skip to Main Content

What’s the Difference Between an Indie Games Incubator and Publisher?

The Iterative Collective is both an indie games incubator and a publisher, but what does that mean, and which one should you be looking for to support your game?

The answer mostly depends on where you are in production and what you’re hoping to get out of the partnership!



Incubation is generally for first-time game developers who are in the pre-production phase or early production phase. The only thing you might have to share about your game right now is your pitch deck and hopefully at least a first playable demo, but you have a lot more work to do! You may also be missing core team members or perhaps you’re looking for mentorship from someone who is familiar with the industry. That’s exactly where an incubator can help!

Our job is to get you to a place where you can confidently find a publisher (whether that’s us or someone else). Overall, the purpose of an incubator is to help transform your team of game developers with a concept into a fully functioning studio with a viable game in production.

Here are some things incubators can provide:

  • Legal and Administrative Support:
    • Assistance on incorporating a company and setting up a company bank account
    • Founders, employee and freelancer agreements
    • Help finding those missing core team members
  • Validation and Feedback:
    • Validation of your game concept based on market data
    • Feedback of your game concept from mentors and industry experts
  • Mentoring and Coaching:
    • Get advice and support in areas like business, game design, art, programming, audio and more
  • Networking Opportunities:
    • Getting you in front of publishers when you’re ready and preparing you for that
    • Support for negotiating deals with publishers
    • Connecting with industry partners, mentors, and professionals
  • Infrastructure and Resources:
    • Access to essential resources such as software, tools, and utilities helping to reduce operational costs and focus on their game development



While you don’t have to come to a publisher with a finished product by any means, you’re likely much farther along in this process with a polished vertical slice and a clear plan for the game.

Generally, you come to a publisher when you’re ready (or close to ready) to start thinking about marketing and putting your game out into the world for people to play. We’ve already written about how to find the best publisher for you as well as all the different things a publisher can do for you, but here is a quick overview of the things publishers tend to help you with:

  • Funding and Investment:
    • Covering the costs associated with game production
    • Covering the costs associated with QA
    • Covering the costs associated with Localization
    • Covering the costs associated with Marketing
  • Production and Development Support:
    • Offer expertise and guidance in areas such as game design, art direction, programming, quality assurance, and project management
    • Offer competitor analysis and research into which regions your game is likely to do well in
  • Marketing and Promotion:
    • Social media management and the creation of marketing copy and assets
    • Participation in digital events like Future Game Show or OTK Games Expo
    • Support at in-person events and conventions like PAX or Gamescom
    • Creating and managing connections with international media outlets and press so that press releases are picked up and the games get coverage
    • Creating and managing connections with influencers so the games get coverage on Youtube and Twitch
    • Building and maintaining a community via Discord server
    • Creating and running paid advertising campaigns
    • Store page optimization using researched best practices
  • Licensing and Intellectual Property:
    • Merch (coordinating the design, manufacturing, storage, shipping, etc.)
    • Extending the game’s IP into merchandise, books, films, or other media
  • Distribution and Publishing Platforms:
    • Handling the distribution of the game to various platforms and channels
    • Negotiating distribution deals with online marketplaces (e.g., Steam, Epic Games Store, console stores), physical retailers, and mobile app stores
    • Ensuring that the game reaches the intended platforms and target markets, coordinating release dates and logistics
  • Post-Launch Support:
    • Support with DLCs, additional content, porting, updates, patches

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea!

Here at The Iterative Collective, we support a variety of games from tons of different genres and team sizes and types—see our website for examples!—but it’s important to be sure the incubator and/or publisher you use works with you as much as you want them to work for you. Not every publisher and dev team or game type are compatible, and it’s important to consider what it will be like working together just as strongly as you consider what you hope to get out of the relationship. We always strive to give our games the absolute best support possible, so we work hard to make sure every single one is a good fit for us. (And that we’re a good fit for them!) You should be doing the same thing when choosing your incubator or publisher. I’ve mentioned it already, but our post on how to find the best publisher for you can act as a great resource on that front, and what’s there can apply to choosing an incubator as well.

Do you have more questions? Put them in the comments below!

Back To Top