EXCLUSIVE: Playing for Keeps report shows UK devs could lose status as prolific IP creators and fall into the 'IP poverty trap'

UK game studios under threat, says Government report

The UK Government’s imminent ‘Playing for Keeps’ warns that UK is in serious danger of losing its status as a prolific creator of good games IP, Develop can reveal.

The report is a wide-ranging survey of the key territories in the games industry including territories such as the USA, Canada, UK, France and Australia, and is exclusively abridged in the latest issue of Develop. ‘Playing for Keeps’ is written by Games Investor Consulting analysts Rick and Nick Gibson for independent developer association Tiga, UK Trade and Industry and the DTI (now known as BERR).

While some facts from the report – that the UK has slipped to fourth in the world’s ranking of global games development countries, behind the USA, Canada and Japan, and currently hosts just 150 studios compared to 2002’s 400 – have already snared some headlines, the real point of interest comes in how those facts show the UK on the global games development stage.

‘Playing for Keeps’ warns that UK will suffer thanks to reduced access to finance, rising development costs and pressure from more competitive, low-cost development sectors elsewhere in the world – all of which potentially relegates the country to the ‘IP poverty trap’.

"Few UK studios can afford to self-fund a new IP on a current generation console," says the report, which adds that the UK “faces some structural challenges in the medium term which threaten its ability to continues to produce strong original new IP”.

The report says several ‘fundamental issues’ related to finance are holding the games sector back, saying both the private and public sector are ignoring the industry, with finance companies in the former lacking confidence in games companies and the UK government has failed to address the fact that subsidies in the likes of Montreal are attracting away investment.

The report describes the fall in the number of UK studios as an “extinction event Darwinian in outcome” and says UK studios today are “better-run, more financially stable and effective developers”.

It also says the UK games industry is “currently growing, driven by publishers growing their studio headcount substantially and seeking experienced, technically proficient third party studios to supplement their internal capacity.”

But independent studios should not get complacent as the above facts may cause them to lose further ground in the next two years, warns the report: “Despite the advent of new distribution channels like casual games download services on consoles, poor access to finance, outdated commercial models and rising production costs are creating a bottleneck for new IP that will continue to struggle to get to market.”

UKTi plans to publish part of the research alongside two seminars set to take place on October 24th – in the meantime you can read our exclusive, in-depth version of the report, which includes an industry survey, the key lessons learned from ten major UK-made games IPs and analysis and stats on the UK industry and a look at how it compares to other major territories, here on the Develop site.

There are two ways to read the feature.

Either download the latest issue of the magazine in PDF form here (registration required – registration is free). Or, check out our multi-part feature which is available to read right now.

Part 1 looks at the UK market, and lessons learnt from its biggest IPs.

Part 2 provides the results of an industry survey, revealing the thoughts of feelings of 15 leading UK studios and publishers.

Part 3
provides an analysis of the above stats, with an outlook for UK developers.

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