game Northern Germany is the regional office of the games industry in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The cultural, economic and societal potential of computer and video games is extremely important, particularly for our region. Consequently, alongside regional stakeholders in the games industry and in close cooperation with partners such as nordmedia, we are dedicated to improving the conditions in the games industry in our region. As representatives of the regional games industry, we advocate for companies and institutions ranging from game developers and publishers to service providers, educational establishments and public institutions.
game Northern Germany lobbies for comprehensive improvements to the conditions in the games industry in northern Germany, which comprises locations in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Our three most important demands are as follows:
- In Lower Saxony, games have been receiving regular funding from nordmedia since 2011. This type of games funding does not exist in Bremen or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, however; they are among the few federal states that have never offered games funding of any kind, putting the regional games industry at a major disadvantage. Lower Saxony and Bremen have been home to games studios since the 1990s and the early 2000s respectively, whilst Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s games industry is still in its infancy. Consequently, there is a positive situation here that is not being utilised, as well as a great deal of additional potential that remains untapped. We therefore demand the introduction of substantial funding for the games industry in Bremen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, because locations that do receive games funding have persuasively demonstrated that it produces successful results on a multitude of levels – including a large number of award-winning games and additional investments and leveraging effects triggered by games funding. Games funding supports start-ups, new branches of established companies, capital endowment and the sustainable growth of small and medium-sized companies in particular. It also prevents skilled professionals from migrating out of the region to other federal states. Lower Saxony’s games industry largely consists of small and medium-sized companies, and consequently, the total available funding volume and the amounts provided for individual projects by nordmedia should be significantly increased to avoid putting a damper on potential future growth and to ensure that the funding has a tangible impact. Like other funding programmes from nordmedia, games funding should also be available in Bremen. The framework to make this possible will need to be implemented on a political level.
In future, regional funding must be compatible with potential federal funding. To that end, the potential permissible funding rates (percentage of total budget comprised by subsidies) must be increased so that the states can draw federal funds in order to leverage positive effects and trigger further regional investments. EU notification of games funding in line with the Bavarian model should also be implemented so that the restrictions of the de minimis aid regulations can be lifted. Additionally, the funding made available to the games industry by nordmedia should be provided in defined amounts. It is vital that funding for concepts and prototypes can be used specifically for start-ups and small companies (via potential subsidies), and that production funding can be used specifically for regional flagship projects.
The portfolio of games industry measures eligible for funding from nordmedia in Lower Saxony is unique and should serve as an example for the rest of Germany: not only are concepts, prototypes and games productions eligible for subsidies; sales expenses (marketing and publication costs), networking events and presentations, investments (hardware and software, dev kits, licences), and training and consulting services are eligible as well. This portfolio should be maintained and expanded to include participation in national and international trade fairs, and it should serve as a model to be implemented in partnering federal states.
- The ecosystem of the games industry in northern Germany consists of many small and medium-sized companies, as well as educational establishments that are distributed throughout the entire region. Consequently, the demand for a strong network within the games industry and an exchange of ideas with other economic sectors is particularly important to allow all stakeholders to benefit from one another on all levels. We therefore demand the establishment of a network for the games industry with corresponding funding. This network could be under the aegis of nordmedia to consistently drive networking, support for events and participation in studies on the regional games industry, in particular. Specific, central points of contact for the games industry are decisive here and must be established in all federal states to bolster the industry and ensure that networking events are properly funded and staffed. This will require financing for further positions in network management and communication; these positions could be created at nordmedia, for example. The reintroduction of the meetup series ‘FIREABEND’ (‘Initialzündungen für die Games-Branche Niedersachen’ – ‘Sparking ideas in the games industry of Lower Saxony’) is a welcome first step. The events should be held at alternating locations, and further events should be funded alongside the meetups. Specific examples might include game jams or formats that exhibit or present games and their creators. Training and qualification programmes would round off the package.
A central website and communication platform should also be created for the regional games industry (overview, directory, various topics, forum, chat) to provide members of the industry with a modern way to stay up to date with local events and information and to exchange ideas even beyond the actual events. This platform could also eventually include a section for job postings. A video portrait series could be produced in cooperation with local business development organisations to help raise visibility of the companies in the industry. These specific measures could form the basis of a joint location marketing campaign. A new setting should be found for the Serious Games Conference and at least one flagship event with national prominence should be maintained and/or developed from the ground up.
- The games industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of the media industry. There is a great deal of potential for start-ups and for attracting established games companies to the region. In order to leverage this potential, highly skilled professionals are urgently required, who will be educated in the specific programmes of study relevant to the games industry that are offered at regional educational establishments. In order to keep these professionals in the region, educational establishments will need to work closely with the existing industry. Awareness of these educational establishments must be raised, and they must start to offer a more extensive range of programmes specific to the games industry. Partnerships with the existing industry also need to be expanded (mentoring, internships, thesis projects). Additionally, funding should be provided for annual events where all companies and educational establishments come together to exchange ideas. The objective here is twofold: to broker internship positions, partnerships and jobs for students and companies, and to provide interested school students with information about the opportunities for education, training and careers in the region. Potential entrepreneurs should also be able to learn about the existing funding opportunities at this event. These measures will need to be properly funded and staffed and can be handled by the network management team.
Better consulting and funding options must be made available to potential entrepreneurs; most of the existing programmes – such as those from the regional business development banks – are not suitable, as not all start-ups in the games industry are based on technological innovations. One promising first step is the introduction of the nine-month grant CLOSEUP for Bremen. Entrepreneurs in the media industry can receive up to 20,000 euros in funding for their first project. The programme is also bolstered by mentoring, workshops and networking with Bremen’s media professionals. This programme should be expanded to Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.