Richard Wilson: Part Two
The new Tiga CEO on industry consolidation, the positives of outsourcing, and what his thoughts are on videogames degrees
In part two of new Tiga CEO Richard Wilson's interview with GamesIndustry.biz, he gives his opinions on the subjects of consolidation and outsourcing, as well as pitching in on the education debate.
Part one of the interview, available here, saw his reaction to the Byron Review as well as his feelings on how the games industry is developing.
Q: We've seen a couple of very big deals on the cards in the past six months or so, with Activision Blizzard and the EA offer for Take-Two - what are your thoughts?
Richard Wilson: I don't think it necessarily indicates a long-term trend, I think it's hard to say at this stage because I think that the market is so unstable - things are changing dramatically. So I don't think those pointers necessarily mean that's the way it's going to be in the future.
Q: What about the issue of outsourcing - is that a good or bad thing for developers in the UK?
Richard Wilson: Well, from a wider policy perspective, I don't think it necessarily matters whether a business outsources particular functions - I think it's a question of each individual games business having to make a commercial decision about whether they can deliver on different activities economically, efficiently, inside their own organisation or whether it's better to contract it out - I think it's something that should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Q: The floodgates don't seem to have opened just yet, but there does seem to be a trend towards using other countries for certain things, such as art and coding, while production and management seem to be sticking here - do you think that's true?
Richard Wilson: I don't think we're necessarily going to lose those skills that you mention. I think, again, that it's something that's continually changing, and I don't think it necessarily points to a long-term trend.
I think businesses have to make that decision about what they can do most efficiently, and the important thing is that the business remains profitable and they continue to make good quality games - and if you can outsource some functions that companies abroad are able to do very well, then I think it makes good commercial sense to do it. But obviously we have some very talented people in the industry - I think something like 69 per cent of people employed in the games development sector are qualified to degree level or above - and that indicates that we have a lot of skilled staff to turn to.
So I don't think that indicates there are certain sections of the industry that we will lose in perpetuity, I just think that some of the things that have happened, have done so on a case-by-case basis, and it doesn't mean we're losing key functions.
Q: On the subject of education within the games industry, there's some concern about whether a games degree prepares a person sufficiently for a career in games. What's your opinion?
Richard Wilson: I think it's around 30 per cent of people on accredited courses go straight into jobs, and if that's accurate it strikes me as being fairly low, but I think it would be interesting to do a comparison between people that take games-related degrees at university and, for example law courses, and see what proportion of people there are going on to a career in law.
Of course a degree is a degree, and you can use it in many different sectors, and one would hope that people who go into higher education don't simply learn skills that are vocational in nature - that they have to go into one particular industry. Hopefully they're equipped with skills that allow them to go into a variety of different industries.
So I think one can be a little more positive that is sometimes perhaps the case when we discuss this. I do think that with such a small proportion of university courses accredited by Skillset, I think it's four, is extremely low.
But on the positive side, if there are about 80 different courses offering some kind of a degree in videogames, I think in principle that's pretty good. I'm in favour of competition, and I think it's good that the consumers, the students, have a variety of choices to study.
But I would like to see more of them accredited by Skillset, so that both the people studying them and those that would employ them from university can have confidence that they are good degrees.
Q: EA's Matthew Jeffery expressed his concern to GamesIndustry.biz that some courses were too marrow in their focus, so that graduates who were unable to get a job in games development would struggle to find work in another industry - and with more courses becoming available yet not necessarily more jobs for graduates, doesn't that cause problems?
Richard Wilson: I think there are two issues there. One - the people that design the courses at university are beholden to make sure that the courses they offer do involve transferable skills. A lot of degrees obviously do involve transferable skills, and that's just as important for videogame-related courses as any other.
I think the second thing is that it shows how important it is to get good career advice for people studying for these courses.
But it's difficult, isn't it? When people go to university at the age of 18, even if they think they're on a course which is going to land them a job in the games industry, there are no guarantees. Some people go to university to study law and management, and they end up doing things that are completely different.
I don't think we should be surprised in some senses if some people who go to university to study videogames degree courses don't end up working in that industry. I think university has always been like that, and it probably always will be like that.
But what we've got to do, and this is important, is make sure that the courses that are on offer are of good quality, so even if you don't end up working in the industry, the course that you've studied should enable you to go on and work in another industry.
Q: It's a problem with a 3-year course, with accreditation, that if you graduate your course this year, when you started it the PlayStation 3 wasn't even released, even though now it's an industry standard - universities find it difficult to be agile enough to keep apace with an industry that moves so quickly?
Richard Wilson: Yes, and I think it is difficult, and I think that shows that it's not just the responsibility of universities to train people so they're up and ready for work, they've got to get them in a position where they're trainable - so with a bit of additional training from employers they can cope in the marketplace.
I think it's true of a lot of different sectors of the economy - I think employers have a key part to play in informing universities about the core skills needed when they hire staff. And they obviously need to provide training that brings people up to scratch as quickly as possible.
Q: Do you think developers should hire more graduates?
Richard Wilson: I think more and more jobs will become open to graduates actually, I think it's quite a long-term trend. Despite tuition fees, people want to go to university to get a degree - not simply in our industry but throughout the British economy, because it's seen to be almost something like an educational rite of passage.
And I suppose if more and more people get degrees, and that's the qualification of choice on the part of the student, in some respects it probably would encourage games developers - and employers more generally - to fill positions with graduates.
I think it's almost a natural impact on the supply of labour.
Dr Richard Wilson is the CEO of Tiga. Part one is available here. Interview by Phil Elliott.