Joystick Labs announced this week that it is accepting applications for a seed-stage venture fund and accelerator program for independent video game startups.
Game developers who participate in Joystick Lab's 12-week accelerator programs will receive seed funding ($6,000 per founder or up to $18,000 per team), mentorship and networking opportunities, office space, and access to legal and accounting services.
The first program will start in September in Durham, North Carolina, an area whose Research Triangle boasts a sizable gaming industry presence. Michael Capps, president of Epic Games - makers of the Gears of War and Unreal games - announced that his company would be supporting Joystick's incubation projects with its Unreal Engine technology.
According to co-founder and industry veteran Juan Benito, Joystick Labs seeks to "reduce the barriers to entry to a point where there is nothing holding back a team of talented developers from launching their own studio."
While the traditional path to releasing a video game often meant that developers gave up creative control and IP ownership to a publisher, Joystick Labs will allow developers to retain both their intellectual property and their creative autonomy.
The creation of the incubator program is yet another indication that the the traditional video game production and distribution models are changing. The adoption of browser-based and mobile-gaming platforms and the move from retail to digital distribution have created lots of opportunities for indie game developers.
But it is still not easy to forge a path in an industry dominated by multimillion dollar companies and major video game brands. Joystick Labs hopes that the incubator program can help support developers to get their foot in the door, to "bridge the gap between having a great game idea and producing a game."