Lord of the Rings star to launch first regional computer games industry network

For release: Monday 3 December 2007

Hollywood star Andy Serkis, famed for his roles in blockbusters movies, Lord of the Rings and King Kong, will be coming to the region this week to launch a new business network.

Andy, who starred as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and now appears in the Play Station Three (PS3) console game Heavenly Sword, will be launching Games Eden - the East of England’s first ever business network for the computer games industry.

It is predicted that by the end of 2007, the global computer games market will be worth $21.1 billion. Within the UK, the East of England has been particularly strong in this sector– companies based at the East of England game development community hub, in Cambridge, employ about 600 staff alone and are responsible for computer gaming hits like Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Kung Fu Chaos; 24: The Game; MediEvil; GhostHunter; and GoldenEye 007.

The new network will help to promote, support and develop the region’s digital games entertainment community. It will provide a dedicated local networking group that will facilitate collaboration and knowledge transfer both within academic and commercial sectors and inform and discuss the latest developments and opportunities within the industry.

Games Eden will be launched at a special event on December 5 2007 at New Hall, Buckingham House, in Cambridge. The event will introduce Games Eden, establish its aims and objectives, as well as assessing the current status of the computer games industry and discussing what the future holds. There’ll be an opportunity for potential members to sign up, voice their ideas and contribute to proposed projects.

The event will be hosted by new media pioneer Bill Thompson. Guest presenters include leading game maker David Braben, Fred Hasson CEO of TiGA and London-based actor Andy Serkis, who recently applied his performance skills for motion capture to the gaming world, by featuring in the new PS3 Heavenly Sword console game.

As the industry extends its economic, social and cultural impact, Games Eden will stimulate electronic creativity and business development through an internationally focused website and a

programme of networking events for those involved in the industry across the region.

Jeremy Cooke, chair of Games Eden, said:“The benefits of Games Eden include delivery of a local developer led networking group, membership of TIGA, raising the profile of local creative digital talent and better access to strategic information and assistance.”

Games Eden is being funded over the next two years by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), East of England International (EEI), Screen East and FDMX. It is supported by a steering committee with representatives from Cambridge Wireless, TiGA, EMMA, Gameware Development, Zoonami, Geomerics, Sony, Jagex, Nicetech and Ninja Theory.

David Marlow, chief executive of EEDA, said:“The computer games industry is a key element of the East of England’s growing creative industries sector. It is vital we help to support and develop it if we are to continue to grow the regional economy in future years. Many businesses within the region are significant international players and we believe that specialised support for the sector, through a dedicated network, will create further success.”

Laurie Hayward, CEO of Screen East, said:“In a region with massive expertise in feature film and television production we are delighted to help ensure the growth of the computer games sector”.

To join this creative digital revolution or to book a place at the launch event email claire@screeneast.co.uk or call 01603 776926.

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Notes to Editors

The event will be held on Wednesday 5 December 2007, 6.30pm, for a 7pm start.

Media are welcome to attend the launch of Games Eden. To book a place or for details of the photo opportunity please contact Claire Treadwell at Screen East on 01603 776926.

For any other media enquiries please contact:

Lisa Davidson in EEDA’s press office, tel: 01223 200871, email: lisadavidson@eeda.org.uk

Games Eden provides:

1.A forum for identifying technological and creative innovations with the potential to create significant new market and business opportunities from all areas of the digital games entertainment industry;

2.A platform enabling the discussion and exchange of ideas and experiences;

3.Regional developers with a national voice primarily through membership of TiGA;

4.Drive and direction of business opportunities towards Games Eden members through events, brokerage, networking, market research and collaboration;

5.Promotion of the profile of Games Eden and its members within the East of England, the UK and globally;

6.The promotion of Cambridge and the East of England as a centre of creative and technical excellence for the digital games entertainment industry and to highlight the benefits of commerce and employment in the region;

7.A bridge between the digital entertainment community and academia, and the scientific and research community; and

8.The identification of and stimulation of new talent to enter into the industry.

About the computer gaming industry– internationally, nationally and regionally

The computer gaming industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the digital content industry. Recent figures from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) and Screen Digest show that from the end of 1995 to 2003, more than 25 million dedicated gaming devices were sold in the UK. This is enough for every household in the land to have one. Globally, this rises to a 350 million gaming devices.

The world market for games and entertainment software grew to $18.2 billion in 2003, up from $16.9 million in 2002. It is predicted that by the end of 2007, the global market will be worth $21.1 billion. Within the UK, leisure software sales grew again in 2003 to reach£1.68 billion and the UK continues to have the third largest market in the world for games after the US and Japan, whilst remaining comfortably the largest market in Europe. 

Within the UK, the East of England has been particularly strong in this sector. The hub of the East of England game development community is based in Cambridge. Companies such as Jagex, Ninja Theory, Sony Studios (Sony Computer Entertainment, Europe), Frontier Development, Nice Tech, Zoonami and Gameware are based here and are pushing the creative boundaries of the emerging technologies through the creation of innovative, high quality game products.

Currently, it is estimated that these companies comprise more than 600 employees. Cambridge based companies are responsible for a range of internationally acclaimed products such as: Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; BAMZOOKi; Kung Fu Chaos; Runescape (MMORPG); Primal; 24: The Game; MediEvil; GhostHunter; C12 Final Resistance; GoldenEye 007; The Outsider; Dog’s Life; Funkydilla and Dawn Republic (MMOG). Throughout the region there are many small games companies and individuals seeking to develop their unique content ideas for the market.

About the East of England Development Agency

The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is the driving force behind sustainable economic regeneration in the East of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The vision for the East of England is to create a leading economy, founded on a world class knowledge base, creativity and enterprise to improve the quality of life for all who live and work here. For further information visit www.eeda.org.uk

Guest Presenter Biogs

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis is an impressive British character actor and master of performance motion capture with over 50 stage, television, and film credits and a highly coveted role in Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Serkis also performed as Kong in King Kong, which won him a Toronto Film Critics Association Award (2005) for his unprecedented work helping to realize the main character in King Kong, and a Visual Effects Society Award (2006) for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture.

Serkis began his acting career in theatre. He has appeared on almost every renowned British stage and in a host of popular plays.

Bill Thomson

New media pioneer Bill Thompson is a journalist, commentator and technology critic based in Cambridge, England. He has been working in, on and around the Internet since 1984.

He currently has a weekly column which appears in the technology section of the BBC News website, and contributes to other publications both on and off-line, including The Guardian, The Register and The New Statesman. He writes a monthly column for new net users for BBC WebWise, and a technologycolumn for Focus magazine

David Braben

David Braben is a British computer programmer, best known for co-writing Elite, a hugely popular and influential space trading computer game, in the early 1980s. Elite was written in conjunction with Ian Bell while both were undergraduate students at Cambridge University. Another seminal game written by Braben was Zarch for the Acorn Archimedes (later released on some other platforms as Virus), which is considered to be the first true "solid" 3D game of all time.

After Zarch, Braben went on to found Frontier Developments, a games development company whose first project was a sequel to Elite named Frontier. Braben is still the Chairman and part owner of this company, whose recent projects have included RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and games based on the Wallace&Gromit franchise.

Fred Hasson

Fred Hasson brings experience in Film, TV and new media sectors. He has previously represented independent producers in film and TV and the BBC to Government. As a founder member of Tiga, he believes there is a lack of appreciation of development’s creative role in the industry by retailers and publishers and that developers need to be more professional and responsible in their business practices.


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