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2017: A reason to be cheerful

CEO Richard Wilson ponders what the findings from TIGA's annual survey really mean for UK games makers

With the New Year upon us, it's a time to look forward. More than that - for those in the UK games industry, at least - the opening of 2017 brings plenty to be positive about.

If January's traditional bombardment of gym membership commercials and the fading cheer of the festive period have left you feeling a little deflated, then you'd do well to turn your attention to the results of our annual Business Opinion Survey. For the 2017 report TIGA spoke to those at 50 games businesses including small, medium and large firms, developing games across mobile and tablet, VR, PC and console. The figures revealed are particularly encouraging.

In short, business is expected to grow significantly for most UK games developers and digital publishers over the coming 12 months. That expansion is part of an ongoing trend, but the accelerating growth this time around affirms our belief that the United Kingdom is one of the best locations globally for games makers.

"It's particularly encouraging to note that employment in the games industry is set to climb."

It's particularly encouraging to note that employment in the games industry is set to climb. A striking 88 per cent of the UK games companies we surveyed are readying themselves to grow their organisation's workforce over the next year; a marked improvement on the 72 per cent planning the same a year previously. It is a fantastic sign that the UK games industry has yet more capacity for expansion. Given that much is being done across the UK to make sure our game graduates are among the best in the world, I am confident that we can match industry growth with high quality development teams.

Studios' confidence to grow may come from the number of teams our survey found that believe they were performing either 'very well' or 'well' through the last 12 months; an impressive 72 per cent. That marks a slight improvement over the previous year, and I believe we have plenty of reasons to expect that confidence to continue to rise.

Dr Richard Wilson, TIGA

Of course we must temper optimism with realism. Most UK developers - a significant 70 per cent - are convinced their costs will climb in 2017, highlighting a factor that every studio should consider seriously. Looking further at the figures there are equally increasing numbers of games makers concerned by access to finance, and the perennial issue of struggling with game discovery continues. These are areas that the UK games sector most continue to focus on. While challenges like discovery will likely always exist, TIGA and the UK developers can do much to improve both the reach of UK games and the means to get them funded. These will be key issues throughout 2017.

In other areas, modestly positive survey results demonstrate where there is room to build on our progress, and serve as an inspiration for those of us committed to keeping the UK in league with the world's best games making countries.

For example, in a testament to what the UK games industry has achieved in recent years, 64 per cent of respondents to the TIGA survey believe that the economic and business environment in the UK is favourable to the video games industry. We can and must do more as an industry to make that majority more significant, building on the progress made over the past decade.

"In 12 months time you may just be looking back through 2018's post-Christmas haze at the best years your studio or publisher has ever had."

We are, of course, often talking about slightly abstract notions here. A game developer feeling positive is not always the same as a game developer doing well. While the survey provides valuable data on the direction of the UK games industry, it is ultimately about relatively intangible notions like the current spirit and mood of those making games in the UK.

However, I believe that a confident, positive attitude is important to helping studios move forward, meet their goals and expand. That is where the results of this report matter. Respondents have based their insights on the realities of their business, and are demonstrating an industry ready to accelerate the growth already enjoyed in the UK games industry.

Observing the UK games industry closely for many years, I see that this growth is being driven by three factors.

Firstly, the consumer market for games is big, broad and burgeoning. The UK is the sixth largest market for games in the world, and 31.6 million people in the UK play games.

Secondly, the continuing spread of mobile and tablet devices, the new console generation, the growth of PC games and the advent of virtual and augmented reality are prompting increased investment in games.

Finally, Video Games Tax Relief, which TIGA played a decisive role in achieving, is fanning the flames of growth. Video Games Tax Relief effectively reduces the cost and risk of games development and it incentivises investment and job creation in the games industry. Video Games Tax Relief is predicted to create 2,800 new development jobs and £331 million in investment between 2016 and 2020.

So if the January blues are continuing to get you down, consider this; in 12 months time you may just be looking back through 2018's post-Christmas haze at the best years your studio or publisher has ever had.

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