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The UK Video Games Development Industry Surges Forward

TIGA, the trade association representing the UK video games industry, released new findings today which show the UK video games development sector grew to record levels in 2018, with studio headcounts, wider games industry employment, tax revenues and investment surpassing previous records. The UK’s games developer headcount grew to over 14,350 in 2018, an annualised increase of 8.1 per cent. The games development sector also now contributes £1.8 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The UK Video Games Development Sector Surges Forward

The findings come from TIGA’s definitive forthcoming annual report into the state and health of the UK video games industry Making Games in the UK Today (TIGA, 2019) which is based on an extensive survey of UK games businesses, with analysis by Games Investor Consulting.

TIGA’s research shows that in the year from November 2017 to November 2018:

  • The number of creative staff in studios surged by an annualised rate of 8.1 per cent from 13,277 to almost 14,353 full-time and full-time equivalent staff, with much of the growth in employment being driven by larger companies;
  • The total games development workforce, including contractors, grew from 15,851 to 16,532, a record high;
  • The number of jobs indirectly supported by studios rose from 24,274 to 26,241;
  • Combined direct and indirect tax revenues generated by the sector for the Treasury are estimated to have increased from £613 million to £747 million;
  • Annual investment by studios rose from £737 million to £818 million; and
  • The game development sector’s annual contribution to UK Gross Domestic Product increased from £1.6 billion to £1.8 billion.

Dr Richard Wilson, OBE, TIGA CEO, commented:

“The UK video games development sector surged forward in 2018, growing more than five times the rate of the UK economy. Employment and investment in the sector reached record levels in 2018 and the industry’s contribution to GDP reached an all-time high of £1.8 billion.

“Our industry is growing for three reasons. Firstly, the UK is one of the finest games development centres globally, with outstanding small, medium and large studios creating content that sell all over the world.

“Secondly the prevalence of mobile and tablet devices, the launch of upgraded consoles,the popularity of PC games and the advent of Virtual and Augmented Reality are encouraging investment in games.

“Thirdly, and most significantly, Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR) is enabling our sector to grow strongly. TIGA played a critical role in the long battle to win VGTR, which effectively reduces the cost and risk of games development and is incentivising investment and job creation in the games industry. There is a clear connection between the advent of VGTR and headcount growth in the UK games development sector. The UK games industry declined by an annual average of 3.1 per cent between 2008 and 2011, before VGTR existed. Since VGTR has been available, the average annual growth rate has been 7.5 per cent.

“The sector still faces serious challenges, particularly with respect in access to finance and in access to highly skilled people, to exploit this rapidly growing market in which the UK is a global success story. We should now reinforce our successful industry by introducing a Video Games Investment Fund (VGIF) to improve access to finance. We should also continue to strengthen industry-university links, enhance skills and training and enable UK games companies to recruit highly skilled workers from the EU and beyond. This will ensure that our sector continues to create more jobs, more investment and more video games.”

Jason Kingsley OBE, TIGA Chairman and CEO and Creative Director at Rebellion, said:

“The UK video games development industry grew to record levels in 2018 demonstrating our position as a creative, economic and technological success story. This is great news for consumers, students and developers.

“Yet, our industry continues to face challenges. Access to finance is challenging, particularly for smaller studios. Recruitment of highly skilled people can be difficult. We now need to reinforce our success by retaining and enhancing Video Games Tax Relief, establishing a Video Games Investment Fund to improve studios’ access to finance, continuing to strengthen education and skills and enabling studios to access highly skilled people from overseas following Brexit.”

Research methodology

Games Investor Consulting (GIC) continuously maintains a database f all extant, closed and exiting British games companies including all verified discrete independent and publisher-owned games development studios. It counts as a single studio all entities with holding/parent, sister and subsidiary companies that do not represent separate development concerns. It excludes companies in the process of being liquidated as well as any company that uses games-related Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) codes but which either are demonstrably not in games (e.g. are gambling or board gaming businesses) or cannot be verified from their published company profiles as operating in games development. Between September-November 2018, TIGA and GIC conducted an email and telephone survey of British games companies involved in the development of games including studios, publishers, service companies and broadcasters with games divisions. Distribution, manufacturing, peripheral device, marketing and retail companies were not profiled. Companies were asked how many staff worked full time in development or in roles supporting development. HR, admin, sales, marketing and commercial staff were excluded. GIC takes the latest data on development headcount to scale total development expenditure, and then uses current ONS economic data and Oxford Economics’ calculations from their report, “The economic contribution of the UK Games Development industry”, to establish estimates of the development industry’s GDP and tax impact.

Murat Oktay

Video games have been my passion for as long as I can remember. I have been writing and managing in the game industry for more than 30 years. I've been playing Diablo 2 nonstop since it first came out.

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