“It’s almost like the gold rush in Alaska – grab a shovel and start digging”

Once he was one of the best World of Warcraft players of the world. Today Gustav Käll from Sweden is responsible for the strategic approach on games and eSports of the world’s biggest music label.

Hej Gustav, what exactly is your job at Universal Music Sweden?

Gustav Käll My operating title is Global Head of Partnerships Gaming. That means I develop Universal Music Groups’s overall strategy and execution in the mission to get UMG closer to the gaming and eSports industry.

What makes you the right man for this?

I have a long history with gaming and eSports, all the way back since ’99. But today my passion is to develop the eSports and gaming market. It all started after my professional career ended in 2008. Back then we were the world’s most successful World of Warcraft guild in the history of the game called “Nihilum”. We had big name sponsors on our jerseys and our website. But essentially we got paid in hardware, mice and keyboards. This is how the market worked back then. After I stopped playing I decided to dedicate my life to create a better industry and work to make eSports the greatest sporting industry in the world. And right now is the perfect time for the music industry to forge with eSports and gaming. The timing is perfect and values can be created both ways. It’s meant to be and I’m glad Universal Music Group is taking this step with me.

Why are games and gamers – out of the blue – so interesting for the music industry?

It’s a matter of reach and homogeneity of the target group and that eSports and gaming bring something new to the table, in contrast to other ”old” industries. The fact that eSports and gaming are all digital and the music industry has been in a digital revolution the past 10 years makes it a perfect match.

What development can we expect in the next three years?

There will be more mainstream and outside industries trying to move into the market. Now we see major investments being made around the globe from essentially everyone. VC-firms, mainstream media and”regular sports” team owners buying slots in the Overwatch league for 20$ million dollars. Amazon buying Twitch a couple of years ago. It’s almost like the gold rush in Alaska, grab a shovel and start digging.

Despite its relatively low number of citizens, Sweden is famous not only for its music, but also for its games. A reason why this job was heaven made for a Swede?

I get this question a lot – I believe there are a few key factors. First we have a long winter, almost 10 months long of complete darkness and cold weather. It’s nice to stay indoors and play games. Then there’s broadband penetration. Sweden has the best broadband capacity in the world. You can get 10gb/s line into your house for a very cheap buck. Another thing: computer penetration. Back in the 90’s the government enforced a bill, where all households got a home computer, sanctioned by the state. So basically everyone has had access to computers since early age. And last but not least…there’s magic in the water.

What kind of music is it that „gamers“ prefer, and what kind of artists will become big because of their preferences?

I think gamers listen to all types of music, the target group is so big and diverse, over a billion people play games on a regular basis around the world. But my gut feeling says that electronic music is more common than, let’s say rock music. But I’ve seen for example Metallica, headlining a Major CS:GO event earlier this year. So I think all music is appreciated.

This interview was first published in the BerlinBalticNordic.net newsletter

5 reasons why…the gamescom congress excites us

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“What’s the gamescom congress?” 

– a question that people ask me all the time, people working from within the industry. It’s funny that so many still don’t know this conference in its 8th year now. Time to make a change.

The gamescom congress (23 August in Cologne, Congress Center North of koelnmesse) is one of the best video game conferences at all. Why? Well, of course this is a very subjective matter.

1) It’s not a developer’s conference
There are many developer’s conferences. gamescon congress is different to all of them. There are the big ones like GDC and Casual Connect. In Germany we’ve got Quo Vadis in Berlin, devcom in Cologne or the Germandevdays in Frankfurt. Respawn became part of the devcom this year. Others like Next Level Conference in Düsseldorf and Play in Hamburg have a strong connection to video game culture / education. But they’re unlike the gamescom congress.

2) It’s a conference about games & society…
Games are mainstream. It’s a terrible phrase, but it explains the many angles on it and the weight of the medium. With the support of the mothership gamescom, the embedded congress is able to reflect on the true social impact of video games: gamified manufacturing. The debate about games in schools. Gamers as voters. How games touch isms and how they’re turned over by them. What the rise of eSports means to physical sports. How games contribute to modern storytelling. Youth protection. Norms and European legislation. Ontology.

3) …with speakers you don’t find on other gaming conferences
Speakers come from different directions. Teachers, advertisers and marketers, representatives of car manufacturers, the music industry and strategists of communication companies. Even philosophers – and many others. Take a look for yourself at more than 65 speakers.

4) It’s interdisciplinary 
With five dedicated tracks, covering education, business, gamification, legal and a core topic called “life”, gamescom congress is truly interdisciplinary. Latter one includes exciting stories and persons who contribute to the congress, but don’t necessarily fit into the prior categories. You will find something interesting for sure, regardless why you come and where from (there are sessions in English and German).

5) It’s our baby, sort of
Booster Space Program Director Tim Rittmann makes the gamescom congress program on behalf of the BIU. That’s the acronym for “Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware”, the association of Germany’s video game industry. He’s responsible for content and choice of speakers. That’s the reason we’re also a little biased.

If you’re curious now, check out the website. Buy a ticket, whether you’re a trade visitor or privately interested.