Codemasters: UK becoming a nation of iPhone developers

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

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."

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Latest comments (17)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago
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

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Nick Burcombe CEO & Co Founder, Playrise Digital Ltd.6 years ago
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

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Gareth Lewis Lead Programmer, Climax6 years ago
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.
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Show all comments (17)
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
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London6 years ago
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..
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
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.
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James Steele Senior Software Engineer, Nintendo of Europe GmbH6 years ago
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 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.
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Valery Carpentier Director/Consultant, Polyfonique6 years ago
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.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
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

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Matt Ness zzz 6 years ago
@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 :)
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London6 years ago

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

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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.
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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 mind candy, little big planet, GTA, arkham asylum reboot...and so forth in recent memories
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London6 years ago
@ 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

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Tomas Lidström Lighting Artist, People Can Fly6 years ago
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...
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Christopher Hardwick Software Engineer, EA Canada6 years ago
Ahhh Mr Gschwari I couldn't agree more.
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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.
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