game Baden-Württemberg is the regional office of the games industry in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
The state hopes to become a ‘leading region for digital change’. The regional games industry supports this goal with its innovative digital content and technological advancements ‘made in Baden-Württemberg’. Games are the most progressive medium of our age, inherently digital since their inception. They are cultural assets, economic commodities and drivers of innovation in equal measure, and they should be included in the state’s digitalisation strategy as soon as possible. The technologies and mechanisms used in games development have applications that extend far beyond the cultural and entertainment sector, ranging from the automotive industry to medicine.
Baden-Württemberg numbers among the strongest economic and industrial regions in Germany; throughout Europe, it is known as an innovative powerhouse and is home to thriving digital, creative and media sectors. With renowned colleges, universities and institutes in technical and design fields as well as an established system of government subsidies, the state offers ideal conditions for the diverse ecosystem of the regional games industry.
The games industry in Baden-Württemberg has thus far been unable to fully tap this enormous potential. In comparison to other German states, the hidden champion of the digital entertainment industry has had to make do with lower games funding whilst tackling the challenges of a skilled labour shortage and brain drain among creatives.
Consequently, in partnership with regional stakeholders, we are advocating comprehensive improvements to the conditions for the games industry in Baden-Württemberg. Our four most important demands are as follows:
With the “Games BW” funding, the funding agency MFG Baden-Württemberg has replaced the “Digital Content Funding” program (DCF) that existed until June 2020. Fortunately, the new program has a clear focus on supporting the games industry in Baden-Württemberg. It was notified by the European Commission and entered into force on July 1, 2020. The total budget was increased from 600,000 euros to 900,000 euros at the same time. In addition, networking and training activities are also offered under this label, such as the Developer Boost coaching program and the Open Stage, as well as support for the two games hubs in Ludwigsburg and Heideberg.
Nevertheless, the level of funding falls significantly behind other locations such as North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria. We are therefore calling for an increase in the total funding amount, as the number of companies and thus applicants has also grown. For sustainable support of small and medium-sized developer studios in particular, it is necessary that funding is generally provided by grant, as with the federal government’s computer games funding. The processes of the funding should be revised analogously, especially with regard to the possible application deadlines per year (more than two), a faster decision and processing time, and a simplified call or fast disbursement of the granted funds.
In the guidelines, the age restriction of projects should urgently be removed in the next notification process in order to recognize games as a medium and means of expression for adults. Artistically oriented projects should not only occupy an exceptional place as part of the funding portfolio. Other eligible measures should include support for marketing and publishing, capital goods, consulting services (legal, tax, monetization), qualification measures, and trade fair and conference participation (travel costs, fees) in order to sustainably support the professionalization and international competitiveness of the regional developer landscape.
Baden-Württemberg wants to become an even more attractive “start-up state”. To this end, the Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing has launched the state campaign and start-up platform “Start-up BW,” which aims to maintain the state’s competitiveness and economic strength and strengthen its reputation as a start-up state both nationally and internationally. Special attention should also be paid to supporting founders in the games industry. The mentoring program “Developer Boost” for founders in the games industry has already been successfully launched by MFG. For basic subsistence during the first phase of business model development, scholarships have proven to be particularly helpful in many areas of promoting young talent. However, many scholarships are only aimed at graduates of state colleges and universities or are directly linked to them (e.g. “EXIST”). However, many of those interested in founding a company are graduates of the many private universities and training centers as well as experienced employees of established games companies or career changers from other industries. No support exists for these important and qualified professionals. Baden-Württemberg could become a true magnet for start-ups in the games industry if it offered independent scholarships. The start in games development would additionally be facilitated by granting a funding quota of up to 100 percent for the concept funding of the “Games BW” funding (analogous to the Bavarian games funding).
- The ecosystem of the games industry in Baden-Württemberg is diverse and international, and networking all stakeholders in the industry must be a top priority. Under the label ‘Games BW’, the MFG Baden-Württemberg offers events and funding programmes for the games industry, as well as the shared trade fair stand for Baden-Württemberg-based games companies at gamescom and the event series Open Stage Games BW. These opportunities to exchange ideas within the industry, with other creative and digital industries and to network locally and internationally must be maintained, financially secured for the long term and expanded. Support for industry events such as the Talk & Play Karlsruhe event series would bolster the indie scene. The games industry needs an annual flagship event with national prominence to help raise visibility and awareness of the industry.
Consequently, we demand an increase in funding for ‘Games BW’ to bolster events and platforms for networking and internationalisation over the long term.
- Creativity needs more than just metaphorical space. The games industry in Baden-Württemberg needs real, physical spaces where its stakeholders can cooperate and exchange ideas. These ‘hubs’ not only provide university graduates and entrepreneurs in the industry with their first professional home, preventing them from migrating to other German states or countries – they are also highly attractive for established companies and organisations thanks to the wide range of opportunities for cooperation they offer. This gap in the market is currently being filled by private initiatives such as the co-working space Kokolores. These centralised locations pool companies and service providers, create an event space and generate attention for the games industry as a result. Examples from other states and countries such as the Cologne Game Haus are particularly impressive proof of how targeted government funding can further amplify the potential of co-working spaces. These spaces also facilitate the exchange of information and ideas with other industries that hope to benefit from the technologies and innovations in game development (artificial intelligence, mixed reality, real-time simulations). In addition to the economic effects, hubs also offer fun, digital educational opportunities for young people and adults alike. With interactive displays and technological exhibits, a hub can also become a tourist magnet.
- This requires commitment and support from the state, cities and local communities for game hubs in the Ludwigsburg/Stuttgart metropolitan area and in Karlsruhe, as only state-owned real estate can ensure affordable and stable commercial rents and a central, attractive location over the long term. Additionally, financing is required for human resources teams to manage the hubs.
This will require the continued commitment and support of the state, cities and municipalities for game hubs in the Ludwigsburg/Stuttgart area and in Karlsruhe, since only state real estate can ensure favorable and secure commercial rents as well as a central and attractive location in the long term. In addition, funding is needed for staff positions to manage the hubs.
- The games industry is one of the most dynamically growing media industries. There is a lot of potential for new start-ups and the establishment of games companies. In order to exploit this potential, skilled workers are urgently needed, who are trained in the regional games-related courses of study. In order to keep them on site, there is a need for close integration with the existing industry. On the one hand, the level of awareness of the educational institutions must be increased or additional dedicated games courses of study must be offered, e.g. by expanding the Institute for Games at the Hochschule der Medien (HdM), and on the other hand, cooperation with the existing industry must be expanded (mentoring, internships, theses). Annual events should be promoted at which all companies and educational institutions are brought together to ensure exchange. The goal should be, on the one hand, to arrange internships, cooperations and jobs for students and companies, and on the other hand, to provide information for interested young people about regional (educational) opportunities and career prospects. In addition, this event should inform people who are interested in starting up a business and also lateral entrants about the existing funding opportunities and support existing professionals through training measures. These measures also require sufficient financial and personnel resources and could be located at the network management.
In particular, computer science should be made a compulsory subject in Baden-Württemberg schools in preparation for the future demand for skilled workers in all digital industries. The development of games provides a high motivation factor for children and young people, especially when teaching computer science.