Games Ground - All things gaming

Gianni Sommer, Managing Director NERDIC and Co-Founder & CFO of Games Ground GmbH

Professional gamers and hobby gamers alike should make a note of the second week of November: From Thursday to Saturday, the Games Ground - Berlin Gaming Festival will take place for the first time at the Alte M├╝nze. For three days, the festival offers a colorful mix of program items for professional visitors and the games community.

Versatility and diversity in the Games Ground program: from panel discussions on talent scouting and the sustainable gaming industry to the potential of XR and gamification for industrial applications, talks on the legal situation regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and workshops to see through the psychological tricks of games and social media. In addition, the organizers deliberately include sensitive topics in their program: Hate speeches in the community or gender discrimination within a company.

A distinctive event

"Many conferences that are in the B2B sector and cost a lot of money resemble a lecture hall with a few snacks on the side," Gianni Sommer explains, Managing Director of the Hamburg event and marketing agency NERDIC and Co-Founder & CFO of Games Ground GmbH, which was founded especially for the festival. It was agreed that the festival should not be just that. Instead, the organizers wanted to "do something cool": "We want to be a gaming event that people enjoy coming to, with a nice flair and where the industry can also switch off at the retro machines," says Sommer, describing the attitude of Games Ground GmbH.

In addition to NERDIC, the Berlin event organizers Beat EM Hub, Nerdistan, the oldest games school in Europe - Games Academy - and BergEvent are equal shareholders. "Everyone has different expertise," says Sommer, describing the ingredients of what he sees as a successful, but above all enthusiastic and fun collaboration. Beat Em Hub and the Games Academy had already worked together before the Games Ground Festival and were involved in Sommer's "NERDIC in Town" event series, among other things. Nerdistan was a good addition due to its B2C focus and BergEvent came on board not least because of its experience in production management for re:publica.

Mixture of B2B and B2C

The idea of serving B2B and B2C in equal measure is not entirely new. Games Ground is based on the OMR Festival, for example, which is aimed at entrepreneurs but focuses on networking and partying. "This mixture is not so easy to present," Sommer says, "we also considered how we could bring the two together." The solution is to dedicate the first two days to the business community, program Friday afternoon as a transition and open Saturday to everyone. The latter is dominated by the community program of interactive games, gaming stations and a cosplay competition: games knowledge can be tested at the "Quiz Night Show", eSports projects such as the brand new series "Smash Ground" or a "Valorant Competition" invite you to take part and work up a sweat.

There will also be content and workshops on Saturday. Because: "People who play games are also interested in how these games are created," the co-founder is convinced, "that brings the gamer to the game. We show the background, gamers can get to know game manufacturers or listen to a lecture on eSports. In short, gamers don't just come to play games, they can also take away content and go into more depth."

This is a unique approach for the industry. We will see at the beginning of November whether it works. "The aim is to maintain the combination in the future". According to Sommer, the organizers are focusing on a long-term strategy and hope to reflect the gaming culture. Or simply: "All things gaming", as it says on the website. 

From indie games to Mentor Ground

As "indie games" also have a decisive influence on this culture, a separate area will be dedicated to them at the Games Ground Festival. Chanko Studios from Lyon, France, will be showcasing their history-steeped puzzle games, as will the German Gamma minus, an independent video game development team that has already attracted attention with numerous awards. "I'm also excited about Mentor Ground," says Sommer, naming another element that makes Games Ground so special. Interested parties can put questions to the industry's top stars - Team17, CD Projekt Red, Blizzard, Rovio, Guerilla, Flying Wild Hog and many more.

The list of partners who contribute to the success of the Games Ground Festival with content or sponsorship reads like a who's who of the gaming industry. Supporters from the very beginning include Projekt Zukunft and the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises. Back in April, they recognized the Games Ground concept as one of the best event concepts and supported it with prize money of 100,000 euros. "That was confirmation and a tailwind for us that we were on the right track," says Sommer, still pleased about the award today, "it wasn't just the financial support that helped, but also the relationships and referrals. Everyone knows everyone here."  Had it not been for this award, he is convinced that Games Ground would not have been taken so seriously from the outset.

Making a great story for Berlin

Above all, the organizers might have felt more pressure to make a profit with the event this year. But that is not the primary concern of the five shareholders of Games Ground GmbH, as Sommer emphasizes: "We want to make a great story for Berlin and then see what bigger things can be created." He is relaxed about ticket sales. It's difficult to say how many visitors the festival will attract at the moment anyway: "Maybe we'll get to 2,000," the NERDIC managing director nevertheless ventures an estimate, relying on the attractive prices for tickets, which are available for students from just 50 euros. "We will cover our costs, and if we manage more, we will have a buffer for next year," Sommer continues. He believes the Games Ground Festival is already well positioned for 2024, as existing and potential partners have already signaled their interest in a second edition. "Regardless of how many people come, we want to do a good thing," says Sommer, adding that "those who come should have fun. The rest would have had the chance."

Another premiere in Berlin

In addition to the Games Ground Festival, the HIT Games Conference (HGC) will take place in Berlin for the first time in the second week of November from November 7 to 8. The conference will focus on mobile gaming and Web3, among other things. More than 60 speakers will report on news, insights and trends in the games market on two stages. In addition, the HGC Berlin offers an exhibition area with several networking activities (e.g. Publisher Pitch, Investor Pitch & Dev Expo).

More info on Games Ground here.

Interview by Projekt Zukunft