game Saarland is the regional office of the games industry in the federal state of Saarland.
Digitalisation is a key issue for the future of Saarland; the process of digitalisation is continuously progressing, affecting every aspect of our lives, from our workplaces to our homes. Saarland is ideally positioned to play a leading role in shaping digital change. The research landscape in the fields of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity is among the best in the world, and the SME sector in Saarland is highly tech-savvy and at the forefront of digital change.
The games industry supports this trend with its creative, innovative content and technological developments. 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 all sectors in equal measure, and consequently, they should be included in Saarland’s digitalisation strategy as soon as possible. The technologies and mechanisms used in game development also have applications that extend far beyond the cultural and entertainment sector. A strong regional games industry is therefore an important factor in the future viability of the local economy.
The games industry in Saarland has thus far been unable to fully tap this potential, however. For this reason, we are working alongside regional stakeholders to comprehensively improve conditions for the games industry in Saarland. Our three most important demands are as follows:
Expansion of games funding (click)
- Since 2018, Saarland Medien has been deeply committed to promoting computer games in Saarland under the umbrella brand ‘Game Base Saar’. Its motto is ‘promote, educate, network’, and since its inception, Game Base Saar has focused on a concept that consists of the Game Award Saar and various training and networking measures. Games are awarded sponsorship prizes (10,000 euros per category) at the annual Game Award Saar ceremony. This award presented to computer games from Saarland is an important acknowledgement of regional achievements, and significantly raises the profile of the games industry in Saarland thanks to the support of Saarland Medien. This annual flagship event with Germany-wide prominence must be maintained and expanded.
- And yet, on the whole, most new projects do not benefit significantly from this type of funding, despite the fact that monetary support for new games projects is the foundation of existing companies and also attracts start-ups. Consequently, expanding games funding into a lasting institution with commensurate resources is a top priority, as it will promote the growth of the regional industry over the long term. The total budget and the individual funding amounts must be significantly increased, as Saarland lags far behind other federal states in this area. Supporting small and medium-sized developer studios will require funding to be provided in the form of grants, and projects must be permitted to receive up to 80 per cent of their funding in the form of subsidies. Over the long term, games funding in Saarland should be modelled on the approach of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, including EU notification, not least to ensure the future viability of state games funding and its compatibility with federal funding programmes.
- Existing funding programmes from savings banks and regional state banks (such as Saarländische Investitionskreditbank) are of little use for game developers. These programmes must be adapted, particularly as regards bolstering equity. The Digital Creativity programme from Investitionsbank Sachsen-Anhalt could serve as a model here.
Improving games-specific education and training skilled professionals (click)
- The games industry is the fastest-growing segment of the media and creative industry. There is a great deal of potential for start-ups and for attracting new branches of existing games companies. In order to leverage this potential, highly skilled professionals that can also be educated in the region are urgently required. Saarland has an excellent system of colleges and universities with many programmes of study that are relevant to the games industry, such as computer science (Saarland University, htw saar), humanities and business studies (Saarland University) and artistic disciplines (University of Music Saar, HBKsaar). However, none of the colleges and universities offer clearly designated programmes of study specifically for games. Additionally, there is a lack of vocational training and further training options.
- If local talent is to be educated in the region, local colleges and universities must raise awareness of the game development content within their existing curriculum, and a dedicated programme of study for game development must be introduced. The necessary infrastructure is already in place. The label ‘games’ would increase visibility, make existing programmes of study with games industry relevance easier for potential students to find and significantly raise Saarland’s profile. All relevant colleges and universities should hold round tables to launch cross-university partnerships, projects and courses in the field of games (such as bringing together computer science students with students of artistic and business studies programmes). In order to keep these skilled professionals in the region after they complete their degree programmes, educational establishments must cooperate closely with games companies. Funding should be provided for an annual event that brings together companies and educational establishments to exchange ideas. The objective of this event is twofold: to broker internship positions, thesis projects, partnerships and jobs for students and companies, and to provide interested local school students with information about the opportunities for education, training and careers in the region. Additionally, potential entrepreneurs should be able to learn about Saarland’s existing funding opportunities at this event.
Expansion of networking and training (click)
- The ecosystem of the games industry in Saarland consists of small and medium-sized companies alongside educational establishments and esports stakeholders. A private initiative has also been hosting the monthly “Game Dev Saar” meetup for the last two years.
- The demand for a strong network within the games industry of Saarland – but also nationally and internationally – and an exchange of ideas with other economic sectors is particularly important to allow all stakeholders to benefit from one another on all levels and for the games ecosystem to successfully develop as a unified whole. We therefore demand the establishment of a dedicated network for the games industry in Saarland. This network could be under the aegis of Saarland Medien to consistently drive networking, support for industry events and participation in studies on the regional games industry.
- A fundamental aspect here is funding for a range of different event formats where members of the industry can network on a regional, national and international level. Potential formats include regular industry meetups, partnerships with esports stakeholders in Saarland or game jams. Existing formats that exhibit or present games and their creators from the region should be expanded. Further events should take advantage of the state’s geographical proximity to neighbouring federal states and countries and strengthen partnerships with France, Luxembourg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
- In order to provide long-term support for improving the professionalism and international competitiveness of Saarland’s developer landscape, masterclasses, workshops, lectures and participation in industry trade fairs and conferences should be significantly expanded – a shared trade fair stand at gamescom would be one example here.
Publicly subsidised co-working spaces would provide excellent conditions for an intensive exchange of ideas within the industry, ideally in connection with start-up grants aimed not only at graduates of public colleges and universities, but also at graduates of private institutions or at professionals who come to the games industry from other fields.
- In order to make all of this a reality, we in the games industry in Saarland need a permanent partner and point of contact whose dedicated role it will be to work with the games industry, who understands its potential and provides expert support for further development of all measures. Additionally, a full-time human resources position must be created and independently funded to handle network management, start-up consulting, communication and possibly the specific implementation of funding.