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Is the UK games industry only one life left from Game Over

By on August 12, 2011
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At Edinburgh Interactive, a team from the games industry’s old boy’s network debated whether the UK games industry is only one life left from game over.

I voted that it is, despite thinking that there has never been time to be a game developer, and we are about to enter the Second Golden Age of Gaming. How could that be?

Project, not businesses

The UK games industry has been at the forefront of the games industry for decades. Our creativity, innovation and design skills are not in question.

Yet we are being left behind. Studios are closing. London-based investors are chucking millions of pounds into the games industry, but their investments are in Germany and Scandinavia, not in the UK.

And the problem lies with developers.

Developers have get used to the idea that they need to get permission to make a game. They used to go, cap in hand, to a publisher and ask for the funds to make a game, in return for tiny slice of the long term profits.

The number of publishers has collapsed, and those that do exist are making fewer, bigger bets. So developers are turning to new sources of funding, like VC and angel investors.

The problem is that developers don’t change their pitch: they turn up, with a publisher-style presentation and pitch a game.

But no-one cares.

We’ve entered a world of businesses

If you want permission to create a game, go find a publisher (good luck). If you want to make a game, just do it.

Get an iPhone app of the ground. Launch a mobile test. Demonstrate traction in user growth, or revenues, or virality.

It’s hard. It’s very hard. It’s much easier to ask for permission and, when no-one funds you, to blame the funding environment, or investors who don’t get the games industry.

The onus, instead, is on you. To find a way to get started. To break the cycle of waiting for permission and find a way, by hook or by crook, to get your game out there.

If you do that, you might be the next Zynga, or Rovio, or Minecraft, or Mind Candy. If you don’t, you’ll never know.

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
  • Anonymous

    I certainly don’t disagree that the British games industry is in serious trouble, nor indeed that this is something close to a golden age for the global games industry as a whole (at least in terms of investor interest!). Part of the problem, as you say here, is that British developers are still thinking in terms of making games instead of offering games-as-service, which is where all the money is now. But I don’t think just going and making games is an answer, since I think it takes more than that to break in and succeed at this point.

    Trouble is, British developers still dream of making big console hits. As long as they are in love with their technology instead of their livelihood, the British games industry is certainly doomed.