September 14, 2020
The Games Lift Incubator starts now. What does it incubate, exactly?
As another important program to support up-and-coming game developers and the games ecosystem in Hamburg, our Games Lift Incubator finally lifts off. Time for a quick inventory: What does the program do? What does it hope to achieve? We asked Gamecity Hamburg’s project manager Margarete Schneider to get us into the details of this new incubation program.
Games Lift has launched. Five teams of game developers will be participating from now until early December. The program is run by Gamecity Hamburg. While COVID-19 case numbers in Germany may be low, they are still risks to be taken into account. For project manager Margarete Schneider all kinds of networking is essential: „We want our developer teams to connect with each other as well as with their coaches and mentors.“
The teams should have a lot to learn from each other – genres, team sizes, and scope vary wildly between projects. This is intentional, Schneider insists: „Games Lift is meant for all kinds of young developer teams“. Strengths Schneider wants to see in an application include an „outstanding idea“ and a „will and drive to work smartly and creatively“. This year, she sees a healthy mix of „student teams as well as start-up companies, but also individuals with some experience in the industry“.
This time around, a lot of the connecting will have to happen remotely. Schneider isn’t worried: „Putting this exchange in a digital space not only grants a safe environment in regards to COVID-19 but also strengthens our approach to include international guests and speakers.“ Nevertheless, she still thinks that a real location is an important way to „strengthen the spirit“ of the teams. For the duration of the project, they get access to offices at CODE WORKING SPACE Hamburg, a facility that is compliant with COVID-19 regulations. Teams have to arrange their attendance because not all can stay there at the same time. But this is a solution that enables the devs „to meet in person in smaller, cross-team groups“, Schneider explains.
What developers want
Participating in Games Lift has three main perks: Each team receives 15,000 euros of funding, gets coached by industry experts, and gets to use the offices.
The coaching approach is unique to Games Lift. For Schneider, it fills a need she observed while working with newcomers and start-ups around Gamecity Hamburg – „practically oriented, well-structured programs that meet the needs of up-and-coming game developers: programs that acknowledge both the financial challenges start-ups are facing as well as their need for guidance in a highly competitive market.“
„Around 20 workshops and talks“ will be provided, Schneider says, with topics ranging from „legal aspects to marketing strategies to pitch training“. Independent of the schedule, „a pool of 30 mentors is available for questions“. The list of industry experts is doubly impressive, including people from internationally renowned studios as well as domestic giants. „Many of the Games Lift events will be held in English“, Schneider clarifies.
Schneider wants to provide participants with a „kick start“, meant to „build up development processes“ as well as a healthy, sustainable business. This means reserving a lot of the incubator’s time for the self-directed development work of the teams. Workshops and talks only occupy one or two days per week. To make them count, Schneider looked to the participating experts as well as the teams themselves. „Since almost all of the applicants asked for support in marketing and PR, we decided to hire an agency specialized in Indie Games PR that will not only give basic advice in a workshop but will also work with each team individually to help them set up a communication strategy for their particular game - even after the end of the Incubator program.“
Evidently, Games Lift aims to fill a gap in the coaching and funding landscape. Schneider explains that she wants to enable teams „to ask the most significant questions early enough: Who and how big is my target group? How do I market my game? What are my direct competitors and how can my game stand out?“ These are questions that may not sound sexy to aspiring game developers, but that may prove essential to making a living out of the endeavor. It will be interesting to see how the five teams of this first Game Lift batch answer these questions – and where their answers take them in the next three months and coming years.