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Codemasters: UK becoming a nation of iPhone developers

Fri 22 Jul 2011 8:36am GMT / 4:36am EDT / 1:36am PDT
PublishingDevelopment

Codemasters' Andy Wilson blames lack of government support for studio closures

Codemasters

Taken from MobyGames.com:

Codemasters develops and publishes video games for Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft...

codemasters.com

Codemasters' Andy Wilson believes that the UK is in danger of becoming a nation of "iPhone developers."

In an interview with Gamerzines, Wilson, game director on the forthcoming shooter Bodycount, blames the government's reticence to introduce tax breaks for the local industry's decline.

"The UK is primarily tough, in my opinion, because the bright, shining hope of tax breaks for the games industry got torpedoed," he says.

"It's a tough economy for sure, but we need to start supporting the industry properly or the whole thing is going to melt into iPhone developers - and there's only so many four-man teams who are going to find success."

Wilson worked at Black Rock Studios, which was recently closed by Disney. He claims it is "painfully obvious" that other studios will suffer the same fate unless they are given the sort of government support enjoyed by studios in North America.

However, despite the closure of Black Rock, Bizarre Creations and THQ Digital Warrington this year, Wilson insists that Codemasters will remain in the UK for the forseeable future.

"We're still flying the flag as the last British publisher, after all."

20 Comments

Kingman Cheng
Illustrator and Animator

949 166 0.2
I'd bloody hope Codemasters stays here!

Don't do a Cadbury!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kingman Cheng on 22nd July 2011 12:37pm

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Nick Burcombe
CEO & Co Founder

53 16 0.3
In a world of ever-spiraling costs and increasing team sizes, I have to say I think the console industry has in some ways brought it on itself. There's no middle ground any more. AAA or Bust. That's what it feels like. Sure, the lack of tax breaks didn't help, but with the bulk of revenues coming from fewer and fewer titles, all the marketing money is being ploughed into making a very small amount of titles into sure fire hits.....something had to give. The business model just seem wrong. Its too expensive to make console games and the chances of being 'this years big hit' at any given publisher becoming increasingly small.

Is it any wonder smaller, cheaper, more flexible development teams are springing up out of all these redundancies and trying to showcase their talents on the mobile platforms - its seems like the most cost-effective option at the moment. IMHO UK development is still strong and very talent - but sadly nowadays its deeply fragmented. It would be nice to see someone try and establish a quality based marketing umbrella to showcase UK developers games to help elevate them above the noise.

Also....I just hope that the North America tax break doesn't expire.......

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Burcombe on 22nd July 2011 10:25am

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Gareth Lewis
Lead Programmer

3 0 0.0
This is, simply, industrial evolution. Nick's very much on the money in what the AAA model has become. From my experience, developers in the UK have a great track record of innovation and, currently, the iPhone et al really meets that.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
And whats wrong with iphone development? If people break off from "traditional" UK development and all the crunch that that includes, to found small, independant and talented teams that create games that sell, i dont see a problem with that.

I know quite a few who have done that recently. They are their own boss, make what they feel is a good game, develop a strong design and dont have to listen to people who think they know what they are on about.

More power to them IMO. I would imagine the burnout factor in such small teams is lower as well. People who found such teams will have fun longer and stay in the industry - win/win situation.

Its easy to blame everything on the lack of government support. Fact is though, that if a game is well made and a quality title, it will sell and bring money to the studio. If a studio is successful and takes care of their employees, they will attract local (and even international) talent. There are plenty of people in the UK to work and people who want to come to the UK to work. Not everyone fancies moving to Canada, even if salaries might be slightly higher.

Posted:3 years ago

#4
I think UK is more than a nation of ios indie casual developers. We're certainly doing much better than Australia.
The thing with AAA is it takes a while to incubate, grow and release as well. Often a 2.5-3 year cycle so it could be nothing is on the cards till its ready to be announced at the local game events.

Just look at titles like Uncharted 3. They must have started prior to the finish of Uncharted 2 for launch in 2011. etc etc

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Adam Campbell
Studying Games Technology

101 0 0.0
Is that a bad thing? I'm quite impressed to see so many successful mobile studios in the UK. I think they're great in their own right, but some companies struggling to get deals or launch products on consoles and PC are finding new markets in Android and iOS. Of course, I still think the government needs to support the biggest entertainment industry in the country..

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I'm sure tax breaks and a proper Government gaming body would help, but would either have really saved the likes of Bizarre, Free Radical and Realtime Worlds from closure after their final releases disappointed at retail?

If we're in a market where one failed game can kill of a reasonable-sized studio, I think it's more a problem with the costs and business model of AAA development, rather than any lack of tax breaks or the like.

Posted:3 years ago

#7

James Steele
Senior Software Engineer

15 17 1.1
I think I can echo Adam's thoughts on this.

One of the great things about the UK games industry, is how it started from bedroom coders making games in their spare time. The small shops that grew from these roots, were doing innovative and fun to play games. It was when the culutre of mega studios came into being that the UK industry came into trouble...it started to suffocate under too much corporate red tape and fear of not turning a large enough profit.

More power to small, innovative developers, concentraing on making fun games...regardless of the platform.

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Valery Carpentier
Senior Software Engineer

7 0 0.0
I'm with Terence there... There is a lot of talk about increasing team sizes and development costs (marketing costs are a different issue) but nobody talks about how to reduce these. We are still pretty much working with the same development model than 20 years ago, whereas the technology and market has radically changed.

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Nick McCrea
Gentleman

178 231 1.3
I read it not so much as an indictment of small team and mobile development, but as an expression of anguish for the seemingly inexorable decline of big-studio development in the UK, which, if I'm honest, I have to really agree with. It IS a shame; from my own selfish standpoint I want strength in depth for my employment options, and having a large and healthy ecosystem of studios to choose from, that are spread across the full range of studio sizes and target platforms, as well as geographically distributed would be the best thing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 22nd July 2011 3:23pm

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Matt Ness
zzz

5 0 0.0
@Last british developer

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what about Rockstar* ?
I thought that GTA was created in Britain...
And I didn't heard that they whining for tax cuts :)

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Adam Campbell
Studying Games Technology

101 0 0.0
@Matt

Perhaps not, but two points. Firstly, I accidentally stumbled upon an OLD really old list of UK developers and I was stunned as to how many had declined or collapsed in the last 5 years and you have to wonder why. Many of the issues were funding in tough markets.

Secondly, maybe Rockstar are fine, but what happened to Disney? Where are LindenLab? Why are Bioware (for Star Wars operations) and others basing in Ireland before considering the UK now?, why did other big publishers close UK operations and jump ship?

Canada have seemingly overtaken us as the 'next biggest' hub for development (after US and Japan I believe), a position we once occupied. Why would the big companies choose here over say, Canada or even Ireland when they get incredibly cheap corporation tax and potentially other tax breaks?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 23rd July 2011 11:48am

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
@Adam: thats all very well, but do you honestly believe the likes of EA, Ubisoft and Eidos/SE are going to relocate back to the UK now if there are tax incentives? those big publishers built big cities with multiple teams and they are going to stay there as long as its worth it.

There are several reasons why the UK games development power has declined over the years, and tax incentives are only a small part. The UK industry started to decline in the early 2000s - it had its height in the 90s. Some companies have good IP and bring out a game on a reasonable budget and survive. Others have great IPs and dont care about budget size (i.e. Rockstar). But too many studios are reaching too high and overstretch (i.e. RTW) and many just dont see that they have no good product at all.

Having small, independant studios again is great. People make quality product that sells - what does it matter if its an Xbox title or an iphone - 4 people have a job, pay tax and further the industry. If they do well, they might be 8 sometime. Thats better than a 70 people studio trying to do a AAA console title, failing and closing shop.

Posted:3 years ago

#13
I think there are a lot of factors but support is lacking. I know a people with great teams and ideas with offers from America but are holding on here until things work out, just because they want to see England catch up.

Thankfully things do seem to be starting to change, but slowly.

Codemasters are great, im pleased to hear they are staying.

Posted:3 years ago

#14
Look, small and indie is probably a good thing for UK. Keeps things efficient, lean and mean and most importantly creative.

IP is the main crux of it all, and the more IPs generated, means one day they can be ginormous....eg. mind candy, little big planet, GTA, arkham asylum reboot...and so forth in recent memories

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Adam Campbell
Studying Games Technology

101 0 0.0
@ Andreas

I don't remember saying it was the only factor, but there is a drive behind tax incentives and that's one of the main reasons companies are choosing hubs like Ireland and Canada.

Will it make companies up and fly back the UK? Probably not. But EA already have 2 studios in London and 2 more in Guildford, it would likely influence companies like them to stay and increase their business. Some who are considering the UK will have some extra incentive rather than - no Canada is cheaper, Ireland is cheaper..

I think many factors go towards success and if you look at my earlier comment, I'm more for the major rise in small independent development, but I don't think the part government plays should be ignored. Both for start ups and bigger corporations - especially when you have big companies declaring their business may have been impossible to make a huge success in the UK.. A nation of iPhone/Android devs are great, but I would love to see more billion dollar corporations become possible out of that UK talent..

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 23rd July 2011 10:48pm

Posted:3 years ago

#16

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
True Adam, some companies might be incentivised to stay. And the more jobs in the UK the better. I am also not against goverment help - who would be. I strongly believe though that the whole "we need a tax break now" thing is thrown around too much and touted as a solution for everything.

cant recall Rockstar having called for tax breaks (might be wrong though). They obviously are happy to stay in Edinburgh and make a lot of money from GTA.

I would also hate to see UK tax breaks go to international corporations with seats in the US for example. I think if anything tax breaks should go to small local grown studios with no ties to international groups - so tax breaks are invested in the UK only and so find their way back into the UK market. It would also mean more people might start up their own studios.

Big companies dont really need tax breaks IMO, they should be in a position to generate enough revenue through a breadth of IP - all they need to do is make successful games no? ;)

Posted:3 years ago

#17

Tomas Lidström
Lighting Artist

9 0 0.0
in 2009 I moved to the UK to work. Everyone I spoke to said the nation was thriving with multiple titles on the way that was going to break sales records. About one year ago i moved away because, amoung other things, the company I worked at were focusing a bit too much on breaking in to Facebook games.

Winds turn fast in this industry...

Posted:3 years ago

#18

Christopher Hardwick
Software Engineer

5 0 0.0
Ahhh Mr Gschwari I couldn't agree more.

Posted:3 years ago

#19
We would appreciate more pro games business and development incentives rather than tax breaks per se. The rest, as you say is up to the developer to develop, franchise and market their IP successfully.

Posted:3 years ago

#20

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