Livingstone: ‘We are in the second Golden Age of games’

Ian Livingstone is one of the UK game industry’s greatest success stories.

Starting up Games Workshop alongside fellow Brit Steve Jackson in their flat in 1975, Livingstone moved from board games and role-playing novels into video games during the mid-‘90s, joining Eidos Interactive and securing major franchises including Tomb Raider.

Now Livingstone operates as a role model for budding games creators, serving as the Government’s Champion for Skills, Digital and the Creative Industries. His contribution to the ‘Next Gen Skills’ review helped cement the need for coding as part of the school curriculum in the UK. He argues there’s no better time for the UK to come to the forefront.

These are very exciting times,” he states. You could argue this is the second Golden Age of games, because the routes to market are now open.

In the past, physical media was sold at a premium price through traditional distribution channels with all the barriers along the way before it could reach the consumer. That required a certain investment and capital. But today small teams are able to reach global markets.

In addition to this, we are one of the most creative nations, if not the most creative nation, in the world.Therefore with app stores, alongside online and digital consumption of games, there’s an incredible opportunity. Britain is now rushing towards that opportunity and establishing itself as one of the leaders in video games production.”

The UK’s games industry continues to grow in stature, but existing preconceptions that games are a ‘lesser’ form of entertainment than movies are still a barrier.

In terms of the film industry, we’re only in the 1930s – we’re a relatively new industry,” he explains. Grand Theft Auto, a great British success story, is the largest entertainment franchise in any medium. Therefore it should be celebrated, not castigated by people who don’t know about its content.Despite this, you can see the pervasive nature of games. Everyone now plays games.”

He adds that the growing acceptance of games is helping the industry to gain momentum and backing from higher-up sources.This includes the tax breaks for the UK industry, which were finally approved in March.

Through people playing the more mass market way, plus the strong signals that the Government has sent to the industry by offering tax relief for games and by introducing computer science into the national curriculum to help skill up our creative nation, this is another strong indicator that games are being accepted,” Livingstone comments.

Boons such as these are just the start, with mobile paving the way for more and more people to find a way into the market. Livingstone observes that the threat posed to more traditional platforms by mobile is nothing to worry about.

I just see the market continuing to expand,” he says. I’m never ever going to suggest that console games are going to disappear.It’s a bit like YouTube sitting alongside Hollywood. It’s additive to the market.”

He continues that with benefits such as tax breaks sowing a fertile landscape for independent studios, the market would begin to divide.

There’s still an incredible opportunity for console games, but it’s a case of triple-A dominating that market. The rich are getting richer; the big franchises are getting bigger. So small teams are wholly going to be looking at digital-only.That’s an incredibly opportunity but, of course, with that opportunity comes challenges.”

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