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"Angela Merkel's visit is a strong signal for the whole industry"

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 | Gadgets

The Gamescom, which started on Tuesday, was probably never as political as this year. As the bearer of the world's largest gaming fair, the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU) and its CEO Felix Falk are pleased to welcome Angela Merkel for the first time. In an interview with HORIZONT, ​​Falk explains why the games market is booming here, but the politics are still neglected.

          Mr. Falk, this year, Angela Merkel will pay a visit to Gamescom for the first time. Do you already know whether you can play with the Chancellor together? I do not go out of it (laughs). The chancellor is very interested in games and technical innovations, but I do not expect her to play in "Street Fighter" within five minutes and win against me. In the short time that we remain with the chancellor on the ground, we want to focus on other content, for example the innovative power of the games industry and its basic conditions in Germany. Your visit is, of course, a strong signal for the whole industry and makes it clear that it is now of great economic and cultural interest.
With her 63 years, Angela Merkel belongs to the age group, which is surprisingly the largest Gamer group, namely the Ü50er. That's true. The number of gamers in this age segment grew by half a million to a total of 8.7 million in just twelve months. The over 50s are also the strongest growing group and already account for about a quarter of all gamers in Germany. This development was, of course, strongly influenced by the smartphone boom of the past few years. The entry barrier is very low for the often very simple mobile games for the elderly. The younger ones, on the other hand, often use console or PC games. The Gamescom 2017Since 2009 Gamescom usually takes place in August in Cologne instead. Last year, around 345,000 people from 97 countries visited the stands of 877 exhibitors from 54 countries – more than ever before. If the gates open for four days on 22 August, the organizers expect a new visitor record. The Gamescom, which this year under the motto "Simply play together" and is opened for the first time by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, owes its success above all to its content concept: with a business and entertainment area, Devcom, the Gamescom congress And the Gamescom-City-Festival, the trade fair connects publishers, consumers, trade and developers. Partner country this year is Canada.
Are advertisers also aware of the Ü50 gamers? Whether or not they are aware of this particular age group, I can not tell you, but they are increasingly focusing on the games environment in general. Many companies like Audi, Vodafone and Wüstenrot are aware of the fact that they can reach certain target groups much better there than through traditional channels such as television and print. At this year's Gamescom, the Sportbusiness congress, which focuses on networking the advertising industry with e-sports, will also take place.
Why should brands enter the gaming sector at all? Let us look at the example Wüstenrot. The marketing managers have to ask themselves how they can reach those who want to conclude a building savings contract. Are classical television and screen printing still the right instruments? I guess not. These target groups are buzzing around the web, and there is just such a high-quality environment as e-sports – with millions of spectators, high prize money and a lot of tension – an attractive alternative for advertisers.
Back to Gamescom: The trade fair is growing steadily, last year 345,000 visitors came from 97 countries. How many do you expect this year? Of course I can not give exact numbers yet, but all the signals suggest that it will be the biggest Gamescom of all time – only when we look at the exhibition area. For the first time, we will occupy more than 200,000 square meters of space, so we hope to see more exhibitors and visitors. We are growing at every corner. We are not talking about a trade fair, but of an event because not only the small and big game novelties are tried out by the visitors, but also because cultural games such as the Japanese disguise trend cosplay can be experienced. Devcom is also taking part in Gamescom for the first time. Felix Falk and the BIUFelix Falk took up the position as managing director of the Federal Association for Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU) in January, replacing Maximilian Schenk. The 38-year-old came from the Berlin age release site USK, where he was responsible among other things for the age marking of computer games. Before that, he headed a deputy's office in the German Bundestag for five years. His new employer, the BIU, is the association of the German gaming industry and holds the trademark rights at Gamescom, the world's largest gaming fair in Cologne. The association organizes the event together with Koelnmesse.
The event is getting bigger and bigger. Does the Koelnmesse as an organizer have to worry that they can no longer stand it anyway? I do not see that. We are not concerned primarily with pure growth in the area, but with qualitative growth. That is why we have set up a new digital hub this year, which allows users to follow Gamescom from their homes on the Internet. Thus we try to increase the range of quality qualitatively, without letting the surface grow into infinity.
Does it really bother you that the main competition event, the E3 in Los Angeles, has much fewer visitors than the Gamescom, but often enjoys a greater radiance? I would not say that. I see the E3 rather as an addition rather than a competition event, because the orientations of the two events are different. On the E3, especially companies based in the USA are using the big stage to announce their new products. At Gamescom, on the other hand, the players can then try out these novelties themselves. That is why the E3 is also positioned as a trade fair, while we want to make Gamescom attractive for consumers in particular. We are therefore relatively seldom in the way.
For the Gamescom you chose the theme "Simply play together" this year. What's it all about? Behind this leitmotif is the realization that games are the most social medium of our time. We observe, for example, that gamers are increasingly online as well as offline, in order to play together. A good example of this development is the new Sony system Playlink: It allows the players to connect themselves with their smartphone via a console with the friends in the same room. This community character will be very clearly visible on Gamescom through formats that bring together common games – for example our 5000 square meter E-Sports Arena.
Speaking of E-Sports: Still a trend or arrived in the middle of society? The sport itself is little more than a trend in terms of its size, but has actually established itself socially. However, we are observing another trend in E-Sports: the professionalisation. Large companies, such as Audi and Vodafone, are drawing attention to this issue, as well as the policy that E-Sports recognizes and is active in electoral programs to strengthen it.
    Image: Screenshot Youtube

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In addition to streaming platforms such as Twitch and Youtube, classic TV stations such as Sport 1 are now sending e-sports events. Does E-Sport need the classic TV or does the classic TV need the E-Sport? I'd say it's a win-win situation. Above all, the classic TV benefits from the transmissions because it can reach target groups that are not on the road, but still show interest in the sport. We also experience such a win-win situation when classic sports clubs and e-sports clubs get in touch more closely and learn from each other. If the football club's players break away because their interests move at the age of 14 years, a combination of gaming and real football can be very helpful for the club.
Let's look at the overall market for PC and video games as well as gaming hardware. In 2016, it remained constant at 2.9 billion euros. This does not fit into the image of a booming market. In the overall market, we have actually observed a stagnation this year. This is mainly due to the fact that gaming hardware sales have fallen since the average prices of the models have declined in the market after several years. The longer a consoles generation on the market, the more the prices go down. Of the revised and new models such as the Playstation 4 Pro, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X, we expect again a growth momentum for the entire market.
Another figure that does not fit into the picture: the number of employees in the German gaming industry decreased by 13 percent last year. Germany is one of the world's largest sales markets for games. We consume many games. But we have a problem: we produce them too rarely – and this has cost jobs last. Only 6.5 percent of sales are made with German developments. The large studios are more likely to be located in countries such as Canada, France, England, Poland and the USA. Because these states support their gaming industry by means of development subsidies, which unfortunately we miss here. This is why we are committed to this issue as an association. We must have a chance to be more present on the world market with our games. Development support is urgently needed.
In a few days you can tell the Chancellor in a direct conversation. I will definitely do that. It is simply impossible for game developers to work on a game for more than 100 million Euros over three years with more than 200 employees. The financial risk is just too big for that. Unfortunately, the policy has not yet been implemented.Interview: Giuseppe Rondinella





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