Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why is the console games development in Germany relatively weak?

During the last days I was thinking about why in Germany the console games development is relatively week compared with other European countries. May it be a reflection of the Germany's sub-strength (given its population size) retail console games market? Why are Germans relatively fond of PC games in comparison to console games.

To be honest I did not reach a conclusive answer on that. Below are couple of thoughts about it but the main idea of this post is to hopefully get some better ideas on the matter from you guys.

Generally I see two underlying factors:

1. Many Germans grew up not paying for games
The the PC scene has been pretty strong in Germany since the C64, Atari ST and Amiga days. It was very easy on these platforms to copy games. So many people from my age group (around 30) grew up without paying much for games. And I think these people mostly moved to the PC as it is also pretty easy on the PC to copy the games (again games for free), while it is more complicated on the console (especially as you basically also need a PC for that).
Therefore you have more people on PCs and less on consoles which could also explain why Germany is (from what I know) very strong in the open source or demo scene areas (both work without payment) as well as in the browser (mog) business.

2. Violence in games is seen more critical in Germany
Another factor could be, that in Germany negative effects of PC and Console Games (especially violence) are emphasised more strongly than in other countries (more on that in an WIRED article connecting this to the pacifistic 'never again' education style in Germany).
So on a individual level on average it is (or was) probably harder to get some money for a 'only games' console games console from your parents than for a PC which can also be used for working.
On a company level the German state was pretty reluctant to sponsor PC games as well as console games development, probably again because of the relatively negative image of games being violent or addictive. Ego shooters are often called "Killerspiele (Killergames)" in the media and some politicians not only want to ban the sale but also the production of these games. You probably heard that Crytec (Crysis) was openly stating in 2007 that they are thinking to relocate to another country (more). So some investors were probably scared away from founding AAA studios in Germany which often focus on console market. This may also explain why Germany is strong in the browser (mog) games marked as more clever coders tried to go in this direction as you don't need much initial funding for developing these.

But times are changing
In recent times the discussion on violent computer games has died down a bit and currently the media is discussing games in a much friendlier light. And this development is not limited to casual games. For example also GTA4 was discussed repeatedly in German main stream (not video games) media as being a culturally interesting game for adults. Also December 2007 the German minister for culture announced that computer games are now considered to be a 'Kulturgut' - a 'cultural asset' - which can and should be sponsored by the state. The G.A.M.E. association (pretty much the same as the British TIGA) was lobbying for that since couple of years.
It is also interesting that Germany hosts the biggest European convention on console and pc games.

So it seems there is a lot of potential for catching up ("Hello investors").

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At 23 September, 2008 20:34 , Blogger Ulrich Tausend said...

I discussed the toppic with Nick from the English company: 'gamesinvestor.com'. He commented:

"The comparisons with the UK, whose industry also grew up in the same computer games dominated era, are interesting as despite the shared origin, UK and German companies seemed to have moved in completely different directions since then. The violence issue may well be a factor but im not sure that video games are necessarily more violent that PC games. I think a key difference is that many of the largest US publishers set up their Euro HQs in the UK or evolved from France and these companies’ console focus has deliberately skewed the local industries."


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