EA's official news blog chronicles a recent visit by German Deputy Foreign Secretary Dr. Werner Hoyer to the company’s Redwood Shores, California campus. Hoyer, a member of the German parliament stopped by to discuss a variety of topics related to the German games market and EA studio in Cologne, Germany.
Speaking specifically on that market, EA CEO John Riccitiello said that many policy makers in the region hold an outdated view of the industry that focuses on developing content for children. This perspective, says Riccitiello, does not take into account that both the industry and those who consume its products have grown up. While the industry still needs to provide parents with tools they need to protect their children, policy makers must also recognize that video games are very much a part of today’s mainstream culture, and that the majority of modern players are adults, says Riccitiello.
Hoyer acknowledged that some policy makers need to be educated in regards to this shift in demographics, but pointed out that there are also many younger people in government that grew up playing games and who already understand the situation. "All this is changing quickly," said Hoyer.
The two also discussed the relatively small number of development studios in Germany.
"Germany was, at one point, more substantially involved in game development," Riccitiello stated, "Now most of the development is concentrated in Scandinavia and the UK. I think it’s possible to see more of the industry come back to Germany. The country’s gaming sector is surprisingly underdeveloped and it doesn’t necessarily have to be."
The two also discussed game rating systems, most notably Germany’s position as the only EU country that has not adopted the pan-European PEGI system. EA believes that competitive systems are confusing to consumers and inconvenient for developers and publishers who have to make content decisions for each market.
Games that would normally receive an M-rating in the US, or a 17+ in the rest of Europe, face the threat of “indexing” a system that makes it difficult to purchase and play the game. EA believes that indexing forces adults in Germany to purchase games online from other markets, such as Austria and Switzerland, instead of making their purchases locally.
Hoyer said that "negative attitudes about violence will persist in Germany" but said that he believes in the gaming industry. He added that "It's disturbing to have market inequities within the EU” and expressed his intent to probe the ratings issue upon his return.
Overall, EA and Hoyer seemed satisfied with the how the meeting went and hopefully Hoyer can push the issue of Germany’s ratings system among his colleagues.