The Incubator provides scaffolding for successful work, with structured curriculum and direct management kept to a minimum. At the onset, each project will set a Distribution Goal, either public launch, a crowdfunding campaign, or pitch to publisher. Based on these objectives, the final deliverable will be slightly different, but in each case the goal is public distribution of the game.
2017 Curriculum Snapshot
In addition to dedicated work time, each summer we offer a variety of workshops, presentations, panels and studio visits from our Incubator Advisory Board members. Incubator Participants can expect about 1/3 of their time to be scheduled events and meetings, with the remaining time available for independent work. The following workshops and events were scheduled in 2017:
Design & Communication Workshop – Margaret Robertson, Dots
Funding Roundtable – Aaron Isaksen, IndieFund
Evaluating the Publisher Option – Nathan Gelman, Alliance Digital Media
Marketing for Indies 101 – Alexander King, Independent
Marketing & Communications – Max Sebela, Tumblr
Legal Workshop – Chris Reid, Chris Reid Law
Milestone 1 Review Session
Incubator Alumni Panel – Various Incubator Alumni
Kickstarter Tour & Dinner – Anya Combs & Luke Crane, Kickstarter
BQEs & Betas Public Playtest at Brooklyn Brewery
Milestone 2 Review Session
Negotiation Workshop – Daniel Ames, Columbia Business School
Making Money, Not Just Games – Stephanie Llamas & Elena Fedina, SuperData Research
Publisher Pitches – Nathan Gelman, Alliance Digital Media
Play NYC Convention
Milestone 3 Review Session
Showcase Presentation Prep
Final Incubator Showcase
In addition to these sessions, Incubator participants had one-on-one studio visits with Advisors such as: Simon Ferrari (AMC Networks), Howard Tsao (Muse Games), Bryan Cashman (GG Studios), Max Sebela (Tumblr), Eric Zimmerman (NYU Game Center), and more.
Over the course of the first month, each game sets a course for the type of public launch they will enact by the program’s end. These goals are lightweight ways of structuring the game’s objectives for the Incubator, designed to be aware of the fact that projects will require different amounts and focus of work.
- Public Launch: Appropriate for a game that will be in a finished state, or near-finished at the close of the program, this includes iOS launch, Steam, an open beta, self-published, etc.
- Crowdfunding: Appropriate for a game that needs additional time and funds after the Incubator to reach its final state. This track will focus more on the planning required to successfully manage a crowdfunding campaign. The goal will be to end the program with the launch of a crowdfunding campaign.
- Pitch to Publisher: Appropriate for a team that will seek funding through a single publisher. The focus will be on developing a strong demo and pitching methodology as well as carefully planning the potential publishers.
The Monthly Experience
Each month, developers will work toward their distribution goal by creating a Strategic Plan during the first month of the Incubator and working toward monthly milestones. At each milestone, teams are required to submit updated builds, revised Strategic Plans, and a brief self-evaluation of their progress in relation to their production schedule.
The Strategic Plan
Each game develops a Strategic Plan, a record of the game’s overall design, production, financial, legal, distribution, and marketing objectives. They create the first version of this document using the skills developed during workshops held throughout the first month and continue to refine it throughout the program. The Strategic Plan also includes a sketch of the game’s state at three milestones, one per each month of the program. These self-defined milestones are used to evaluate the game’s progress towards their Distribution Goal.
The Milestone Review Summit
At Milestone Reviews Summits, each game presents their current status to an assembly of all Incubator teams and the Advisory Board. The Advisors give the teams constructive criticism, bringing their varied experience to bear on the projects and ensuring the teams are asking the right questions and setting appropriate goals. After the presentations the Advisors at the Review Summit discuss if the teams have made acceptable progress towards their goals and vote to allow the project to continue to the next milestone.
The Incubator Showcase
The program culminates with public debut of the games, featuring microtalks from the developers and an arcade to play games. This exciting event is one of most popular events at the Game Center, drawing hundreds of people for the opportunity to play these promising games before their commercial release. In 2015 and 2016 The Brooklyn Brewery generously hosted a second showcase of Incubator games, giving the games another opportunity to find new and different audiences.
The Weekly Experience
The week-to-week experience of the Incubator enables the teams to achieve their distribution goals.
Weekly Check In
At the start of each week teams must submit a weekly check in. The weekly check in questions like: What did you say you would accomplish last week? What did you accomplish last week? What will you accomplish this week? That document is reviewed by the Incubator Director, who then meets briefly with each team that afternoon to review the document and the team’s overall progress. The Monday meetings allow the Director to both help the teams stay on track, as well as act as a liaison between the teams and the Advisory Board.
Partner Talks and Roundtables
Talks and roundtables are an opportunity for Advisors to share their knowledge with all the teams. Duration, format, and topic are determined by the speaker with the simple goal of sharing knowledge the teams can use to successfully launch their games. Examples include Online Marketing for Games with Max Sebela of Tumblr, Funding Opportunities for Indie Developers with Aaron Isaksen of Indie Fund, and Intellectual Property In The Game Industry with S. Gregory Boyd of FKKS.
Thursday evenings from 5 -7PM the Game Center is open to the public for playtesting. All Incubator games are shown here alongside local developers, Game Center students, and other designers. Here teams have the opportunity to seek feedback from the vibrant community of game developers in NYC and begin to build community and excitement around their game. Playtest Thursday is a resource for all developers in New York; by opening our doors to everyone the Game Center hopes to be the proving grounds for the best projects happening in the city.
Similar to Playtest Thursday, but restricted to only Incubator teams and the Advisory Board. Generally less focused on game design and hands-on production, a studio visit could be a conversation about marketing strategy, reviewing publishing opportunities, or refining a pitch deck, for example. This is a chance for our Advisors to work with a team closely for a brief period of time.
Remote Reviews are a week of concentrated feedback between an Advisor and a project. The idea is to simulate the close collaboration of an in-person studio visit with Advisors who aren’t based in New York. Each week, the developers identify advisors who have skills and experience relevant to their current challenges and request their help. At the beginning of a remote review week Advisors receive information about the project and questions from the team, then the group spends that week working together on the issues that are especially relevant to their project at that moment.
NYU Game Center Incubator Slack
The Incubator uses Slack to encourage ongoing, informal communication between all members of the Incubator. The current developers, Incubator alumni, Game Center faculty and staff, and many members of the Advisory Board regularly communicate on the Incubator Slack. Topics range from code advice to announcements about new projects. The Advisory Board includes members from many different countries, this platform enables valuable connection between the developers and Advisors that wouldn’t otherwise be practical.