Another wave of successful gaming companies has been coming out of Denmark in recent years. Yet from a political point of view, there is still no vision or strategy for the industry and, according to experts, that is a problem.

Creativity is blossoming in the old industrial quarter of Aarhus’ southern harbour. Filmby Aarhus, a creative business district with more than 100 movie, media and game companies, calls this area home.

One part of Filmby Aarhus is dedicated to the Ideas Lab incubator, where game developers work alongside movie makers, VR pioneers and other digital entrepreneurs – all aspiring to create the next big thing.

The director of the incubator, Christian Nyhus Andreasen, explains that the incubator is working towards creating better terms and structures for the gaming industry. What’s more, he thinks it’s a shame that the sheer number of successes from the Danish games industry hasn’t yet convinced politicians to back the industry – a necessity if the industry is to gain an even stronger position globally.

“It has not been recognised that this is an industry that requires investments. The industry is not successful because we have some magical creativity in Denmark, and many believe that the politicians have been dragging their feet. They have looked at the industry and said: You’re doing well on your own. But there is definitely potential for more, much more,” Nyhus says.

However, the Danish games industry is actually doing well – both in terms of revenue and export, which is growing year-over-year.

With a background in Sybo, as well as an advisor for multiple Finnish, German and French game companies and investors, Nyhus has seen big differences in how serious the gaming industry is perceived in different countries; is the industry culture, tech or both?

If you ask him, he sees great potential for the industry – both cultural and commercial.

“We certainly believe that we have a future here and that we can get the wheels rolling in Denmark. This is also why we invest in gaming at Filmbyen – otherwise, we would stick to movies,” Christian Nyhus says.

The incubator ‘Ideas Lab’ houses 10-12 companies at any given time. A third of the office space is reserved for gaming entrepreneurs.

Overshadowed by films, tv, and theatre

The 223 state-subsidized theaters in Denmark receive DKK 1.2 billion in support annually. Last year, the Danish Film Institute supported the development, production, and dissemination of feature films with DKK 221 million. Yet for digital games, there was just DKK 12 million in financial support.

According to Jesper Krogh Kristiansen from Vision Denmark, a business cluster for the digital visual industry in Denmark, this clearly indicates that there is a lack of strategy and vision for the gaming industry in Denmark.

“It almost seems irresponsible culturally. Recent figures from media research shows that Danes spend more time on digital games than print media. It, therefore, seems insane that there is so little attention on it in relation to making sure that there are some specifically Danish offers, and to ensure that there are some quality offers with a Danish theme,” says Jesper Krogh Kristiansen, Games Consultant at Vision Denmark.

However, he doesn’t believe that games should solely become art projects funded by the state. A vision for the industry as a whole could also be based on the sector as the commercial industry it also is, and include plans for export initiatives, development of new talent through the education system, or better financing opportunities.

Regardless, it baffles him that politicians don’t seem to have thought about how they want to ensure the next generation of Danish games successes – despite their admiration for success stories like IO Interactive, Unity and Sybo.

The State supports the games industry with 10 million DKK each year. For comparison, The Royal Danish Theatre receives around 500 million DKK annually. Foto: Egon Gade.

Denmark’s Nordic neighbours are the frontrunners

Even without tremendous financial support or a dedicated strategy for the area, the gaming industry has steadily grown into an industry worth DKK billions. The industry even punches above its weight on the international arena. Yet continuous success calls for action, believes Christian Nyhus from Ideas Lab.

Christian Nyhus Andreasen, Head of Incubator Filmby Aarhus

“It is clear right now that the countries around us are setting up initiatives where the public sector finances parts of their game development. We have not gotten to that point in Denmark at all,” he says.

In Germany, for example, the “German Games Fund” has been launched, which supports the industry with €50M annually. Because the gaming industry is growing explosively, the German tax authorities expect to get €90 million back in additional tax revenue. At the same time, it is expected that the focus on the industry will lead to an additional €400M in investment from, amongst others, private investors annually.

The gaming industry on a local scale

While the politicians have no overall plan for the gaming industry, several municipalities have seen potential locally.

In Norddjurs Municipality, gaming is viewed as a growth potential supported both strategically and financially. Game development can create growth in itself, but it can also support existing businesses, drive education and ultimately be part of an alternative settlement strategy for newcomers.

The same applies to Viborg Municipality, where animation is in the spotlight. Here, the focus is on building a strategy that leads to growth.

And in Aarhus Municipality, a few lines about computer games have recently been added to the municipality’s cultural and business strategies, which pleases Christian Nyhus.

“It is something new that we managed to insert in the business strategy for Aarhus Municipality. There are not many concrete initiatives in the strategy yet, but now it is at least something that we will talk about tangibly,” Christian Nyhus says.

“Game Hub” is an outcome of the strategy for gaming in Norddjurs Municipality.

The message from the industry: Take a stand!

Neither Vision Denmark nor Aarhus Filmby has plans or demands that the politicians should budget a few million Danish kroner for. To them, it is more important that the politicians take a stand with regards to the industry and its potential.

The industry should seize the initiative because right now the Danish gaming industry is experiencing a new upturn.

“There is still a wave we can ride even if we missed the first and second wave of successful game developers. We have to create better conditions for companies to establish and grow themselves in Denmark. We should have begun working on that a long time ago, but late is better than never,” says Christian Nyhus.

This article is part of the theme “Games as a Business 2021”. You find the next part of the series right here:

In Norddjurs, the Gaming Industry Is a Position of Strength for the Entire Municipality