The UK government has confirmed plans to merge the country's nine regional screen agencies (RSAs), many of which helped fund and support game businesses, into a single national body.
The newly-formed Creative England will comprise three regional hubs, in the North, Midlands and South. The consolidation comes as part of a wider move by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), which also sees the duties of the defunct UK Film Council assumed by the British Film Institute (BFI).
Culture minister Ed Vaizey also revealed that the domestic movie industry would see a 60 per cent increase (from £27 to £43m by 2014) in lottery funding as well as confirming that film tax credits would continue, but no such boons appear to have been granted to the games sector.
It is unclear as yet what the reorganisation's effects on regional games industry support will be, with RDAs quizzed on the matter by GamesIndustry.biz apparently similar unclear. Whether the merger will result in job losses, which could affect the practicalities of offering games assistance, remains to be seen. Vaizey hinted, however, that the shifting of movie responsibility onto the BFI might lead to a greater focus on other entertainment industries by Creative England.
"Because over the last ten years the RSAs have grown their client base from film and TV to a wider spread of creative businesses, including interactive games and music," the MP stated in a speech today, "and because each of them has begun to develop their own particular specialisms and expertise, this new structure offers the possibility of more focused support for a wider range of businesses - helping small companies grow, helping new talent establish itself and mobilising public and private investment to grow England's creative industries."
The three 'hubs', headed by regional screen agency network chair John Newbigin, "will continue to support new talent and new businesses wherever they are located, building on their intimate knowledge of the cities and regions in which they have been based. They will engage with the industry to ensure that the views of the sector are properly taken into account."
Newbigin added that "Over the past months, Screen England has worked closely with the coalition Government to map out the best course of action to secure a strong future for film and the wider creative industries outside of London. We are pleased to say that in the Creative England structure, we believe we have arrived at a framework that will deliver effective and streamlined support to the regions.
"Digital convergence is accelerating, and our creative industries need to adapt at a time when it is more important than ever that public investment is made to work harder and reach further. Creative England will increase delivery and reduce costs, whilst retaining local resonance across the country."
Commenting on the merger, (again focusing on the movie industry), Screen Yorkshire chief executive Sally Joynson said "Now we have confirmation of Creative England, the real work begins. If the network is to embark on a radical shake up in the way it supports UK talent there must be an open, transparent process, with industry consultation at the heart of it. This is the only way we can ensure that talent, wherever it is based, receives appropriate support.
"This change does not take anything away from the achievements of the network of agencies in recent years. The challenge now is to build on the legacy of that network and deliver robust, cost effective and credible support for talent and commercial creative businesses wherever they are based."
Added South West Screen head Caroline Norbury, "We are confident that this new framework will support our local film and screen-related sectors, whilst also delivering for the wider creative industries which we have been engaged with for some time.
"We have already shown in the past eight years that we can generate key economic growth in our local creative sectors by providing the right businesses with targeted support. We look forward to being able to continue this work under the Creative England banner, and will share further details with the industry as they are confirmed in due course."
Outside of Vaizey's reference, no specific mention of how this will affect RSA games industry support has yet been made by any involved parties. Also still unknown is what help the Local Enterprise Partnerships, planned to replace the soon-to-be scrapped Regional Development Agencies which provided funding to many RSAs, will offer to games.
The formerly RDA-funded Codeworks, which supports the games industry in the North East and organises the GameHorizon conference, elected to pursue private funding rather than rely solely on government assistance. Commented GameHorizon conference director Carri Cunliffe, "The news released today will not have a direct impact on the support we offer North East games companies but we hope that the restructuring may afford some opportunities for the games industry to receive additional support and we will be watching developments closely.
"However, we regularly partner with [RSAs] Game Republic, NFM and NWVM on games related events and support and we hope their good work continues under the new organisation."
GamesIndustry.biz is seeking further clarification as to Creative England's mandate for games support.