UK developers are calling for the government to offer more visas that will enable them to recruit more talent from abroad.
Speaking at a Develop roundtable, representatives of leading Cambridge studios claimed that this would create a more “level playing field” as both veteran developers and highly-skilled graduates are enticed to other development hubs around the world.
“Recruiting people outside the EU is really hard because there are blocks against it,” said Games Eden chair and GameWare director Jeremy Cooke. “And yet we’ve had a number of people emigrating and lured away by Canadian and US companies with very attractive salaries.
"At the very least we should have a voucher for being able to recruit the same number of people that have gone to work overseas.”
Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard added: “This is something the Government doesn’t understand. Our smartest people are employable anywhere in the world, and they’re very portable. Not only do we need to graduate, develop and retain them, but we also need the reciprocity of being able to bring more talent in.
“We’ve hired a lot within Cambridge, but almost two-to-one of our hires are experienced people coming in from abroad. The Home Office gives us about 75 visas a year, but even then we’re short. It’s hard to grow and get certain skills when they’re not all in Cambridge, or even in the UK for that matter.”
Some developers believe visas are more important to growing the UK developer community than tax breaks.
“Tax breaks will make a big difference, but are we holding our breath? No,” said Frontier Developments founder David Braben. “But visas would really help as well. All we want is a level playing field.”
Gerhard agreed: “With tax breaks, your business can be more competitive, hire people more effectively and market better. But from our perspective, gives us the visas, allows us to get the talent and all of a sudden it will be a fair playing field.
“The reality is that because of the internet, the world has become borderless but the Government still thinks in terms of borders.”
Indie developer Jonathan Skuse added: “There’s no benefit to keeping highly skilled, highly paid people out of the UK.”