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“2023 was a shitty year. 2024 will probably be even more shittier": EGDF president Hendrik Lesser talks tough

The European Games Developer Federation's president spells out his thoughts and confidence in a comeback in an open letter
“2023 was a shitty year. 2024 will probably be even more shittier
  • "Are you a publisher or developer, it does not matter as long as you are making games. We are the ones who will get this shit together"
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"We are the ones who will get this shit together," is the rallying cry to the European game industry from Hendrik Lesser, president of the European Games Developer Federation who has penned a letter urging the industry to fight back against the current downturn. With a tone of defiance, Lesser has called upon game developers and studios across the continent to rise and face shared challenges head-on.

In his State of the European Games Industry 2024 letter, Lesser acknowledges the struggles that many are facing - from market saturation and failed projects, to dwindling funding opportunities and pipedreams gone bent - but insists that now is the time to come together and produce the best work possible.

“The promises of NFTs and cryptocurrencies did not materialize," he complains and “Web3 is clearly not the next big thing just yet," but nonetheless "Games have been and will continue to be a global megatrend and the cultural technique of this century. Sooner or later, we will overcome this as an industry," he opines.

Grappling with challenges

The EGDF president then discusses in frank and open language about how European mobile game companies have grappled with significant challenges due to platform restrictions and data access - a clear snipe at the likes of Apple and Google. Despite hopes for competition under the Digital Markets Act, "gatekeeper platforms are introducing new barriers to market access, with the situation looking difficult for the foreseeable future."

Elsewhere he notes that private investment in game development has decreased while public funding is also under threat due to budget cuts in many EU countries.

“There is still money in the game industry ecosystem in the hands of VCs and PEs, but now many prefer to invest in already profitable studios. Very few game developers are able to build a profitable studio before securing investment for growth. Again, the days of easy access to private risk funding are over," he complains.

Impact of layoffs

As the stream of games industry layoffs continue in 2024, Lesser says “many companies are laying off people because they must" while “some companies are laying off people as an overreaction to the hard times" and that “many local game developer communities and even countries are losing game industry talent as people fail to find new jobs."

Amidst the growing instability on the global stage, Europe's economic struggles, diplomatic failures, and the looming threat of conflict, Lesser is nonetheless upbeat with a focus on why Europe remains a resilient and promising hub.

“Europe is the place to be during difficult times. 2023 was a shitty year. 2024 will probably be even more shittier... Sooner or later, we will overcome this as an industry," he insists.

And in another light prod at platform holder Unity (with whom the EGDF have a special contempt) Lesser says, “Regardless if we have to stand up against key game engine developers, main gatekeeper distribution platforms or the big European telcos. We will be the clear and loud voice of the European industry."

A global effort

“The game industry is no longer EU and USA-centric. Games are a truly global medium, and you can still distribute the games with one click across the growing Asian and African markets - markets we should be engaging with as partners."

Lesser concludes by saying that “difficult times make the best entrepreneurs." The EGDF and its members are supporting new startups and lobbying for incubator and accelerator programs to foster growth. A strategic approach to digital growth is necessary, with the EU and member states developing their own game industry strategies.

“We must continue our support for the Ukrainian game industry, which is struggling more than any other game developer community. EGDF and its member associations have not forgotten our Ukrainian friends who are fighting for our future," he promises.

Lesser insists that 2024's focus should therefore be on supporting students, and startups, and facilitating funding and co-development deals, while building a comprehensive growth strategy.

"We will keep calm and carry on. We will help each other. We will build the road for growth and success. We will ask difficult questions and stand up when someone tries to use these difficult times to weaken our position in the value chain."

Lesser signs off, confident that - collectively - we can get the job done. "Are you a publisher or developer, it does not matter as long as you are making games. We are the ones who will get this shit together"