The Berlin-Brandenburg region enjoys an outstanding international reputation as a leading location for the digital and media sectors. A creative hub, the capital region is a magnet for top global talent, who are attracted to its cultural life, vibrant diversity and tolerance, and relatively low cost of living. The diverse ecosystem of the local games industry also benefits from these excellent conditions: national companies expand and international stakeholders establish branches in Berlin-Brandenburg, creating stable jobs for skilled professionals – jobs subject to social insurance contributions. Games-specific events such as gamesweekberlin, the games:net berlinbrandenburg network and cultural institutions such as the Computerspielemuseum highlight the diversity and creativity of the games industry and significantly enrich life in the capital with all they have to offer.
In that sense, computer and video games are cultural assets, economic commodities and drivers of innovation. The games industry leads the way in the development and use of innovative technologies (artificial intelligence, virtual reality), transfers expertise to other sectors of the economy and provides interactive and entertaining ways of sharing knowledge. A strong games industry therefore makes an important contribution to society and the economy.
The games industry in Berlin has thus far been unable to fully tap this enormous potential. Consequently, in partnership with regional stakeholders, we are committed to comprehensively improving conditions for the games industry in the capital region, which could become one of the most attractive places for game development in the entire world. Our four most important demands are as follows:
- Despite its numerous strengths, the capital region is still far from living up to its full potential when it comes to the conditions for the games industry. Compared to other locations in Germany, Europe and the world, Berlin-Brandenburg has a great deal of untapped potential and enormous room for growth in the games industry. Other federal states in Germany are miles ahead of Berlin-Brandenburg, and have been for some time – Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia are leading the way. Given all the factors strongly in the capital region’s favour, it should be on a par with European games capitals like London, Paris or Helsinki, or even the game development strongholds of North America. Effective location marketing is vital if the region is to compete internationally.
The capital region must take an active leadership role in the strategic positioning and development of the games industry. Targeted measures for the games sector must be developed and implemented based on the March 2018 study of the computer and video games industry, because targeted funding for the industry would maximise leveraging effects. Support for flagship projects with international prominence (such as gamesweekberlin, the Internationale Computerspielesammlung (International Computer Games Collection) and the German Computer Games Awards (DCP)) would underscore the attractiveness of the location, draw skilled professionals and investors from around the world and help the industry achieve its strategic objectives. We therefore demand appropriate funding for location marketing going well beyond a website (www.gamescapital.berlin), as well as an organisation that is properly funded and staffed over the long term.
The government and administrative bodies must provide sufficient staffing resources for the regional games industry. The industry also needs a clear point of contact to help drive development in a targeted manner and to maintain a central overview of the various contacts, companies, institutions and projects.
- Berlin is an outstanding location for the games industry. Many companies and institutions for digital games as well as games-related services, events and initiatives have settled in Berlin or were founded here. The games industry characterizes Berlin with its location factors: Diversity and internationality are lived here. Trends are set in the field of tension between media design, high technology and direct contact with communities. Through the cooperation of business, culture, science, administration and politics, a House of Games is to be created that will be a beacon throughout Germany and the world. Under one roof, a hub for the games industry will be created with access to central institutions and services of the industry, with space for companies and a games hub especially for young and small companies, as well as cultural offerings. The first initiative partners are already working on the implementation of this project, which is unique in Germany, and require political support in the form of start-up financing for the realization of the project, as well as support for individual projects in the House of Games.
- Since 2006, games production in the capital region has been successfully receiving funding as part of the ‘Innovative Audiovisual Content’ funding programme from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Productions include many award-winning and commercially successful games. However, this funding supports more than just games; it also goes toward cross-media projects based on virtual-reality and augmented-reality technologies. Consequently, funding purely for games in Berlin-Brandenburg falls short of the amounts offered in other locations, and compared to the film industry, the sums are still practically negligible. We therefore demand the emancipation of games funding and an increase in the total amount of funding provided specifically for games. In order to play a leading role in games funding, the capital region should introduce a level of funding that can compete with Germany’s leading funding institutions in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. Expanding the guidelines and the portfolio of measures eligible for funding is also necessary to support small and medium-sized companies over the long term, in particular. Concepts, prototypes and artistic projects should be eligible to receive public funding in the form of grants at a rate of up to 80 per cent. Artistically oriented projects should also be treated as more than just exceptions in the subsidy portfolio. Further funding measures should include subsidies for sales (marketing and publication costs), capital goods, consulting services (legal, tax, monetisation), training programmes and participation in trade fairs and conferences (travel expenses, fees) in order to provide support for improving the professionalism and international competitiveness of all game developers in the region over the long term. EU notification should also be an objective, in part to ensure the industry’s eligibility for and compatibility with federal funding in future. Additionally, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s promotional budget for the regional games industry should be maintained and expanded; this funding supports events such as gamesweekberlin and all its events, as well as the DCP or networking events held by games:net berlinbrandenburg.
The funding programmes from the business development banks (IBB and ILB) still are not suitable for games companies. The banks’ definition of innovation must be expanded to include non-technology-based innovations, and the pool of mentors and coaches from the games industry needs to be expanded.
Particular emphasis must be placed on supporting start-ups. Many grants for entrepreneurs are only aimed at graduates of state colleges and universities or are directly tied to these institutions (EXIST, Berlin Startup Scholarship). The majority of people interested in founding companies are graduates of the numerous private colleges and educational establishments in the field, experienced employees of established games companies or employees who worked in other sectors before joining the games industry. However, there is no support for these important, highly qualified experts. They need support in the form of targeted workshops and specifically tailored start-up consulting. The capital region could become a true magnet for start-ups in the games industry if the regional state banks would offer independent grants and programmes for games industry start-ups.
- The ecosystem of the games industry in Berlin and Brandenburg is broad, diverse and international. Compared to the rest of Germany, it has the most companies, many service providers and a wide range of colleges, educational and research establishments, institutions, collectives and initiatives. Networking all stakeholders is a particularly important task. The regional games industry network games:net berlinbrandenburg, which has existed since 2013, is doing outstanding and important work with its various industry networking events. As part of its parent organisation media:net berlinbrandenburg, it also offers games companies in the region opportunities to exchange ideas with other creative and digital industries and to network internationally. These initiatives – ‘Berlin Baltic Nordic’ is an excellent example – must continue, and their long-term future must be secured. The important work of games:net berlinbrandenburg, with its initiatives and events that promote networking and an international orientation, must be preserved and continue to receive support and funding.