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Studio closures a sign of industry maturity, says Ubisoft dev

Reflection's studio head, Gareth Edmondson, backs Games Up? campaign to level playing field for UK developers

Studio closures are an unfortunate effect of the industry's growing maturity, according to Gareth Edmondson, studio head at Ubisoft Reflections.

"I suppose we have to expect consolidation in terms of fewer, but bigger companies in our industry," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "It's been going on for a while and I think it's part of the growing pains of an industry coming to maturity."

Edmonson's comments come as a number of high profile studios including Pivotal, Venom and Flagship have been forced to close in recent months. GamesIndustry.biz revealed yesterday that NCsoft is to cut its European office in Brighton and halt development on an unnamed MMO. The company had been set to receive a GBP 950,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), in order to aid its expansion.

Edmondson went on to stress that even though the industry as a whole was growing, studios in the UK are missing out, due to lack of support from the government, especially when compared to tax breaks offered by nations like Canada.

"Globally, the industry is expanding. Ubisoft for example has been and continues to expand and recruit in the UK and elsewhere. But the UK in general is missing out on the global expansion and it is saddening to see UK studios closing down and layoffs happening," he said.

Edmonson is a supporter of the recently launched Games Up? campaign, which he hopes can level the playing field for UK studios. "I do think that the UK is suffering from a very unbalanced playing field when it comes to cost. After all, GamesUp? isn't after handouts, it's after a level playing field that will help encourage investment in the UK, and lower the barrier to entry for start-ups as well."

"Another key objective of the GamesUp? campaign is raising the standard of our graduates for the industry. A well trained workforce will stimulate investment, and allow the UK to take much better advantage of the global expansion that we are seeing in the industry," he added.

The Ubisoft Reflections boss further noted that even studios taken in by a big publisher or console manufacturer aren't free from the tough conditions in the industry. Microsoft announced yesterday that it is closing Ensemble Studios following completion of the Halo Wars project.

"Being publisher-owned doesn't diminish the demands on the quality of your product, rather it increases as publishers are likely to bet bigger on their internal studio products," he explained. "Indies have other issues to deal with of course, and it's generally true that a publisher-owned studio gets a better chance as they have more resources at hand, less cash flow issues and other traditional indie worries."

"I do think it's a tough business... Publishers are responding to the demands of the marketplace like any business. Generally speaking, I am sure that all publishers are demanding of their studios because consumers are demanding," Edmondson added.

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