Smartphones most popular platform for videogame developers

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The Independent Tech

An increasing number of videogame developers in the UK are turning to self-publishing, with the smartphone market emerging as the most popular gaming platform.

A new survey has found that 47 per cent of UK game developers self-publish games and of those, 67 per cent develop for the Apple iPhone.

Social networks are also popular among self-publishers with 31 per cent producing games for Facebook.

The findings were unveiled in industry body TIGA's State of the Development Sector Report. It surveyed 104 game developers, many of whom expressed concerned that subsidies handed to companies making games abroad was holding back UK development.

The UK videogames industry contributes approximately £1 billion to UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs 9,000 development staff in 278 gaming studios or 441 games businesses.

But it is believed to be under threat by national or regional subsidies handed to 17 states in the USA and countries such as Australia, Canada, France and South Korea which allows for cheaper game production.

More than a third of UK developers say their principal competition has an advantage in the global market and prevents them from growing. Almost a fifth - 18 per cent - say some of their staff have left to work abroad.

"There are distinct advantages for games developers which operate in countries where there are subsidies," says TIGA's CEO Dr Richard Wilson. "They are able to attract greater global investment and this cements the need for tax breaks in the UK for game developers.”

Self-publishing allows developers greater control over their games and platforms such as Apple's App Store make it easy for small companies to submit and sell their titles to a mass audience. Typically a platform holder will take 30 per cent of the profit of a game's sale with the developer keeping the rest.

"It is interesting that we are seeing a large number of smaller developers emerge in the UK,” adds Dr Wilson. “In our survey, 46 per cent of respondents were micro-firms with up to 10 staff. For them, smartphone platforms are ideal because the barriers to entry are low."

TIGA has long campaigned for tax breaks for the UK videogame industry, achieving its aim in March 2010 when the then Labour chancellor Alistair Darling announced plans for games tax relief in the final budget before the general election. This was cancelled by Conservative chancellor George Osborne.

There are, however, R&D tax credits on offer for UK companies. These extend to efforts in research and development into technological advancements but they don't contribute to actual games development.

According to the survey, 38 per cent of developers say the rising cost of creating games has had a major impact on their businesses and 74 per cent support a tax break for game production.