Dr Richard Wilson is CEO of TIGA, the award-winning trade association representing the UK video games industry. At TIGA, Richard has successfully campaigned for the introduction of Video Games Tax Relief and introduced an accreditation system for university games courses.
New research conducted by TIGA, the network for video games developers and digital publishers and the trade association representing the video games industry, shows that employment in the Scottish video games development industry grew 17 per cent between November 2018 and April 2020. Scotland is the fourth largest games cluster in the UK, after London, the South East and the North West.
Scotland has 1,803 permanent and full-time equivalent creative staff working on games development in 96 companies. This is up from from 84 companies employing 1,537 staff in November 2018. Scotland is home to 7.3 per cent of the UK’s total games companies and 10.7 per cent of its developer headcount. Scotland’s games development sector supports an additional 3,296 indirect jobs, up from 2,810 in November 2018.
The growth of the Scottish video games industry will also be welcomed by the Treasury. Annually, Scottish games development companies are estimated to invest £106 million in salaries and overheads, contribute £97 million in direct and indirect tax revenues to HM Treasury, and make a direct and indirect contribution of £236 million to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Scottish games industry is clearly a success story. However, it has the potential to grow even more, to create more jobs and generate more investment. As consumer demand for games grows and changes, particularly as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent UK lockdown, it is important to take action on tax, finance, skills and the business support infrastructure.
Video Games Tax Relief should be enhanced, to allow the Scottish video games industry to compete on a level playing field with other countries that benefit from similar reliefs. Video Games Tax Relief incentivises investment, employment growth and IP creation.
Many small studios struggle to grow because of difficulties accessing finance. A Video Games Investment Fund (VGIF) should be introduced, providing match funding to studios to promote the development of original IP and encourage studio growth. The UK Games Fund which is based in Dundee could also be strengthened to improve access to finance.
Scottish universities provide high skilled graduates for the video games industry. This year has seen Abertay University recognised once again as Europe’s leading Games School by the Princeton Review, and it has been recognised as University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. We need to continue to invest in higher education and strengthen industry-university links. It is also important that the industry can continue to recruit highly skilled workers from the EU and beyond following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The Scottish games industry benefits from a business support infrastructure that includes Scottish Enterprise, Creative Scotland and InGAME – a partnership involving Abertay University and Universties of St Andrews and Dundee along with local and international partners. Sustaining this system of business support promotes growth in the Scottish games industry. For example, the InGAME initiative provides local games studios with R&D support, services and international collaboration opportunities that encourage experimentation and innovation in the sector.
As Scotland and the rest of the UK begins to recover from the impacts of coronavirus, it is vital that we play to our strengths. The Scottish video games industry is a success story. If we can continue to create a favourable environment for games development then the sector has the potential to create more jobs, studios and opportunities in Scotland.