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Livingstone: "We write people off too early in this industry"

Eidos president urges investors to "make an effort", as Culture Minister insists Government is "cheerleader for creative industries"

"How are we going to build the Zyngas in the UK?" That was the question Ian Livingstone addressed this morning, as he called on investors and innovators to better understand each other and seize the opportunities of a "second golden age of games".

Speaking at an event in London, hosted by NESTA, Livingstone said it was vital for the UK to "grab the opportunity" to create and retain IP - turning the present system, where "all the bottom line ends up going into foreign hands", on its head.

He argued that the problem lay both with investors, who "have not made an effort to understand what we do as an industry", and "innovators - who don't understand how to access finance". As a result, he said, "We write people off to early in this industry."

Meanwhile, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey insisted that, "the Government is trying to be the cheerleader for creative industries" in the UK, and cited the example of 'Tech City' in Shoreditch, London. He said that its success had got "Britain noticed again" amongst investors.

On the perennial issue of tax incentives for the industry, Vaizey reiterated Chancellor George Osborne's line that the Government would, "focus on incentives and support that can help a whole range of industries in that area. We're looking at the tax system to see where we can help."

Sharing his experiences as both fundraiser and investor, Livingstone criticised venture capitalists for being, "largely ignorant about the games sector. He added: "They move so slowly it's ridiculous. It takes six months to get an answer let alone money."

Ben Holmes, a VC from Index Ventures, said: "We're not looking for reasons to turn down investments, we're looking for reasons to do investments. The best indicator [when considering making an investment] is what a team has achieved without money".

To general agreement amongst the panel, he added: "Games really are now services businesses. Free-to-play is the best business model currently in the games sector".

However, TeePee Games CEO Tony Pearce warned developers to "do your homework" in choosing an investor. "It's your idea; you are the customer here. Interview the VC as you would an employee".

"I back people," said Livingstone, pointing to the case of Angry Birds, which was, famously, developer Rovio's 52nd title.

"A lot of creative people can't run a bath let alone a business," he concluded.

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Johnny Minkley


Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.