THE STATE OF THE EUROPEAN GAMES INDSUTRY IN 2023
20 February 2023
At the beginning of January, EGDF organised a call with its members to map the state of the European games industry in 2023. The call focused on the upcoming economic downturn and its impact on the games industry, game developer risk management in times of war and the impact of new, more effective AI tools in the industry. Please find below EGDF president Hendrik Lesser’s closing summary.
The 2020s have been years of challenges, and it will not get much better any time soon. Many years ago, it was pretty easy to see what was going on, but now the game industry is so big and diverse that we no longer can predict its next steps. But what is clear is that there is a lot of uncertainty.
In general, European game developer studios are optimistic. Although there is nearly zero or only small growth in our European home markets, people will continue to play games. However, it is clear that the mood of the industry has changed. Some years ago, the European industry was relatively stable. Now, everyone is getting ready for disruption.
The 2008 financial crisis stagnated the European industry for some years. Now, we might face a short downturn and a return to the pre-pandemic growth track. The lack of talent continues to be a key challenge for the European industry. When you combine this with ongoing inflation in Europe, remote work becoming at least partly business as usual and increasing salaries, it will not get easier.
It is still too early to say how the downturn will impact the national games industry ecosystems. Those who are agile in adapting their support systems might benefit from this. As the downturn makes investors more risk-averse, public support for game development will play an even more significant role in the upcoming years. Public funding will help companies to survive through difficult years. This also means that EGDF and its member associations must work even harder to prevent any initiatives for cuts in public support for game development due to emerging austerity policies. As the German game industry demonstrates, by uniting their forces, local game developer communities can help put enough pressure on local governments and politicians so that they see our value and stay or return on a positive patch on public support for game development.
We have not been in a geopolitical situation like this in decades. European game developers are looking for ways to process all that is going on globally and how increasing tensions between countries are impacting them. EGDF closely follows the rising influence of authoritarian regimes in the global games industry. The critical question is how much control you want to give the companies from authoritarian regimes that are hard to trust. Especially when authoritarian governments start being relevant shareholders in game industry companies, all this is a new form of risk management everyone working in global game markets has to focus on. EGDF and its members must prepare for the public debate on investment restrictions from authoritarian regimes and map ways to limit their influence, especially over the content.
During 2023 many European countries will take major decisions in elections on where their country is going. I have personally supported Ukraine a lot. Possibly the only positive side effect of these difficult times is that a lot is happening on the cultural side of games as we speak. People are not just making films or writing books about the war; they are also making games about the war in Ukraine. This underlines that games are made to express our emotions and artistic or political messaging.
AI has been widely used in the games industry for content creation and will be used for it in the future. New, more effective AI tools will be a massive opportunity for senior experts to boost their productivity significantly and empower themself to have resources that only big companies with big teams used to be able to acquire. However, this will bring new challenges for newcomers, subcontractors etc.
The EU needs a future-proof framework for AI so that European game developer studios will stay among the forerunners in using AI in the creative process. If the use of AI is hindered in the EU because of regulatory barriers, it will be a clear competitive advantage for non-EU countries that allow it to be used up to its full potential. At the same time, we must find ways to help junior talent enter the games industry. Career paths might be changing again; now is the time secure that they change for the better.
We are living in uncertain times and can only hope for the best for humanity. There are still a lot of opportunities in the video games industry. Now is the time to be fast and innovative and humble.
We will be wiser together.
Hendrik Lesser – EGDF President
Jari-Pekka Kaleva, tel: +358 40 716 3640
Managing Director, European Games Developer Federation (EGDF)
Senior Policy Analyst, Neogames Finland ry.