Copyright Antonia Dedenbach

Berlin-Brandenburg is thriving and full of potential

Joscha Neumann, Funding Manager Games at Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg

Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg is the main institution for the film and media industry in the German capital region, represents Berlin-Brandenburg as a key media location at markets and festivals in Germany and abroad and supports cross-border and cross-industry networking. Joscha Neumann is the new Funding Manager for Innovative Audiovisual Content and Games and works in the New Media Funding division that provides funding for innovative audiovisual projects (e.g. games, multiplatform content, virtual and augmented reality) and serial formats (fiction, entertainment and factual). With us, he talks about his start at Medienboard, the new funding guidline for games and

You’re the new guy in town at Medienboard’s New Media Funding Program. How was the learning curve and what are your responsibilities?

In a new job, it's always quite a lot at first, but the team and the whole local games scene have given me a very warm welcome. I can work with so many awesome people every day and of course I get to see plenty of exciting games. Thankfully, that's part of my job as a funding advisor. I'm the contact person for game developers in the capital region. I advise the teams on the application process and accompany the funded projects until release. In addition, I represent the Medienboard in cross-regional initiatives and at numerous events. But it’s not just about the games funding. Another part of the job is the development of new strategies and ideas on how we can support the games industry in other regards as well.

Medienboard published a new funding guideline especially for games. Why was it time to change the previous guideline and what is new?

The main goal was to set an example. Due to the importance of games for us, the creation of a separate funding guideline is intended to explicitly anchor this area in the Medienboard's funding portfolio for the future. The guideline applies to all projects submitting from autumn 2022 onwards. For funding recipients not much changes in the application process. However, there are now new limits for funding. Prototypes can receive up to €300,000 and productions up to €600,000.

Medienboard not only supports games in production but also projects like the “Start-up: Games Entrepreneurs”. Please tell us more about the other games-related funding programs.

Games funding is clearly a very important part of our work, but we also know that for an ecosystem like the games industry to thrive, we need to look at it in a more holistic way. That's why my colleague Vanessa Zeuch is dedicated to support initiatives and programs for the games economy in the region. We research at lot and talk to key players from the local games industry to find out what else is needed. Together with great local partners we brought three new programs on the road this year: “The Rabbit” is a games residency organized by Coconat Space, where teams can focus on their projects while living in the Brandenburg countryside and being mentored by experts in the field. “Start-Up: Games Entrepreneurs” by Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur is providing much needed help and resources for people in the process of starting their own games companies. And renowned advanced training institute EPI (Erich Pommer Institut) is working on a modular workshop program for those professionals who want to expand their knowledge of the business side of games.

We also supported medianet berlinbrandenburg e.V. in helping developers presenting their games at the Indie Arena Booth at Gamescom 2022. Apart from that Medienboard is regularly funding highlight events within the region like the wonderful festivals A MAZE. Berlin and gamesweekberlin, the media literacy program “Projekttage Games”, a symposium for games, the German Computer Games Awards or the local network association medianet.

Medienboard funds German-Canadian co-production projects with the “Canada Germany Digital Media Incentive”. Have there been similar projects? What advantages can be drawn from such programs for the participants and for Berlin as a games location?

Since 2017, the Medienboard has been cooperating with the Canada Media Fund within the framework of joint co-production funding. This is the sixth time that co-production projects by companies from Canada and the capital region have been supported with funding. In 2019, a German delegation visited Canada and in 2022 the Canadians are coming to the capital region. This year, more than 50% of the participating studios are working in the games industry. The trade mission is designed to facilitate collaboration and business development opportunities between Ontario/British Columbia and Berlin-Brandenburg companies working in interactive digital media content creation. Therefore, the programs activities include case study presentations, studio visits (e.g. Saftladen and AnotherWorld VR) and opportunities to meet with potential business partners with a focus on co-production and partnership.

What factors go into funding decisions?

Of course, the most important thing is the quality of the game concept. We look at everything from the gameplay mechanics to the visuals and the story. How well does everything fit together? What are the USPs? How innovative is the game? These are some of the questions we ask ourselves. But we also assess the commercial potential, after all, we want the teams to be able to achieve sustainable success. However, that doesn't have to be a criterion for exclusion if the game convinces us with other aspects. Often, particularly innovative games are also riskier economically, for example. Finally, we look at who is behind the project, e.g. the team and the company. The question here is what skills they bring to the table and whether they can actually implement the project or if there are any special location factors to consider. In addition, there is an independent external review we’re taking into consideration, so that in the end we have a broader spectrum of opinions in the assessment.

Can you see reoccurring trends in the latest submitted games?

We're seeing more projects with larger budgets and teams lately, but there are also a lot of young people working on their first game and founding new companies. In terms of content, there is a slight trend towards strategy and adventure games, but in general the range is very wide. The exciting thing in Berlin-Brandenburg is the diversity of projects and teams. There are so many strong and courageous ideas. In terms of content and style they are all different. They range from 2D RPGs like Kraken Academy!! to immersive MMO like The Wagadu Chronicles or games focusing on history like The Darkest Files.

How does Berlin-Brandenburg perform in comparison to the rest of Germany in terms of successful games?

The Berlin-Brandenburg region performs very favourably. In 2021, we funded 31 games with 2,6 million euros. In addition, games from the region won numerous prizes at the DCP and the DEP. Internationally, too, games such as Death Trash, Dorfromantik and Sea of Solitude have increasingly attracted greater attention and sold very well in recent years. This also includes titles like Lonely Mountains: Downhill, which has been part of the Xbox Game Pass since day one. Berlin-Brandenburg is thriving and full of potential. Therefore, I’m very optimistic and excited about all the great games releasing in the future.

Find out more about Medienboard here.