In the final instalment of our series of features answering the biggest questions about the industry's future, Dominic Sacco chats to leading British firms about the talent our nation nurtures
Is Britsoft dying?
British developers have had a tough time these past few years.
As the console games market becomes ever competitive, the pressure for developers to produce titles with blockbuster sales is higher than ever. Regardless of their ability to make acclaimed games, several talented studios have closed. These include Bizarre Creations, Realtime Worlds, Black Rock Studio and Bigbig to name a few.
Others are having to consolidate their businesses. Veteran UK?developer-publisher Codemasters ditched other genres earlier this year to focus purely on racing games.
British studios are having to innovate to survive. But there are more ways to do so today, including a host of alternate funding methods and publishing platforms.
Crowdfunding services like Kickstarter are proving a popular means of generating the cash to make a game, with US developer Double Fine famously amassing over $3.3m in donations to make a new adventure game. There are UK equivalents like Crowdfunder.
Let’s not forget tax breaks which were finally confirmed by the UK Government in March, which will invest £50m from April 2013.
Then there’s British social games outfit Zattikka, which became the first of its kind to float on the stock market in April. And its actions are already influencing other firms.
Ripstone is an independent UK-based publisher which focuses on digital distribution as opposed to boxed sales. It was set up last year and its founders include development veterans who have worked on hit titles at Sony, Psygnosis and Codemasters.
Ripstone MD Phil Gaskell tells MCV: “Zattikka has a strong exec board with a long track record of successfully running game publishing businesses so it’s no surprise they’ve floated on AIM. As we look to grow our operations at Ripstone, it’s certainly an option we’ll give serious consideration to.
“Ian Livingstone described [this era] as a second golden age of gaming. Digital distribution means we don’t require the overheads that physical media publishers need and margins are better. What excites me the most though, is how indie game makers are throwing off conventions and embracing risk. It’s what continues to inspire me in a world that is dominated by sequels.”
Another UK innovator to emerge in recent years is AppyNation – a developer collective led by games industry veteran Andy Payne, that aims to give developers more control and ownership of their IP. Barn Cleave, who is executive director of one of AppyNation’s UK?developers – Niffler – adds: “Control is moving from the publisher to the developer. But we’re still a business, which is why we’re part of AppyNation, to share resource like marketing, distribution and admin.”
Payne adds:?“Things have changed for developers. The old idea of 50 guys taking years to make what they hope will be a triple-A game for a console publisher, well, it’s not over, but it’s not the only way.”
Some of the UK’s old guard are going strong, including publisher-developers like Team17 and Eutechnyx. The former is releasing titles on phones and even licensing Worms merchandise. And Eutechnyx’ free-to-play online racer Auto Club Revolution has partnered with BMW to get cars specially modelled in-game.
“I think the opportunities available to innovative content creators have never been so good,”?says Eutechnyx COO?Darren Jobling. “Funding growth into emerging sectors is key in any industry and I take great interest in the success of firms like Zattikka.
“Multiple routes to market – easy ways to get your games into the hands of millions of consumers – is the key to a flourishing UK industry.”
So is Britsoft dying? No. It’s simply changing. There’s still life in that old British bulldog yet.