Special edition 2018

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Key technology

Strengthening the Game Industry in the Baltic Sea Region

By Marie-Christin Rische and Isabel Sünner

The computer and video game industry plays a growing role globally, and game industry applications are utilized as key technologies in many other sectors. The EU-project "Baltic Game Industry" (BGI) aims at strengthening the industry’s innovation capability and competitiveness in the Baltic Sea Region. It focuses on developing tailor-made incubation models adapted to the needs of game startups.

The project was launched in autumn 2017 and during its first stage relevant information on the game industry´s current status was collected in all partner regions (Denmark, Germany (with Berlin and Hamburg), Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden). This included a sector-specific data collection and the conduction of guided interviews with experts and game startups.

The survey focused on identifying game companies’ site requirements and other specific demands as well as on political implications and needs for action. In total, 34 game startups and 25 industry experts were interviewed in all partner regions. The interviewed industry experts were either incubator staff (7 of them related to games and 9 to tech and media) or members of industry associations and network organizations in the game and creative industry.

One of the key findings from the interviews is that game startups perceive a lack of targeted funding, since existing funds either target tech enterprises or the entire creative industry. Grants are often designed to benefit the film industry and tech grants are commonly regarded as being not suitable for game startups, since these are assumed to be less innovative than technology-driven companies. Another problem is that investments in the game industry are often seen as being too risky for venture-capital investors.

Game entrepreneurs and experts demand for targeted support, comprising easy access to funding, business angels and mentors. These are seen as crucial features for appropriate game incubation models across regions. In addition, special characteristics of the game industry such as a long product development process and high marketing costs need to be addressed. From game startups’ point of view, mentors with in-depth industry knowledge are essential as well as business training offers for sales and marketing. The same holds for industry experts, who point out the importance of increasing the game startups´ visibility in highly competitive markets.

In a next step, the BGI-project will pilot concrete measures to improve incubation structures for game companies in the Baltic Sea Region. The measures will be tested for instance in the field of mentoring. In order to specify the particular needs of the Hamburg game industry and to reflect the survey results with local experts, HWWI hosted a workshop on August 16th, 2018. Its objective was to discuss potential incubation models with game startups, representatives of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft, the local public investment bank and the German national game industry association. Mikkel Fledelius Jensen, Managing Director of the Game Hub Denmark, presented his holistic approach towards game incubation.

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