Scotland’s gaming sector risks being ‘left behind’ as global market booms
Scotland’s long-standing video games sector risks being “left behind” in a market dominated by large international developers, according to a think tank led by Gordon Brown.
A new paper by Our Scottish Future says a UK-wide video games network should be created by the UK’s governments to help Scotland’s gaming sector thrive and compete with gaming giants America, China and Japan.
The think tank, set up by the former Labour Prime Minister, campaigns for “positive and radical” change in Scotland as part of a reformed UK.
Games such as Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto were created by the Scottish gaming sector, while Dundee-based 4J Studios developed the console version of Minecraft.
The paper recommends that a new group, which brings together expertise, finance, and services across the country, is created to help Scottish firms “continue to punch above their weight”.
It says a new network should be at the top of the agenda of the newly formed Interministerial Group for Business and Industry, which brings the UK Government together with devolved governments to work on shared plans.
It says that Scotland already benefits from world-class institutions, such as Abertay University, whose computing courses in the 1980s led to Dundee becoming a sector leader in the UK.
Its author, analyst Ruairidh Macintosh, said: “Scotland needs a plan for video games or risks losing another industrial legacy.”
“We will need to overcome long-term challenges around access to the right kinds of skills and finance; compete on innovation rather than on scale or cost; and find areas of competitive advantage, especially where we can marry the skills and technology behind games with other sectors.”
He added: “In the face of such stiff global competition, the best plan would be one that seized the advantages Scotland’s games industry gets from the social and economic connections of the United Kingdom. From finance, skills, and connections with England’s own world-class games industry as well as other leading high-tech creative industries such as film and TV, the UK offers opportunities to make the most of Scottish talent and creativity.
“Alone, the risk is that historically successful clusters in Edinburgh and Dundee cannot keep up with ever stronger clusters in America, Japan, China and Europe. By combining Scottish imagination with the ideas, resources, and connections of the UK we have the best chance to stay competitive in the long-term.”
Backing the report, Paul Durrant, director of the UK Games Fund, said: “Because we are connected across UK games clusters we fully recognise the potential for Scotland as highlighted in this paper.
“Strategic investment in games development and publishing across all nations and regions through the inter-ministerial group will improve the UK’s competitive position and attract talent and inward investment. The maturity and breadth of Scotland’s games development ecosystem provides an excellent foundation for the interventions proposed”
Sean Taylor, director of InGAME Research and Innovation Centre, added: “I am delighted to see the ongoing impact and growth potential of the Scottish videogames sector highlighted in this report.
“A collaborative, cooperative approach presents the opportunity for Scotland to create a competitive advantage within the world’s biggest entertainment industry and beyond.”
The paper sets out a series of proposals for action in both Scotland and across the UK, building on the recent Scottish Government review led by former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan.
In Scotland, it says the Scottish Government should commit to making computer science a core part of the curriculum, increase the number of computing places at university, and expand funding for startup companies.
It also calls on the Scottish Government to open a Scottish investment office in London to help firms access venture capital from the city.
Across the UK, the paper says the UK and Scottish Governments should work to build a new UK wide network, connecting firms and students with each other in the key towns and cities: Dundee, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Leamington Spa, Cambridge and Sheffield.
The paper concludes: “We lack the funding, or even the awareness, to be able to make the most of the pools of talent and expertise across the UK. An intentionally connected games industry would be one where up and coming studios in Edinburgh and Dundee are aware of the pockets of research excellence in England and are able to easily access them, or to make connections with established companies working on something more similar to them than the studios physically near them. As it is today, those connections are by luck rather than design.”
Globally, the video games industry is now worth $200 billion. Scotland accounts for a disproportionate share of the UK wide industry, with 6,400 people employed in the sector, 11% of the UK wide total. The sector is estimated to be worth nearly £350m to the Scottish economy.
Scottish based firms such as Rockstar, Axis Studios, 4J Studios and Tag games are all globally recognised brands.
The industry is expected to double in worth by 2028, to more than $400bn.