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More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft

3 years of Games Lift: Getting better with age

Three successful years lie behind the Games Lift Incubator. Before we start the fourth one, we take a look back. Our alumni have a lot to show.

What has happened in three years of Games Lift? When you put the question to Gamecity Hamburg project manager Margarete Schneider, she pauses and thinks. It's a lot. The incubator’s ambition was always to align itself to the needs of the participating teams and to grow along with them. Changes have been made to all areas from organization to individual workshops.

But the direction was a good one from the start: "In 2020, programs like ours were missing in Germany," Schneider notes and adds: "We set a precedent." Programs that combine financial help, feedback for game concepts and start assistance have sprung up in various regions of Germany.

Our incubator project managers Margarete Schneider and Amanda Förtsch | Screenshot from the Games Lift info video

The Games Lift Incubator can have major effects on creative teams. Niko Tziopanos, part of the trio behind "About Cannons and Sparrows", experienced a key benefit of the incubator when he took part in '22: "Now, we actually believe that our game will become reality." An idea has turned into a tangible project that not only profits from professional help, but also from the appreciation it has found among peers.

Niko Tziopanos, Martin Hess and Daniel Balzer from Team ACAS working on their game during the Games Lift Incubator 2022 | Photo by Selim Sudheimer

         

Getting far

An incubator is designed for projects that still have important steps ahead of them. Building up studios and developing games takes years. But Nico Plötz from Impawsible Games can testify that the journey has been worth it. His team was part of the first round in 2020 with "Ninja Brigade". Even then, the quartet did not lack in ideas and expertise. But like many creatives, they were more into game development than founding a company – Gamecity helped them in taking the crucial step. And just participating in the incubator upped the team’s "market value", Nico reports: "Publishers contacted us directly." Impawsible Games were able to negotiate and reach an agreement with newfound confidence. With a publisher and a swell steam page, all that’s left missing for "Ninja Brigade" is the release date – it might come soon!

Key Art for Ninja Brigade | Graphic by Impawsible Games

Other alumni have also made big leaps, founded companies, or gained funding. Roman Fuhrer's co-op adventure "Leif's Adventure" is almost ready for release, Julia Reberg's "Alchymia" has successfully applied for Gamecity’s Prototype Funding, as has Ole Jürgensen's "Crumbling" – a game that also shows dramatic visual progress since its time in the incubator.

Seeing success is great for teams, but mentors and instructors like Paulina Kwiecińska from PKonsulting also relish it. She brings a lot of experience from working at Tencent, Techland, or Untold Tales, but still finds the enthusiasm of the teams and their eagerness to learn infectious. Kwiecińska tells us that the "growth and development of the teams" in the program is the main reason she has kept returning, offering knowledge and support. The fact that she can watch "extremely talented teams getting even better" makes the effort worthwhile to her.

Business development expert Paulina Kwiecińska is one of the 50+ experts, workshop instructors and mentors in the Games Lift Network, who support the teams with knowledge, experience and contacts | Photo by Paulina Kwiecińska

         

A strong start

For some teams, specific advice made an enormous difference: For tool1, it was "renaming our game," explains Timo Becker, creative director at the studio. His team's first-person extraction shooter is now called "Absolute Matter." In Games Lift’s batch of 2021, tool1 still called their project "The Invitation". Thanks to combined funding from the German federal government and Gamecity Hamburg, the three of them were able to keep developing their ambitious project full-time for a year and hire freelance support. Now, a "marketable prototype" is ready. And tool1 have also learned a thing or two about efficient self-marketing in general. A "wake-up call" was the advice to create their own Steam page to lure an interested audience to a meaningful place right away.

Timo Becker, Stephen Sommerfeld and Martin Kleingräber of tool1 | Photo by Selim Sudheimer

Symmetry Break Studio also keep advancing their project "PROSPECTOR" professionally and determinedly after taking part in Games Lift in '21. To project manager Anca Tutescu, founding a company was stressful, but worthwhile. The fact that Symmetry Break Studio also managed to get Prototype Funding from Gamecity was a "massive success" for the team. "At the end of last year we could finally breathe more easily, celebrate our achievements and return to what we love to do" - now the focus is back on development work on the game.

Key Visual for Symmetry Break's PROSPECTOR | Graphic by Symmetry Break Studio

The incubator and its teams have something in common: both have grown to become stronger and better through experience in the last few years. The schedule has changed; some workshops have been revised, deepened, or retired. The support offered has changed; after the incubator, teams have access to follow-up coaching and PR support. Feedback from teams and alumni is the key ingredient in making the incubator the best it can be. Gamecity will keep listening and improving the program. Planning work on the fourth incubator is already underway.


This article is part of our Games Lift Log series, in which we share peeks behind the scenes of our Games Lift Incubator program and portrait the teams that joined the incubator program this year. Find more articles below.

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