Industry body ELSPA has represented the interests of publishers since the close of the 1980s. Over that time it has achieved a great deal in the spheres of anti-piracy, sales charts, age-ratings, and interfacing with the Government.
However, the organisation served largely as a representative of publishers, and while there was crossover with what ELSPA provided and developers needed, it was clear that more was needed to embrace the industry in its entirety. And so it was that the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association became the association for UK Interactive Entertainment.
“The clue is in the name,” says UKIE director general Mike Rawlinson of the rebranding. “We were an association for publishers of entertainment and interactive leisure software. But the market is no longer fitting into the demarcation of publisher, developer, retailer or distributor – we are no longer in silos, but a more homogeneous market.”
While much of what ELSPA handled will still be undertaken by UKIE, Rawlinson and his colleagues are looking at a wider remit, and tackling the issues that matter to everybody in the trade.
Previously, ELSPA was unable to speak for the industry as a whole because of its genetic make-up; now it is in a stronger position, and should be able to execute more influence on change for the better. That considered, it is now welcoming developers to sign up as full members, while the likes of service providers and educators can sign up as associate members.
Furthermore, as the industry undergoes perhaps its most significant period of change, the formation of UKIE has allowed it to respond to the shrinking publisher base, and diversification of platforms.
“The games industry is no longer about just a single physical point of contact – not just consoles or PCs, it’s MMOs, browser and mobile as well now,” suggests Rawlinson.
“It’s a much bigger remit that we want to cover. That’s why we’re doing it. This is no longer an exclusive old boys’ club – it is welcoming and requires participation and ownership from within to make it what our members want it to be, so we want them to come and join us.”
What that means is that UKIE will begin the daunting task of aligning the concerns and ambitions of developers and publishers; two groups often seen as diametrically opposed.
“The difficulty for each end of the business is making the right connections,” explains Rawlinson.
“Sometimes developers can feel that publishers don’t want to see them and they are turned away at the door – but they must not forget that publishers wouldn’t survive without their content. Whether that’s from an internal studio, or a third-party, they need each other at some point or other, either to service the goods or the relationship.
“UKIE can add a huge amount to the industry to help the wide array of people within it get together and network – that will help break down those barriers and any fear of resentment of ‘the other side’, to show that both sides of the business should, will and can work together and be more united for the good of the industry going forward.”
Perhaps surprisingly, UKIE is also stepping away from the tax breaks issue for the time being. While it will still build a case for their introduction, it is presently to shift focus to promoting the UK’s position as a leader of the games industry, and promote the nation as a destination for companies and individuals working in the games industry.
Ultimately UKIE will be sharper, more vocal, and more proactive than its forbearer, which can only mean better things for UK developers.