The unique diversity of Berlin

Michael Liebe

Berlin is rich. Rich and attractive.

Once dubbed “Berlin, poor but sexy” by then mayor Klaus Wowereit, Berlin may now have lost a little of its youthful sexiness, but it has definitely gained experience and diversity. The lively indie culture defines the city profile as before, but its effects can now also be felt strongly in the games scene.

More and more international firms are setting up shop in town alongside freelancers, small companies and owner-run agencies. Investors are targeting companies with a site in Berlin. A new scene has arisen which never used to be here in the times of “poor but sexy”. Today, limousines and bicycles share the same lane. International immigrés and investors meet in the same bar. Hipsters and hippies work in the same companies. As for myself, I moved here 12 years ago. I have a German and US passport and family in South Africa, England and Australia. I studied in Madrid (amongst other places) and speak a total of four languages. I could be active in any number of places as far as my work permit and ability to adjust to various cultures and networks would allow.

I am often asked why I am still in Berlin. That question can be answered quickly: Berlin is in continual flux and never becomes boring so even busy people like me can easily settle down.

Berlin is the destination for lots of creative people, entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. Here is where trends are set: cultural, technological and economical. This diversity is also what characterizes the city as a gaming location: no other place features such contrasts as Berlin. We have everything: mobile games developers, triple A developers, publishers, eSports, start-ups, indie gamers, even though we are not the capital city for mobile games, nor a triple A city, nor the capital for eSports, start-ups or for indie. Many other cities have a single-faceted profile and the corresponding USP. Berlin has everything and is like the melting pot for the whole games sector.

The Games Academy was launched in Berlin, which is the first German games education provider. The world’s first computer games museum was also founded in Berlin. For the first time ever in Germany, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg introduced video game productions to content development programs in Berlin. Events formats unique in the world have been founded in Berlin, such as A MAZE. In Berlin, the German Cultural Council recognized the computer game as a cultural asset. The Digital Games Culture Foundation, the Games Association and e-Sport Association Germany are located in Berlin. Companies such as Tencent, King, Riot and Ubisoft are situated in Berlin. In Berlin, companies such as Yager, Wooga, Playsnack and Maschinenmensch develop all types of computer games from triple A, mobile, VR, through to indie titles. Berlin-meets-Poland and are both in Berlin and have supported a wide range of international cooperation projects. Freaks 4U Gaming, Webedia, Ströer MediaBrands, 2nd Wave and many other large and small eSports, social influencers, media companies, and events firms are active in Berlin. In Berlin, there are market leaders in service areas such as localization, monetization and user acquisition. And the list could continue indefinitely. The games capital of Berlin is rich in diversity!


#gamesweekberlin reflects the USP of Berlin

Since our founding, we have stuck to our motto of connecting technology and culture under the umbrella brand #gamesweekberlin (founded as the International Games Week Berlin). As an event organizer, we think it is particularly important that the various players can meet one another during the week and create new connections that may not have been possible without the work carried out by this brand.

We bring people together with #gamesweekberlin.

The participants in the individual events may have different goals and backgrounds, but the topic of games offers a common denominator that helps networks flourish. The format and content of #gamesweekberlin is just as diverse as the city of Berlin. The opening event sees the coming together of political, cultural and economic players. International games developers and publishers meet at Quo Vadis. At the A MAZE./Berlin Festival, games designers are celebrated as artists and the mix of music concerts, a games exhibition and expert conference is truly unique. At Gamesfest, games are celebrated as cultural assets. The matchmaking dinner makes international networking a gala event. International newcomers, such as the specialist Unreal Fest Europe event, are just as much part of the city scene as Womenize!, the platform supporting the entry of more women into the games and technology industry. App-orientated games are presented during APITs Day (APITs= applied interactive technologies) while loot boxes are discussed in the national parliament (initiated by the Green faction). Games journalists are awarded prizes in the Medienpreis Games. Trends such as computer games as a form of sport are being discussed during the first German eSports Summit. The structure of #gamesweekberlin and the games hotspot of Berlin are interdependent yet mutually supportive. The role of the Medienboard as promoter of numerous events within #gamesweekberlin should not be underestimated. This year, the Medienboard has sponsored QUO VADIS, the opening ceremony, the matchmaking dinner and A MAZE., as well as Womenize! and the new German eSports Summit for the first time.


Unused potential in the international scene

There is lots going on in Berlin and the growth potential is enormous. 

Much of what is happening in Berlin has been initiated by the companies or individuals themselves. With a little more support, lots more could take place. The Saftladen in Berlin for example, which is an art collective of indie games developers sharing an office, has been managing thus far without any publicly funded support. In cities such as Malmö, Utrecht and Cologne, these sorts of initiatives are comprehensively supported by the public purse. There is a gap in Berlin, a missing games hub where the games scene can grow and share ideas.

On the other hand, the international newcomers are not being picked up as much as they would like. Many funded events in the city are performed in German or for the existing network. There are hardly any targeted measures to help non-German-speaking actors connect with German-speaking actors. #gamesweekberlin, by contrast, offers solutions via events-based networking to reach varied target groups, but more can still be done. Talk & Play, an indie format for the international developer scene, has developed in the city and this is authentic but underfinanced, and as a result could soon cease to exist.

This line-up is supported by #gamesweekberlin: we raise awareness in our communication channels and find sponsors for the event but, once again, more can be done. Berlin must in particular measure itself against locations such as Montreal, Singapore, Helsinki or London in order to keep up and secure long-term funding; I think stronger integration of the international scene in the city is very important. I believe there is further underused potential in terms of how Berlin companies present themselves within the city itself. There are a range of delegation and network trips to national and international conferences, but there is no exhibition of Berlin companies in the city.

This is where #gamesweekberlin is ideal: it would be great to focus more strongly on bundling resources here to offer international guests, local heroes and newcomers a strong and sustainable platform. That said, this is an important step in the right direction.

I am looking forward to the coming week and, as always: Berlin is our playground – let’s connect at #gamesweekberlin!