The Dutch Game Garden Breda officially opened its doors March 3rd 2015, and Maikel and I went to Breda to witness the opening ceremony of the new incubator. The location in Breda is the Dutch Game Garden’s third establishment and other location include Hilversum and Utrecht. The Dutch Game Garden has been around since 2008 and provides office space to game developers. By putting developers together in a single building and providing them support in various areas they aim to create a good work environment in which game developers can create games that are both a creative and financial success. Examples of such developers can be found in the Dutch Game Garden incubator in Utrecht. Studios such as Vlambeer and Abbey Games have proven themselves to be successful in the international market.
Now the Dutch Game Garden is using their success formula to establish another incubator in Breda. To realise this they formed a collaboration with the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, which is currently one of the biggest sources of new game development talent in the Netherlands. For both parties this is a great opportunity. The Dutch Game Garden is able to attract new talent in Breda, and students from the NHTV now have new options available to enter the industry.
It was busy at the official opening of the Dutch Game Garden Breda. As I walked in everyone was attempting to claim a good spot to view the opening ceremony of the establishment. Some of the more important figures in the rising Dutch Game Development scene had gathered for the ceremony. Among them was of course JP van Seventer, the managing director of the Dutch Game Garden. Frank Peters (who has worked at NHTV as a Dean for eight years) was also present and has taken on the role of director at the Dutch Game Garden Breda. Others that were present at the ceremony were reporters, students and teachers of the NHTV, and of course the game developers themselves. During the event we had a chat with the developers of the companies that are currently in the incubator.
Our first stop was Through Games, a studio that consists almost exclusively of students from the NHTV. The story of the studio is an interesting one. Even though almost the entire team has yet to finish their education, they are already enjoying major success in the game development scene. With their global game jam hit FRU they managed to get from concept to showing their game at both GDC and E3 in less than six months. With their tremendous success as well as some help and encouragement from their teachers at NHTV they decided to join the Dutch Game Garden Breda to further develop both their game and studio. This year they decided not to go to the GDC in San Francisco (which is currently being held, and coincided with the opening of the Dutch Game Garden Breda). Instead the team is focusing on the development of the game and is aiming to be able to show something at this year’s E3. When I asked what the team thought about the Dutch Game Garden, they were very positive. Previously they had been working mostly from school which was difficult at times. But now that they have their own office at the Dutch Game Garden the days where they needed to secure a room to work in are over. One of the biggest advantages according to the team is the ability to walk over to another developer in the incubator and ask questions or request feedback. This is also in line with one of the goals of the Dutch Game Garden, which is to encourage developers to share knowledge and experience so developers can learn from each other.
Pressed for time we head over to the next studio. Atlantis Games is the biggest company at the Dutch Game Garden Breda in terms of employees. The studio has been founded by NHTV with the goal in mind to offer students and graduates of the university internships and jobs at the company. I spoke to Frank Zijlmans, director of Atlantis Games, about the company and its projects. Currently the company has eight full-time employees and three interns working on their projects. The projects at Atlantis are serious games that are developed for other companies interested in using games in order to improve their products and services, sometimes even using games to offer something completely new. By giving graduates valuable professional experience, Atlantis games aims to have its employees start their own company once they are ready for it. This allows the employees to move on to the next stage of their career and also frees up space for new graduates to join the company. Frank is positive about being a part of the Dutch Game Garden. He feels it allows them to stay in touch with other companies in the area, and not just those in the incubator but all the companies in Breda. This is something which he believes is important for the studio, its employees, as well as its projects. As an added benefit, if extra work is needed, we can hire freelancers to help us with that.
Finally we had an interview with Sassybot Studio. Formed in 2012, the studio is the oldest company at the Dutch Game Garden Breda. The studio has made an arcade-action game called Small Bang Theory as well as several successful game jam games. One of those game jam games Fragments of Him, had been received so well by players online that they decided to work on a full version of the game which is still in production and slated for release later this year. We spoke with co-founder Tino van der Kraan about their motivations for joining the Dutch Game Garden. Sassybot already had a studio in Breda which they operated from, but when offered the opportunity to move into the Dutch Game Garden Breda it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. According to Tino having a pool of knowledge to draw from is something that is really valuable. And the Dutch Game Garden offers that since there are a lot of other developers nearby. “If we have some technical questions or we need feedback or anything we just go around the corner and knock on their doors.” But Tino says that the advantages of the Dutch Game Garden are not just limited to the knowledge pool or game development itself. “[Being in the Dutch Game Garden] also gives you more visibility. A week ago on Wednesday the NOS* came by to do an item on the companies that are here or are going to have their company here. So if we were still in the old office space, NOS wouldn’t have come by. So even that item and that exposure and visibility has already been worth it.”
And it is this marketing and business side of game development that the Dutch Game Garden wants to assist game developers in. Because they believe that Dutch studios are already really good at the development of games, but that it often is the marketing and business know-how that is holding them back. And to that end, the incubator’s partnerships with companies such as Starterslift are a step in the right direction. The Dutch Game Garden Breda is still young, but it shows a lot of promise. If all goes well, it won’t be long before we see the first successful games from the young entrepreneurs in Breda.