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BIU on GamesCom

Project manager Ruth Lemmen on the publisher body's decision to move away from Leipzig, and the German view on PEGI

Earlier this year the German publisher trade body, BIU, announced that 2008 was be the last year that it would support Games Convention in Leipzig, moving instead to a new location and show brand - Cologne, with GamesCom.

During a visit to the UK recently GamesIndustry.biz was able to talk briefly to BIU's project manager, Ruth Lemmen, to shed some light on the reasoning behind the move, and on the ratings issue as well.

GamesIndustry.biz Looking at the global picture, Tokyo Games Show is very much focused on the Japanese market, while E3 has never been a public show, and has downsized hugely anyway - that leaves Games Convention as the focal point not just for Europe, but also for the world to a certain extent - so what can be gained by uprooting the show and moving it to a completely new location?
Ruth Lemmen

I have to stress from the very beginning that we are grateful to, and have had a very good relationship with, the people at Leipzig - and the trade fair has developed enormously in the last couple of years because of the global picture.

Therefore the focus on Leipzig has changed at some point, and with the association of 12 members in BIU, they all decided for different reasons - and this isn't to blame the people or the concept at Leipzig - but there were infrastructure problems at Leipzig, issues with getting away from the location, and so on.

What started as a German trade fair has become bigger and bigger with the international impact, with more people attending - it was a problem in the past, and that was the main reason why our members decided to support GamesCom in Cologne, because it's much easier to get there.

That was the main reason to get there, and we discussed it at length with our members.

GamesIndustry.biz But the show was still growing, and was the biggest show in Europe.
Ruth Lemmen

And it will continue to grow, but it is a problem if the people from the international headquarters have problems with travelling. It's not something we can blame the Leipzig people for, and we're grateful because they have developed the event together with the industry - but the industry has new needs now.

GamesIndustry.biz There are more hotels being built, more flights coming later…
Ruth Lemmen

Yes, but that isn't the case now. From our perspective, and I'm working with the industry and our membership, I know there are hotels being built and the airport in Berlin is being developed - but that's in 2011 at the earliest.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you understand why it's a controversial decision?
Ruth Lemmen

I think the moment was to decide if you want to have an international trade fair in Germany, then we have to look for a new place. It wasn't a decision against Leipzig, but rather a decision for Germany in the end - to keep the big European event in Germany.

GamesIndustry.biz How confident are you that GamesCom will be able to pick up with the international relationships? Who will manage that?
Ruth Lemmen

We have a contract with the trade fair in Cologne, and they are organising the event, but we are the promoter - as we are for Games Convention this year.

We're now focusing on this year's event, but after that they'll work on the wider relationships for 2009. This year will be a big event though, and for now we don't want to detract from that.

GamesIndustry.biz With regards to age ratings, in the UK there's an interesting situation - what's your perspective on how ratings should work throughout Europe?
Ruth Lemmen

We were very interested in watching how the ratings argument is working out in the UK. In Germany we have the USK system, we can't support PEGI in Germany - we have the toughest minor protection system in the world in place.

But the whole tradition is different in the UK to that of Germany. In our case the age rating system is a governmental responsibility, it's an act of the state. That's not the case in the UK

GamesIndustry.biz Isn't that a problem for PEGI? How practical is it having one single system?
Ruth Lemmen

I think PEGI is supported as far as I know in 27 different countries throughout Europe, which is quite a lot.

GamesIndustry.biz But the UK and Germany are key territories - how damaging would it be not to have either of them on board?
Ruth Lemmen

But the UK is still using PEGI, and will continue to do so. And it is supported by 27 different countries, and therefore is a success. For us, we probably never will support it, because it's a government decision, but at the end of the day I don't think it really harms it.

I would see it critical if the UK steps out of PEGI completely, and just supports the BBFC rating, that would be a problem, because it's the biggest market. But I'm not the one who can answer that.

Ruth Lemmen is project manager at BIU, the German publisher trade body. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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