Opinion: Games are under-represented in official statistics, but we can fix it

Last week’s MCV and UKIE figures valuing the market for games in the UK showed a growth once more in consumer hunger for games.

The consumer market grew by 13 per cent, reaching 3.944bn in 2014, almost on par with its value in 2008. The strength and geographical spread of the sector was also highlighted by the ‘A Map of the UK Games Industry’ report, which identified 1,902 companies working on games across the UK. And the recent BFI Economic Contribution of the UK’s Film and Video Game Sectors report revealed that UK games development contributed 639m in GVA (Gross Value Added) and employed 9,400 people full time.


But official government estimates often tell a different story. This bothers us because it’s important that we are able to use data that is accurate to make arguments for policy intervention, as well as promote the industry in the media, to decision makers, and the rest of the world. Both Nesta and the research firms responsible for the BFI report, Olsberg SPI/Nordicity, identified that official statistics are not doing a great job at keeping up with this fast-changing industry and capturing the entirety of the sector.

Even the Government admits this and caveats its valuations. Looking at the 1,902 companies in the Nesta report, only a third of them were counted. There are two reasons for this. When you set up a company, you are automatically issued with a Standard Industrial Classification – or SIC – code that describes the nature of your business. This is done based on information about your company taken from official sources. The data about firms under these codes is then added up to show the economic value and size of any given sector. There are two SIC codes that are used to describe games companies:

58.21/0 Publishing of games

62.01/1 Ready-made interactive leisure and entertainment software development (games development)

If your company isn’t in one of these codes, it isn’t counted as a games business in official estimates. You can check what code you are registered under at Companies House.

You also may not be counted if your company is very small and has a low turnover, and doesn’t meet the Office of National Statistics’ reporting thresholds.

By ensuring you are using one of the SIC codes above, you not only improve the quality of official statistics, you help our wonderful industry as a whole to be better represented: ultimately this helps your company receive more attention and support in times of change and uncertainty.

The power is in your hands: to change you code, there are several things you need to do.

SIC codes rely on four different sources. In order of relevance: the Business Registers and Employment Survey (BRES); HMRC VAT registration, HMRC PAYE return and annual return Companies House. Please do take a moment to make sure your business has the right code in all of these bits of information. For help and more information, visit here.

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