When they introduce war games, it is a fine line for developer studios, as was evident at the opening event for the Gamescom computer game fair.

The Second World War is known for its "epic battles", says David Swenson on stage, who works for the American development studio Sledgehammer Games and who helped design the new version of the well-known "Call of Duty" series by the game producer Activision Blizzard.

The advertising block for better graphics and realistic explosions on historical fronts like Stalingrad may disturb video games, but certainly not the target group.

After all, world war locations are well known to computer game fans, the first “Call of Duty” variant from 18 years ago was played there.

Jonas Jansen

Business correspondent in Düsseldorf.

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That is why the creators have now oriented themselves to real people who fought in World War II and knitted fictional stories around them - keyword: fine line - that will also meet the target group's demands for diversity in 2021. One of the four main characters in the November “Call of Duty” edition “Vanguard” is the sniper Polina Petrova, who is modeled on the Soviet soldier Lyudmila Pavlitschenko. She is spoken by Laura Bailey, popular and well-known in the gaming scene, who has already won several prizes for her dubbing. Such obligations are definitely arguments to buy for fans, as they spend many hours with the votes in their favorite games.

For the game manufacturer Activision, "Call of Duty" is immensely important, the series contributes a large part to the sales, which in the first half of 2021 amounted to almost 2.3 billion dollars.

From the mobile version of the game alone, the makers expect sales of 1 billion dollars this year, in the second quarter as many hours were played in the "Call of Duty" universe as in the whole of 2019. At the same time, Activision has competed with the war game for years -Competitors "Battlefield" from Electronic Arts, the new editions will meet in the fall.

Both games have advocates who, in their loyalty to one game and the rejection of the other, appear similar to ultra-groupings of football clubs.

Small development studios are struggling hard

Among the 20 best-selling games for consoles and PCs in Germany in 2020 were two “Call of Duty” editions, with the latest version of the soccer game Fifa from EA Sports at the top. Blockbuster games and their ideas reach most viewers at the digitally hosted Gamescom, but this is much more than that. On Thursday and Friday, the Gamescom Congress also discussed educational opportunities in school through computer games or the risk of addiction on the screen; it was about the possibility of using games to promote inclusion or to draw attention to climate change or the extinction of species.

At the same time, developers of small games will introduce themselves at Gamescom. They have to fight hard: Although the games industry in Germany benefited from the fact that more time was spent on the screen during the Corona crisis, the increase in sales did not translate into market share gains compared to foreign developer studios. The games market in Germany rose by almost a third to 8.5 billion euros in 2020, but large companies from abroad dominate the home market. Of the 4.5 billion euros that are spent on computer games in this country, less than 5 percent end up with German developers.

The digital version of Gamescom prefers foreign exhibitors, for whom the effort to present themselves there is otherwise much greater.

Although German Indy games manufacturers can theoretically reach a more international and larger audience, strolling through exhibition halls may be more likely to come across something new than on the numerous digital channels of the computer game fair.

The impressions can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of offers, both in the digital and in the on-site version.

Mockery for Laschet and Scheuer

Nevertheless, the event is an opportunity to talk and exchange ideas for all possible target groups, and that includes a political component: In the chat on the live streaming platform Twitch, the risk here became clear. When NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) and the Federal Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), who was responsible for gamers, addressed the players with greetings, they were ridiculed and innumerable critical comments were hastily deleted. However, some commentators noted that the computer game community should be happy that politicians are interested in them at all.

The game association, which organizes Gamescom, has a positive attitude towards politics, also in view of the annual funding of 50 million euros for developments. The longstanding drumming of the lobby association for state support has meant that funding applications have been processed since autumn - around 140 applications have so far been granted 40 million euros. Game managing director Felix Falk attributes more start-ups and more jobs in the industry to the funding. The debate between the federal managing directors and general secretaries of the CDU, SPD, FDP, Left and Greens, which debated digitization or lowering the voting age, reached almost 4,000 live viewers. In the chat about the election arena, things were much more constructive than in the opening remarks.