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Time to end the dangerous split between ELSPA and Tiga?

By on May 18, 2009
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Frontier has just announced that it has joined ELSPA.

The developer, famous for Dog’s Life and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and led by David Braben, says that “ ELSPA addresses what we as game creators feel are the key strategic issues now facing us, including piracy, ratings and the pre-owned situation.”

One of my key themes is that all developers are becoming publishers. With the emergence of the Internet, the lines between developers (who create games) and publishers (who finance, sell, market and distribute games) is rapidly blurring. Add in public policy issues like age-ratings and the Byron report which will affect any developer trying to sell direct-to-consumer (for example, if they run flash games or are considering a casual MMO) and you can understand why Frontier has joined up.

(I’m trying to find out if Frontier is now a member of both the publisher’s association ELSPA and the developer’s association TIGA.)

The historic split between ELSPA and TIGA is looking ever more anachronistic, even though both organisations do worthy and valuable work.

Is it time for British developers and publishers to put aside their differences and merge their trade bodies into one?

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • I agree that the world has moved on in two years. My point in linking to this from GI.biz was simply that I had thought they should merge, but Ian had made me think again. I thought it was worth pointing out this argument, even though people’s thoughts may have moved on since.

  • Andy Payne

    Both have got new logos, so maybe progress has been made, one has even changed it’s mind and this is 2011, not 2009……just a thought.

  • Thanks, Ian.

    I am particularly swayed by your argument that ELSPA works for multinational corporations on local (meaning UK issues), whereas TIGA works for smaller organisations trying to export globally. I can easily see how, from this perspective, the two organisations have different objectives.

    I guess that this means that we might see some companies who choose to become members of both ELSPA and TIGA as well?

  • The differences between Tiga and Elspa and their respective memberships are real. The split isn’t ‘dangerous’; it’s healthy.

    Developers are very different from Publishers in this context.

    Developers might all be thinking about becoming digital publishers but they are not all going to do it. Even those that do will retain significant work for hire/retail focused development capacity for many years to come.

    Even when they do become digital publishers, their focus will be global. This is also true for existing development businesses whose customers are mostly non-UK. Tiga remains an organisation representing UK companies that have global market focus; Elspa is mostly an organisation representing global companies that have (in Elspa’s case) a UK specific market focus. Therefore Tiga is focused on global business issues and those specifically allowing us to compete internationally like overseas subsidies and the supply of skilled staff. Elspa remains more focused on a domestic market agenda.

    I could go on about the differences of audience and outlook but there are also large practical issues. Elspa is very well funded by large companies on a very different basis to Tiga. Within any merged structure, either the smaller development companies would have no voice (through lack of membership fees clout) or the publishers would feel completely shafted by the developers spending their much greater membership fees on development issues. Equality here would mean reducing the amount the publishers spend on their trade body which is hardly a desirable outcome.

    Tiga has worked to bring many issues to the fore that would simply never have happened otherwise. Publishers have a different set of objectives, a different mindset as mostly UK subsidiaries of international companies and, naturally, a different focus. This focus remains largely on retail for very good reasons. To dismiss the entire UK development industry, with its incredible record of achievement, as little more than the larval stage of a bunch of digital publishers seems overly narrow in outlook and perspective.

    For now, and I think for some years to come, the development sector needs its own strong voice. Being lost amongst the clamour of some very big, powerful companies with a different agenda does not seem like a positive step for the UK’s very successful development industry.