The UK is one of the most successful and lucrative games development hubs in the world. The industry is worth more than £1bn to the economy and it employs around 30,000 people.
Home grown games such as Grand Theft Auto – the biggest selling entertainment property of all time – have put Britain firmly on the global development map. Our talented studios continue to keep gamers enthralled with new games, new adventures and new ways of interacting with one another. We should be truly proud.
But the continuous development of our industry could be in danger. If we don’t dedicate the time, the money and the resources to supporting it, it could be game over for the UK.
Current strengths disguise future risks. Our pipeline is under threat and our existing workforce is increasingly tempted to look overseas. Great studio spaces are nothing if they don’t have the right minds to turn ideas and visions into reality, so we need to make sure we open young people’s eyes to the both the pleasure and reward available in the creation of new worlds for millions of gamers across the world. We can see their passion in the Minecraft universe, now we must tap that potential.
We are already in danger of losing the scarce talent that we do have to other burgeoning hubs elsewhere in the world. According to consultancy group Procorre, more than half of all online gaming job advertisements aimed at UK programmers are for positions based in North America. Just 20% of adverts were for jobs in the UK, which means we could end up losing skilled developers to other markets. We need to put a stop to that now, and encourage more people to stay and build a career here, where it is estimated that 31% of companies have vacancies that they need to fill.
Technology is on an exponential growth curve, and this has had an incredible impact on the games industry. Gaming is no longer just a sofa sport enjoyed by a small minority – there is a gamer in all of us. Whether at home or on the move, on a portable device or a console, there’s always an opportunity to play. Games market research company Newzoo has predicted that the total number of gamers globally will rise from 1.21billion in 2012 to 1.55billion in 2016, largely thanks to the growing popularity of mobile gaming. Gamers are constantly hungry for richer experiences, and studios right across the world are racing to create the next game to satisfy that desire.
PwC has also predicted that mobile will be the fastest-growing video games sector over the next five years, with revenues increasing from £4.75bn in 2012 to £8.54bn in 2017, and for exactly this reason, Microsoft launched its most recent studio. Lift London, launched in 2013, builds experiences for smartphones, tablets and TVs and help to shape and adapt the way that people play games, to fit into a 21st century world. Just over a year after it launched, Lift London has recently moved to the brand new Microsoft Studios office space with Soho Productions to allow for its rapid growth.
There is no denying that games development is an incredibly valuable industry to the UK, and has provided us with many opportunities to prove our ability to punch above our weight, but the pace of change in technology is not going to slow down, and therefore nor will the evolution of the industry. Unless we all continue to dedicate time, money and resource to supporting our games industry, we will lose the jewel from the middle of our creative industries crown and everything that it means – to our heritage, our economy and our business. We cannot stand still or we will be left behind.
We’d encourage anyone interested in a career in the gaming or technology sector to visit: