Canada proves lure for staff from axed game developer

  • @davidcrookes

Up to a third of staff at an axed British videogame developer left the United Kingdom for jobs abroad, it has been claimed.

As many as 35 per cent of former staff at Bizarre Creations are thought to have left, with most of them going to Canada.

A disproportionate number of senior staff are also believed to have gone overseas in comparison to those who stayed in the UK.

Ex-staff at Bizarre created a Google map showing where former staff are now based.

The map has been picked up by industry trade body TIGA which has included the data in its forthcoming report, Making Games in the UK Today: A Census of the UK Developer and Digital Publishing Sector.

It comes a year after Bizarre Creations was earmarked for closure in January 2011. The  developer, which was based in Speke near Liverpool, shut its doors for the final time a month later.

Its owner, publisher Activision, had tried but failed to find a buyer for the studio which had produced the successful Project Gotham Racing series of games. Its final racer, Blur, however, had not sold as well as expected.

Not all staff have gone abroad with some having since set up their own studios in Britain. Former senior level designer Peter Collier, Geometry Wars creator Stephen Cakebread and ex community manager Ben Ward formed smartphone app developer Hogrocket. Pete Wallace, a former Bizarre senior manager, is now managing director of new start-up Lucid Games.

“Around half of my former colleagues are abroad and the other half have set-up micro studios in the North West, like ourselves here at Hogrocket,” says Mr Collier, whose company has produced Tiny Invaders. “I decided to stay because there was opportunity for us to make the most of the concentration of talent after the closure of Bizarre rather than allow it to get scattered to the four winds.”

He said fresh opportunities in mobile as opposed to big-budget console development played a factor in his decision but admitted there were more opportunities in Canada.

“It's just that there are far more studios and jobs in places like Canada,” he added. “I think the keyword here is 'opportunity' and as far as AAA [big budget] games development in the UK is concerned, it is diminishing rapidly.”

As well as the map, the report also uses data from a survey by Games Investor Consulting which approached 75 per cent of the UK's games business.

It says 41 per cent of jobs lost by the games development sector over the past two years have gone abroad and that this has led to a decrease in tax revenue for the UK of £100 million.

In claiming the videogame sector's contribution to UK GDP has fallen by nearly a quarter of a billion pounds since 2008, TIGA is using the findings to make a renewed push for tax breaks for the industry. It believes tax incentives offered by countries such as Canada is leading to a brain drain.

“Our competitors in Canada and elsewhere are able to recruit highly skilled developers from the UK largely because they benefit from tax breaks, which effectively reduce the cost of games development,” said TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson.