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New initiative aims to safeguard Britain's games developers

David Crookes
Monday 15 June 2009 12:38 BST

Hundreds of videogame developers will be encouraged to work for other companies in a bid to head off potential redundancies and bolster gaming in Britain.

A new initiative is set to be launched at the House of Commons at noon today putting forward a raft of ideas which encourage greater collaboration and communication between UK videogame companies.

It means staff working on projects which have come to an end could be shared with companies desperate to quickly recruit extra staff for a key period in another game's development.

The idea is to foster greater industry collaboration and allow games companies and freelancers to notify rivals of any resources they have to share, cutting costs and securing ongoing employment.

Announced by Tiga, the trade association representing UK game developers, and NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, the scheme – called Play Together - will work on both a local and UK-wide basis to suit both the employers and employees.

The initiative also pushes for greater ties with other creative industries including music and film as gaming looks for fresh ways to prevent a brain drain abroad. There will be opportunities for creative workers in television, film, music, animation and games to cross over and gain experience of other industries.

The UK is currently the fourth largest producer of games in the world but two years ago it was third. The industry – which is worth £1 billion - faces competition from abroad, most notably countries such as Canada and France where the governments offer tax breaks to games developers.

Developers who sign up to the service – which will have a dedicated jobs board - will be able to quickly add new staff to projects but, equally, any workers not needed on a current game will be given the chance to temporarily work elsewhere.

The scheme aims to provide students, academics and professionals with information on education courses and possible tie ups between universities and development companies.

Richard Wilson, CEO of Tiga, has long pushed the government to introduce similar tax breaks in Britain as in France and Canada. The Canadian government pays out 37.5 per cent of salaries and offers various tax holidays among other incentives.

He said: “The UK video games industry competes successfully in a global market place on the basis of a creative, flexible and highly skilled workforce. However, we face a unique set of challenges: skills shortages, high recruitment costs, an unfavourable tax regime and limited availability of finance, all against a backdrop of a global recession and a relatively tight credit market.”

He says Play Together will help cut recruitment and business costs, reduce skill shortages and promote collaboration. He says it will also strengthen ties between the industry and education.

Jon Kingsbury, creative programme director at NESTA, added: “We believe the UK video game industry is one of the shining lights of digital Britain. We want to foster this creativity and help the industry become even more successful in the future. What is clear is that innovation in all aspects of the business process is essential if Britain’s creative industries are going to remain competitive in the global market.”

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