We can all probably name a few hi-tech hotbeds around the world. Places such as Toronto, Helsinki or London all boast extensive game industry connections as well as other allied trades in close proximity.
However, in other places, such as Germany, the answer is not always as clear cut and that leaves an opportunity for major cities to put their case forward as to why they should be the next lynchpin of their country’s games industry. In Germany, the hottest contender (and, of course, the host of Devcom 2023) is Cologne.
And to state the case for the city, a panel took place today at Devcom, outlining the whys and wherefores of what puts Cologne in pole gaming position.
The panel consisted of, Odile Limpach, co-founder of SpielFabrique, Thomas Rössig, founder and managing director of Flying Sheep Studios, Stefan Schmidt, co-founder & managing director of INDIE Hub UG and was hosted by Christop Kohlhaas, business development boss at KolnBusiness and all worked hard to prove their point.
The big picture
There are of course some easy points to score when proposing that Cologne is the new centre of the German video game business. For one, it hosts Gamescom, and Devcom, arguably two of the largest combined industry and consumer games shows. With major events such as E3 fading into history, there’s no better time for new events to step up.
Indie studios are on the rise in the city and Schmidt has worked hard to organise new events and more to support Cologne’s home-grown gaming industry. He notes that the good standard of living and the cost of living in the city is appealing, especially since “Cologne is a student city” and as such is yet to price itself out of the market, as other large cities in the country have done.
Limpach meanwhile discussed just how much value Cologne brought from a student perspective, having one of the biggest institutions for learning about game development in the country. They teach in English, and also provide an incubator for growing companies in order to help support both global skills and grow the game industry that their students will hopefully work in. As Odile puts it, if you’re building a game industry business in Germany, “At some point you will need to think about marketing to students.”
“On the international stage we need to go out as a state, as one region,” observed Kohlhaas. Although there is a nominal rivalry between the cities of Dusseldorf and Cologne, as a combined “state” they offer an unbeatable combination.
Rather than having all the investment and business centralised, insists Schmidt, “Cologne should lead the way and distinguish itself”. Cologne already boasts a vibrant indie and mid-level studio ecosystem. “Over half of the game companies in Cologne are small companies, under ten people - classical indie game companies,” Kohlhaas observes. There is a huge amount of expertise at play in the city and the potential for growth as these small studios expand, is enormous.
What’s the takeaway?
It’s true that current Cologne economic attractions for both businesses and employees in the city are a great blueprint for other countries and cities looking to emulate its success. However, there are some things that need to change. For example Schmidt points out that some companies - despite being the recipients of subsidies - still end up failing or losing money. He attributes this to a lack of experience and guidance, iterating, “I would love to see some kind of consulting producer, the one in the group who says ‘no, you don’t do this extra level because you’ll run out of time or run out of money’.”
Also “it’s not easy to find an internship”, says Limpach. “We’re missing another midsize company that is looking for a masters student to work with them.”
But if the worst problem that Cologne has is over ambitious and optimistic developers, and enough big studios to make use of them, then the city should be congratulated for its achievements thus far. Cologne is already on the way to establishing itself as a leader for the German games industry, and this panel is already certain of success.