Lara Croft was the first. In 2001, the heroine from the computer game series "Tomb Raider" made it to the cinemas for the first time, played by Angelina Jolie. The adventure film "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" by director Simon West was the international breakthrough for the actress from the USA.
But the now 21-year-old film is also something special for the games industry, as Felix Falk, the managing director of the German industry association Games, emphasizes. "He showed the importance of the medium of computer games beyond his own borders," explains Falk. "So he was an important pioneer."
Today, computer games seem to be ubiquitous in pop culture. "Games are not only the most successful entertainment medium of our time, they are now also the heart of pop culture, which others are increasingly orienting themselves to," says Falk.
He lists what he means by that: “In the past, books were often made into films. Today we see that there are films from successful computer games, but also fashion, music and toys or books and TV series.”
And how naturally all of this is consumed is shown by a current survey by YouGov on behalf of the game association. According to this, two thirds of Germans have already bought and used pop culture goods and goods related to games, above all films and soundtracks, followed by series and toys.
This increasing importance is now also being prominently addressed by the world's largest computer games fair Gamescom in Cologne with around 1100 exhibitors. Next week, the industry will meet in the cathedral city to discuss current topics and trends under the motto "Games: The heart of pop culture", but also to present new game titles - and to position themselves in politics.
And it is prominently represented: In any case, the trade fair will be opened by Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU). Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) and SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert have also promised to visit.
The game makers would also have liked to welcome Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD). "Because computer games are good for your health," says industry representative Falk. During the Corona period, many people would have kept fit at home with exercise games.
"Computer and video games are also being used more and more frequently for mental health, for example to train the memory, ensure relaxation, increase well-being or laugh more often," reports Falk. After all, according to a recent survey, 19 million Germans believe in such an effect, above all in the young age group of 16 to 24 year olds.
According to Falk, this belief is accompanied by hard facts. In fact, scientific studies have shown health-promoting effects, for example in pain therapy, where patients with severe burns are mentally beamed into ice landscapes using VR glasses and thus feel less physical pain at the burned areas, or in children undergoing cancer treatment who are angry in the virtual world Shooting cancer cells and thereby better withstand the necessary chemotherapy.
Health games is the name of this trend, which has been finding its way into the industry for several years. "In the USA there are even games on prescription," says Falk. "Unfortunately, the German health system is much more reserved here." At least there is a project by the Barmer replacement fund with the start-up RetroBrain R
However, the health sector is still a niche in the games market, which has been growing for years. This general growth is currently experiencing a dampener. The industry grew by two percent in the first half of 2022, as current figures from market researchers GfK and Data.ai show.
But that is only a fraction of the growth rates of previous years. In 2021, for example, sales in Germany rose by 17 percent to almost ten billion euros, and in 2020 the increase was even 32 percent. Experts speak of a special corona effect – because many people had to stay at home and find work there. But even in the previous years, growth was mostly in the double digits.
Now the long-term effects of Corona are noticeable, according to the game association. This means, for example, delivery bottlenecks for consoles or delays and postponements for new games.
"The home office has slowed down the production processes and working on new titles," says Falk. Added to this is the general clouding of the economic prospects, which is also leaving its mark on the games market.
The gamers have saved, for example, with so-called in-app purchases, with which the gaming experience of games that can actually be played for free can be improved and success accelerated. Always a growth driver for the industry in recent years, this segment even shrank in the first half of 2022, specifically by seven percent compared to the same period last year to 1.3 billion euros.
But sales also fell in the hardware sector. On the other hand, there was increasing income from subscription services and games for PCS and laptops, among other things. Game boss Falk remains confident for the coming years: "We expect further growth." And Gamescom should contribute to this with, among other things, several hundred new game titles presented there.
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