Case 4-2: Selling Video Games in Germany MKT 3317 13 October 2009 Amanda Leys Elisa Martellaccio Raeeq Osman 1. Facts of the Case In the past several decades, the growth of the video game industry globally has been tremendous. The market potential for game companies in Germany represents the largest in Europe. However, Germany is currently considered to be the biggest but slowest growing economy in Europe. At thirty-eight million households, merely one in ten has a video game console compared to one in three in the US. (citation needed from book) There are many reasons for the discrepancy in the gaming market. Primarily, German attitudes about gaming are not favorable. From a sociocultural standpoint, German families are reluctant to purchase video games for their children for two main reasons. First, there is a common view that video games make young people “stupid”. ( Gehrard Florin EA –citation needed) Second and drawing from this common attitude, German parents are much stricter in comparison to other nations. They firmly believe that children should spend free time on more educational activities that will benefit their careers. (cite book?) Another sociocultural reason for the lack of market growth is Germany’s low birth rate. “The average German woman has 1.4 children compared to 1.6 in Great Britain.” (Cite book) Combined with the fact that typically German children begin playing video games at an older age than British, and it is no surprise that development in gaming is struggling. Furthermore, government restrictions have made it even more difficult to penetrate this market. “The interior ministers of all 16 German states have proposed to Bundestag that all violent video games be banned.” Violent is defined in this legislation as “games in which realistic human killing is an essential part of action and or/ other cruel and inhumane acts of violence against humans or other humanlike beings.” This movement towards stricter policy on video games comes in response to a school shooting that left 16 dead including the killer. He was an avid player of two particularly violent games, “Counter-Strike” and “Far Cry 2”. Should the proposed ban take effect, German game developers would be forced to move any development of violent games outside of German borders. An e-petition to stop this ban posted on the official forums of the Bundestag already has the 50,000 signatures required to initiate a government review. However the ban may still take effect regardless of the review. Working against both cultural and political obstacles, video game companies are attempting to market their products in such a way that they are both appealing to consumers and compliant with some of the strictest regulations in the world. 2. Central Problem The video game industry in Germany is not meeting its full market potential in due to cultural attitudes and political restrictions. The symptoms in the case are exhibited by the low number of households with gaming consoles, the older age that German children begin playing video games relative to other European countries, and the rigid regulation of video game content by the German government. 3. Analysis of the Situation The German video game market is the slowest growing in the industry but yet has the greatest potential for growth. Only one in ten German households owns a gaming console as compared to one in three American households (Video Gaming in Germany). This is the outcome to a variety of factors, especially German laws and regulations which have taken over five decades to develop (In Germany). These laws and regulations don’t allow for many games, especially violent ones, to be sold. They feel as if these “violent games” have direct consequences on the children who play them, from making them stupid being influenced to carry out acts of violence. Even the recent school shootings in Germany have been linked to video games, saying that the shooter had been playing violent games such as Far Cry 2 and CounterStrike that had influenced his act. Since these occurrences, the German parliament, the Bundestag, has been trying even harder to try to make its regulations even stricter, wanting to ban any violent game. According to the Bundestag the definition of a violent game is any “game involving violent acts against human or human-like characters” (Online Petition). The German gaming company, Crytek, is now being threatened to leave the German market if Germany passes these tougher regulations (Crytek Threatens). German mothers are another factor that is holding back the potential of the German video game market. They are not very fond of video games in the first place since they would rather have their children read books, and hearing the media about the negative outcomes that video games can have doesn’t help change their opinion or better yet buying habits of the games. Video games aren’t something that these mothers willingly buy for their children’s entertainment. 4. Alternative Strategies There are of course multiple strategies that the video game industry in Germany can pursue to make a positive change and possibly growth in their sales. The first strategy that can be implemented would be to demonstrate the educational aspects of games and gaming-related software. Because there are such widely held views among German parents that “playing video games makes young people stupid,” the educational benefits need to be clearly outlined in marketing campaigns. In fact, gaming fair organizers have already taken the responsibility of enlisting the help of two organizations, a federal gaming association and Children’s Charity of Germany, whose sole purposes are to develop family-themed sections at such fairs. Parents and children alike will be able to view up-close and experience hands-on just how useful video games can be at times. While these games can be educational, kids still may be somewhat turned off by the fact that the true goal of the game is to teach them something, so a certain level of “fun” still needs to be maintained when creating these games. Another strategy to possibly consider would be to concentrate on the portability of certain gaming consoles. Parents might find this aspect especially pleasing for when they take their unruly kids out for dinner or whatever other occasion that involves a drive in the car. Portable consoles can easily be a substitute for the child that asks every five minutes, “Are we there yet?” Parent should be hesitant though when using this portable pacifier because kids may very easily get addicted and this might induce less social interaction with peers or any other individuals. An ideal campaign should take a humorous approach when indicating to parents that a portable gaming console can be used to keep kids quiet in the car or other environments. A final strategy that can be employed is to communicate to the public the vast benefits of fitness oriented games. Currently, the gaming platform Nintendo has very little presence in Germany, so this is why their gaming industry needs to increase the amount of exposure and advertisement Nintendo currently receives to help promote the health benefits of their latest home console, the Nintendo Wii. If the console is able to make its way into German homes, parents might be that much more encouraged to buy games for their kids they know will not keep them sitting on the couch for hours, but instead keep them up and moving and maybe even break a sweat. This may appeal to those parents who want their children to be physically active and live healthier lifestyles, however, this may not appeal to those kids who are simply “lazy.” In order to counter this, marketing has to heavily focus on the entertainment aspects of the Wii console and video games, so to show kids just how much fun they can really have, if they’re willing to make the extra effort. While this may be the most costly of the three strategies, there are still great long-term benefits involved. 5. Course of Action and Recommendations The best course of action in order to have the highest video game sales in Germany would be to launch a campaign to publically educate the German population, targeting German parents. This campaign would have the goal of reversing their current mentality towards video games. They currently believe that video games “makes young people stupid” and they need to be shown that it isn’t true (Video Gaming in Germany). In addition, they need to be shown that video games can actually be used for educational purposes. Games can be created for specific age groups or school grades so that the games can serve as a supplement to help children practice basic skills and what they learn in school. According to psychologist Bernd Friedrich, these video games are also a good tool to use when teaching students with disabilities because it facilitates their learning (Video Gaming in Germany). Considering that Germany is host to the largest computer and video game convention in the world, showing their many benefits shouldn’t be too difficult of a task (Young Germany). However, while these games have to be educational, they also need to be entertaining so that children are willing to play them. Germans are especially interested in simulator games, such as having to complete a mission or having to deliver an item on time, so this strategy can be incorporated into the games along with the educational aspect. Obviously the “entertainment” part of the games must be kept within the German laws and regulations for video games: no violence, symbols, blood, etc. Works Cited "Crytek Threatens to Leave Germany if Violent Game Ban is Passed." IndustryGamers. 5 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. <http://www.industrygamers.com/news/crytek-threatens-to- leave-germany-if-violent-game-ban-in-passed/>. "In Germany, Video Games Showing Frontal Nudity Are OK, but Blood Is Verboten." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. <http://articles.latimes.com/2003/jun/09/business/fi-german9>. "Online petition stalls plan to ban violent videogames in Germany." Guardian.co.uk. 28 July 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jul/28/germany- violent-videogames>. "Video Gaming in Germany Lags Behind." Deutsche Welle. 20 Aug. 2005. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. <http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,1684952,00.html>. "Young Germany: The computer games industry in Germany." Young Germany. Web. 16 Sept. 2009. <http://www.young-germany.de/mobile/business-career/business- career/article/d0ae99a788/the-computer-game-industry-in-germany.html>.
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