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Region's leading computer games experts sign-up to new business network

For release: Thursday 6 December 2007

Dozens of leading lights from the East of England's computer games industry have signed-up to Games Eden, a new business network that will provide specialist support for the fast-growing sector.

The new network will help to promote, support and develop the region's digital games entertainment community. It will provide a dedicated local networking group that will facilitate collaboration and knowledge transfer both within academic and commercial sectors and inform and discuss the latest developments and opportunities within the industry.

More than 70 business leaders working within the sector attended last night's launch event at New Hall, Buckingham House, in Cambridge and signed-up to benefit and participate in the new network.

Leading the line-up of guest speakers was Hollywood star Andy Serkis. Famed for his roles in blockbusters movies, King Kong and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which he played Gollum, and now appearing in the Play Station Three (PS3) console game Heavenly Sword, Andy proved a real hit with those attending the Games Eden launch.

The event was hosted by new media pioneer Bill Thompson. Other guest presenters included leading game maker David Braben and Fred Hasson CEO of TiGA.

Jeremy Cooke, chief executive of Gameware Developments and chair of Games Eden said: "It has been a fantastic launch event for Games Eden and it was great to see so many of the digital creative development community making the effort to be here. I was delighted at the presentation of the brand image for Games Eden and the presentation of the guest speakers.

"The establishment of Games Eden comes at a time when the global communication media are converging as interactive entertainment products become more sophisticated and address wider consumer markets."

Games Eden is being funded over the next two years by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), East of England International (EEI), Screen East and FDMX. It is supported by a steering committee with representatives from Cambridge Wireless, TiGA, EMMA, Gameware Development, Zoonami, Geomerics, Sony, Jagex, Nicetech and Ninja Theory.

Laurie Hayward, chief executive of Screen East, which organised the launch, said: "The global super mo-cap star Andy Serkis has opened the way for computer games to deliver all the emotional depth of feature films. The great thing is that his work with Ninja Theory on Heavenly Sword is just a start, and Games Eden will play its part in supporting the future development of great new games working with the very best of regional talent."

David Marlow, chief executive of EEDA, said: "The computer games industry is a key element of the East of England's growing creative industries sector. It is vital we help to support and develop it if we are to continue to grow the regional economy in future years. Many businesses within the region are significant international players and we believe that specialised support for the sector, through a dedicated network, will create further success. It is great that so many key regional business leaders within the industry attended last night's launch and have signed-up to the network."

It is predicted that by the end of 2007, the global computer games market will be worth $21.1 billion. Within the UK, the East of England has been particularly strong in this sector - companies based at the East of England game development community hub, in Cambridge, employ about 600 staff alone and are responsible for computer gaming hits like Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Kung Fu Chaos; 24: The Game; MediEvil; GhostHunter; and GoldenEye 007.

Last night's event introduced Games Eden, established its aims and objectives, and assessed the current status of the computer games industry and discussing what the future holds. As the industry extends its economic, social and cultural impact, Games Eden will stimulate electronic creativity and business development through an internationally focused website and a programme of networking events for those involved in the industry across the region.

To join the new network or for more information contact Claire Treadwell at Screen East: email claire@screeneast.co.uk or tel: 01603 776926.

ends -

Notes to Editors

For media enquiries please contact:

Lisa Davidson in EEDA's press office, tel: 01223 200871, email: lisadavidson@eeda.org.uk

Photo captions:

Andy Serkis

Group shot:

Saint John - FDMX

Bill Thompson - guest host

Richard Field - East of England Multimedia Alliance

Jeremy Cooke - Chair of Games Eden

Lynn Morgan - EEDA Manager Creative Knowledge Industries

John Marshall - Regional International Trade Advisor EEI / UKT&I

David Wilkinson - Games Eden Manager

Fred Hasson - CEO TiGA

Laurie Hayward - CEO Screen East

Games Eden provides:

1.A forum for identifying technological and creative innovations with the potential to create significant new market and business opportunities from all areas of the digital games entertainment industry;

2.A platform enabling the discussion and exchange of ideas and experiences;

3.Regional developers with a national voice primarily through membership of TiGA;

4.Drive and direction of business opportunities towards Games Eden members through events, brokerage, networking, market research and collaboration;

5.Promotion of the profile of Games Eden and its members within the East of England, the UK and globally;

6.The promotion of Cambridge and the East of England as a centre of creative and technical excellence for the digital games entertainment industry and to highlight the benefits of commerce and employment in the region;

7.A bridge between the digital entertainment community and academia, and the scientific and research community; and

8.The identification of and stimulation of new talent to enter into the industry.

About the computer gaming industry - internationally, nationally and regionally

The computer gaming industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the digital content industry. Recent figures from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) and Screen Digest show that from the end of 1995 to 2003, more than 25 million dedicated gaming devices were sold in the UK. This is enough for every household in the land to have one. Globally, this rises to a 350 million gaming devices.

The world market for games and entertainment software grew to $18.2 billion in 2003, up from $16.9 million in 2002. It is predicted that by the end of 2007, the global market will be worth $21.1 billion. Within the UK, leisure software sales grew again in 2003 to reach £1.68 billion and the UK continues to have the third largest market in the world for games after the US and Japan, whilst remaining comfortably the largest market in Europe.

Within the UK, the East of England has been particularly strong in this sector. The hub of the East of England game development community is based in Cambridge. Companies such as Jagex, Ninja Theory, Sony Studios (Sony Computer Entertainment, Europe), Frontier Development, Nice Tech, Zoonami and Gameware are based here and are pushing the creative boundaries of the emerging technologies through the creation of innovative, high quality game products.

Currently, it is estimated that these companies comprise more than 600 employees. Cambridge based companies are responsible for a range of internationally acclaimed products such as: Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; BAMZOOKi; Kung Fu Chaos; Runescape (MMORPG); Primal; 24: The Game; MediEvil; GhostHunter; C12 Final Resistance; GoldenEye 007; The Outsider; Dog's Life; Funkydilla and Dawn Republic (MMOG). Throughout the region there are many small games companies and individuals seeking to develop their unique content ideas for the market.

About the East of England Development Agency

The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is the driving force behind sustainable economic regeneration in the East of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The vision for the East of England is to create a leading economy, founded on a world class knowledge base, creativity and enterprise to improve the quality of life for all who live and work here. For further information visit www.eeda.org.uk

Guest Presenter Biogs

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis is an impressive British character actor and master of performance motion capture with over 50 stage, television, and film credits and a highly coveted role in Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Serkis also performed as Kong in King Kong, which won him a Toronto Film Critics Association Award (2005) for his unprecedented work helping to realize the main character in King Kong, and a Visual Effects Society Award (2006) for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture.

Serkis began his acting career in theatre. He has appeared on almost every renowned British stage and in a host of popular plays.

Bill Thomson

New media pioneer Bill Thompson is a journalist, commentator and technology critic based in Cambridge, England. He has been working in, on and around the Internet since 1984.

He currently has a weekly column which appears in the technology section of the BBC News website, and contributes to other publications both on and off-line, including The Guardian, The Register and The New Statesman. He writes a monthly column for new net users for BBC WebWise, and a technology column for Focus magazine

David Braben

David Braben is a British computer programmer, best known for co-writing Elite, a hugely popular and influential space trading computer game, in the early 1980s. Elite was written in conjunction with Ian Bell while both were undergraduate students at Cambridge University. Another seminal game written by Braben was Zarch for the Acorn Archimedes (later released on some other platforms as Virus), which is considered to be the first true "solid" 3D game of all time.

After Zarch, Braben went on to found Frontier Developments, a games development company whose first project was a sequel to Elite named Frontier. Braben is still the Chairman and part owner of this company, whose recent projects have included RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and games based on the Wallace & Gromit franchise.

Fred Hasson

Fred Hasson brings experience in Film, TV and new media sectors. He has previously represented independent producers in film and TV and the BBC to Government. As a founder member of Tiga, he believes there is a lack of appreciation of development's creative role in the industry by retailers and publishers and that developers need to be more professional and responsible in their business practices.


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