The UK economy is about as healthy as the thousands of St Patrick's Day revellers still clinging to the topsy-turvy floors of Irish pubs around the world. When they wake up on Wednesday, the shuddering of their bodies will be twinned with the shuddering of their minds as they face the new Budget, which has about as much chance of being 'politically bold, economically effective and psychologically inspiring' as I have of winning Olympic gold in anything ever. And yet, even in these times of hardship, TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, sends word that the games development sector has returned to growth.
The 'I' of this particular TIGA doesn't stand for 'industry' but rather 'independent' and that's the first clue as to where the growth is most evident. Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, had this to say:
“The sector’s return to growth has been driven by three factors. Firstly, the increasing prevalence of mobile and tablet devices have created a growing market for games: studios are setting up to meet this demand. Secondly, the closure of big console based studios has been followed by an explosion of small start-up companies. Thirdly, the advent of Games Tax Relief, which TIGA was instrumental in achieving, is already stimulating growth."
All of these new, smaller companies, many benefiting from the business and industry-specific experience of veterans, is a positive sign for gamers, bringing diversity and creative flexibility. It's not all good news though.
"At least 21 per cent of start-ups in 2010 – 12 have already gone under. Our challenge now – and TIGA’s top priority – is to help build sustainable independent games development and digital publishing businesses. TIGA will do this by delivering services that improve developers’ access to finance and which enhance their commercial skills.”
Here are the figures, which will be fully detailed in an upcoming report, Making Games in the UK Today. A Census of the UK Developer and Digital Publishing Sector.
"...employment in the UK games development sector grew by 4 per cent in 2012, ending a three year decline in employment. Annual investment by studios rose from £411 million to £427 million between 2011 and 2012."
Now, if only the rest of the economy would stop heading toward oblivion. We'll be killing one another for a roll of Tesco Value loo roll soon enough, mark my words. But we'll have plenty of indie games to play back at our shelters.