator to a wider range of game makers. We are continuing this practice in 2018, NYU students, as well as external developers, can apply. For the 2018 Incubator, one project will be a ReFIG Grant project. The NYU Game Center and the Incubator are inclusive spaces, we welcome and highly encourage designers and developers from all backgrounds to apply. We are committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive and safe space for applicants and participants.