German games industry fears return to second-class treatment

Crucial government department is losing independence
Pioneers of Pagonia is a successful Early Access city-builder on Steam and one of the games supported by government funds.
Pioneers of Pagonia is a successful Early Access city-builder on Steam and one of the games supported by government funds. / Envision Entertainment

Like many other countries, Germany has been trying to grow its video games industry by providing generous funding through the Ministry of Economy and Climate – but those ambitions may have run their course: The Games-Referat, an independent department responsible for handing out funds and handling related projects such as the Deutscher Computerspielpreis (German Video Game Award), will be put under a different office’s direct supervision.

Officially, this won’t change anything – projects like the awards and the support fund for games made in Germany are said to continue. In practice, the loss of independence restricts initiative – and clearly sets video games apart from other forms of art, such as movies and music, since their supervising authorities remain independent. Is the old second-class treatment for games returning?

That’s what Germany’s video game association chief Felix Falk fears. He sharply criticized the move by the ministry and warned that Germany was heading back into the times in which video games were “systematically disadvantaged” compared to other forms of media and art (via GamesWirtschaft).

“Whether film, music or literature – each of these sectors rightly has its own department in the federal government, as it is important to address the specific requirements of the respective industry. It’s a devastating signal to once again deny this to video games, the largest and most dynamic media and cultural sector,” he stated.

Robert Habeck, who heads the Ministry of Economy and Climate, led the opening ceremony of Gamescom 2023 and dined with industry leaders like Microsoft’s Phil Spencer and Embracer Group’s Lars Wingefors to discuss business. At Gamescom 2024, the ministry will once again have its own booth in the exhibition’s business area to promote games made in Germany.

These positive signals are now getting thoroughly drowned out by the minister’s latest moves – and that’s by far not the only bone people like Falk have to pick with the government. 

New guidelines for which projects are eligible for government funds are supposed to come into effect in 2025, but half a year away from that deadline not a single sentence of these guidelines is known. Studios can’t apply for funding under the current guidelines ever since May 2023, so they are desperately waiting for news on the upcoming rules.

Then there’s the issue of the €33 million EUR funding package stuck in the Ministry of Culture, which is supposed to be used for strengthening the German video game industry – but not a single cent of that has been spent so far and there seem to be no concrete plans on how to use those funds.

Time is running short: Elections are happening in 2025 and a conservative government is widely expected to follow the current center-left coalition into office – and chances to improve the status of the video game industry in Germany will be much smaller then.


Published
Marco Wutz

MARCO WUTZ

Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining tl.net, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of tl.net as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: marco.wutz@glhf.gg