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A bootcamp for gaming bootstrappers

Incubator Creative HQ has pushed the go button on its inaugural gaming bootcamp. Thumbs at the ready...

Startup competitions are all the rage lately, spawning new businesses and new apps up and down the country. But none have tapped specifically into the fast-growing game development industry – until now.

Alan Hucks

Alan Hucks is driving Creative HQ's gaming bootcamp

Business incubator Creative HQ’s inaugural gaming bootcamp recently took in fresh graduates from Victoria University’s advanced gaming course (yes, gaming course!) and began training them in the time-honoured ways of entrepreneurship.

“They would normally look to get their CV together and work for a gaming company like Sidhe,” says organiser and mentor Alan Hucks, a business strategist at CreativeHQ.

“We’re offering them another alternative, educating them about entrepreneurship and the opportunity to create their own startup game studio.”

The bootcamp is based around the model of a typical accelerator programme. Members get three months to develop a game concept, build a prototype and to effectively launch it. The whole shebang culminates in a demo day on March 1 where they will present the final product to potential investors.

Along the way, they’re guided through the basics of building a team, marketing, IP, design and user testing. They have a work space set aside at CreativeHQ, and a studio for the bulk of their work at the university.

Hucks says there’s a huge market out for game developers and the programme aims to instill grads with the knowledge and confidence to start their own companies from the get-go.

“The gaming industry has grown to the point now where you can start a small team and publish directly to the consumer via the app store, or you can put a game onto Facebook,” Hucks says.

He says both platforms are set up for the small developer with revenue models already in place (Apple and Facebook take 30 percent) that provide a gateway to a large market.

The 12 bootcampers are divided into two teams of coders, artists and designers, each building a Facebook game. Hucks says they’re vastly different concepts for vastly different markets, but both will be free, with revenue gathered through gameplay as users pay to purchase items and upgrades.

The bootcamp has its fair share of luminaries from the digital gaming sphere onboard, including SmallWorlds’ Mitch Olson, Melissa Clark-Reynolds of MiniMonos, and Mario Wynands and Tyrone McAuley from studio Sidhe.

“It’s about trying to bring in the talent and people who have ‘been there and done that’ to help them along the way."

Hucks says there are other examples of game-based accelerators around the world, especially in the US, but this is believed to be a first for New Zealand.

“We want to use this as a template for other high-growth industries, for example, in mobile and web.”

The programme is being funded through Viclink, the commercial arm of Victoria University.

It’s a novel way to support a faculty the university has traditionally struggled with. Hucks says commercialising ideas coming out of its design school may not be so difficult, however, now that it has a template of sorts.

“It’s always been a bit of a struggle for Viclink as to how to connect with them.”

CreativeHQ itself is home to a number of developers, but has never incubated a dedicated gaming company. But with the social gaming industry hitting the billion-dollar mark last year, it’s a matter of when, not if.

GAME ON

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