TIGA's Richard Wilson

The organisation's CEO outlines the differences with UKIE, and plans for the future

Since ELSPA rebranded to UKIE earlier this month - and expanded its remit to cover the whole of the videogames business as opposed to just the publishers, some questions have been raised as to TIGA's response, and whether or not there's room enough for two trade associations which, on the surface, seem to cover similar ground.

Here, TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson outlines just what he sees as the crucial differences between the two organisations, and gives us a sense of how he sees TIGA expand and develop in the future.

Q: Following on from UKIE's launch of a wider remit - which covers the development sector - how do you feel the two organisations differ, to warrant two trade bodies in the UK?

Richard Wilson: It's not unusual for there to be more than one trade association in a particular economic sector. There are about 38 different institutions in the engineering sector, 12 associations in the ceramics sector and two in the funeral and bereavement sector. The number of associations is not the issue. What matters is whether a trade association is delivering value for its membership, the sector and the wider UK economy.

There are four crucial differences between TIGA and UKIE, formerly known as ELSPA. Firstly, TIGA's membership consists overwhelmingly of UK owned businesses and organisations. Conversely, over 80 per cent of UKIE's membership are foreign-owned and -controlled businesses.

Secondly, TIGA's constituency is based on the creative content creators of the industry, UKIE's constituency are publishers. I am pleased to say that TIGA now represents over 160 organisations across the UK, including established independent developers, publisher owned studios, small indie-studios, start-ups and creative agencies.

We also represent games publishers, art, audio and motion capture specialists as well as law firms, accountancy firms and other service providers. We additionally have 25 education providers as members, from colleges and universities to distance learning providers and training specialists. TIGA truly represents the whole spectrum of talented companies and organisations that make up the UK games industry.

Thirdly, TIGA exists to serve the interests of the UK games industry. At TIGA we focus on helping our UK members successfully compete: hence our campaigns for a tax break for games development and improvements in education and skills; and our provision of services such as trade support, self-publishing advice, and our networking and creative industry switch programme. Conversely, UKIE is naturally more interested in issues such as age ratings and piracy matters as befits a publisher trade association.

Fourthly, TIGA is a highly effective organisation. We are the only trade association in the UK to have consistently and wholeheartedly led the campaign for Games Tax Relief and to have changed Labour and SNP policy in the process.

We are the trade association that has taken education and skills seriously. We collect quality information to enable our membership to benchmark their investment in workforce development, compare their staff qualification attainment levels and assess their involvement with educational institutions against industry norms.

We carry out research in the field of education and training in order to inform its public policy objectives. Our indefatigable education campaigning has helped lead to a review of education and skills for the games industry.

TIGA is the voice of the games industry as far as the media and politicians are concerned: TIGA has been interviewed on the BBC and Sky and we have been singled out for praise by leading politicians in both the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments.

TIGA's services are making a difference for our members: our trade support work is helping developers do business overseas, our networking events are bringing people in the industry together and our Creative Industry Switch programme is creating business opportunities for developers with other business sectors.

There is much more to do, but TIGA is on the right tracks: we were named Trade Association of the Year 2010 by the Trade Association Forum and we have recently been named a finalist in the Chartered Management Institute's Awards in the category of Best Organisation of the Year Award (SME).

So - there are important differences between TIGA and UKIE. The fundamental difference is that TIGA is the voice for UK-owned and -controlled creative content creators, while UKIE is the trade association for foreign-owned publishers.

Q: Specifically, how are TIGA's membership services unique?

Richard Wilson: Well, TIGA is unique in its vision, its objectives and its effectiveness. TIGA is the only trade association with the vision to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business. Our overriding priority is to serve the interests and needs of UK businesses, organisations and individuals.

We focus on three core areas: Firstly, raising the profile of the industry in Government and Parliament and campaigning for the adoption of measures to help the sector. TIGA instigated the creation of the All Party Group for the Video Games industry in the Westminster Parliament to champion our sector.

Thanks to TIGA, our industry now has a cross-party group of over 20 MPs, including ex-Ministers, taking a serious interest in the issues that matter to our sector: tax, skills, education, finance, trade support and so on. TIGA has also been instrumental in linking game developers with their local MPs. This in turn has helped to ensure that politicians have a greater understanding of the needs of our sector.

Secondly, we raise the profile of the industry in the media and publicly. So far this year we have secured coverage for the videogames industry on television, radio and in the press through championing the games industry as a positive and important business and economic story, commissioning and releasing new research and promoting our members.

Thirdly, we offer services that benefit our members commercially. As the only accredited trade association in the sector, we work with UKT&I to help developers who want to exhibit at overseas trade shows. We run a free PR service for our members to maximize their media profile.

We are building links between the games industry and other creative sectors through our Creative Industry Switch programme. Our Education Exchange programme is fostering collaboration between academia and the industry. And we have just launched a new Self Publishing Service to help developers who are moving into publishing.

Last month we announced that TIGA plans to open up membership to individuals in the development sector. We want to serve the needs and meet the interests of all developers who work in the UK games industry.

Q: And what has the response been like to the launch of that individual membership?

Richard Wilson: It's been good. We've had quite a mix of interest from people already working in development studios, through to students and freelancers. We plan to help both aspiring games developers and those already working in the industry to fulfill their career ambitions. The TIGA individual membership programme will provide access to a range of benefits, focusing on three core areas - career development; material benefits; and networking opportunities.

We intend to provide effective support for the next wave of creative individuals and successful interactive companies in the UK. TIGA is the trade association for new blood, new ideas and new businesses entering the industry. We are the trade association of the future, not the past. Further details will be announced when the service launches later this year.

Q: Moving forwards, how do you envisage TIGA's role in the UK continuing and expanding?

Richard Wilson: At TIGA we have a clear vision - to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business. Only TIGA has the ambition, capacity, drive and remit from its membership to deliver this vision. TIGA will work to power the industry: championing UK developers in political circles; standing up for the UK games industry in the media; and supporting the UK games sector by delivering high quality services (best practice information, creating commercial opportunities, networking events; providing market data, and so on).

We will increase our support for the UK videogames industry by delivering new and improved services for our existing business and educational members.

And we will continue to broaden the TIGA network - over the last two years, TIGA has welcomed developers, publisher owned studios, publishers, outsourcers and education providers into the TIGA family in order to create a powerful network of organisations united around the vision of making the UK the best place in the world to do games business.

TIGA's commitment to serve the interests of our members remains absolute. By demonstrating our effectiveness as an organisation we hope to welcome more games businesses to the TIGA network.

We will deepen our roots in the development sector, not least through TIGA's individual membership programme. This will enable students, contractors and developers working in the UK games industry to benefit from TIGA's expertise, benefits and services. Individual students, contractors and developers are crucial to the future of the UK videogames industry. TIGA recognises this and we intend to support individuals in every practical way we can.

The UK games industry deserves to be represented by a trade association that is ambitious, effective, and passionate about serving and strengthening the sector. TIGA intends to fulfil this role.

Dr Richard Wilson is CEO of TIGA. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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