Games - the City's [Pounds Sterling]500m Cinderella; Investors and Ministers Treat Us like a Poor Relation to the Arts, Say Software bosses,FINANCIAL MAIL

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Games - the City's [Pounds Sterling]500m Cinderella; Investors and Ministers Treat Us like a Poor Relation to the Arts, Say Software bosses,FINANCIAL MAIL


Byline: SIMON FLUENDY

BRITAIN'S computer games industry feels unloved and underrated. It is treated like a poor cousin to other creative arts, it claims.

Yet the latest figures show that it is a world leader generating [pounds sterling]503 million in exports.

City investors have ignored the industry's growth potential. And though the Department of Culture and the Lottery Commission have thrown tens of millions of pounds at the film industry, the games sector has been ignored.

'I don't see why the film industry gets lottery cash and games get nothing,' says Tony Beckwith, a director of Climax Games.

Not that Beckwith is making a plea for funding. The comment is more a plea for recognition - any recognition.

He sees more and more British talent drain overseas, especially to America, where there is more funding and scope to develop ideas for computer games.

The games industry's half-billion in exports puts the film industry into second place with [pounds sterling]444 million and British television in third with [pounds sterling]427 million,

UK, most of them employing according to Screen-Digest magazine.

Games software companies exported goods worth [pounds sterling]219 million more than they imported. The World Is Not Enough, the latest Bond film, made [pounds sterling]100 million profit.

But Goldeneye, the 007 game developed by Rage Software, made more than double that.

A few major players in Britain still publish games as well as develop them - Eidos, Sci, Rage and Code-masters, for example.

But there are more than 200 games development studios in the than 10 people and all facing funding problems. Each game costs upwards of [pounds sterling]1 million to develop.

Most of the executives who created the industry started out as teenagers with Sinclair computers in their bedrooms.

Beckwith was 15 when he sold his first video game, a version of arcade classic PacMan.

Fortunately for him, he says, at that time British Telecom was trying to find ways to spend windfall profits and gave him a job at Firebird Software.

Funded by BT for reasons that BT can no longer remember, the company was run by entrepreneur Tony Firebird and produced thousands of games retailing at [pounds sterling]2.99.

Now based in Brighton, which Beck-with describes as Britain's San Francisco, Firebird remembers the taunts in his early days from people who thought he was wasting his time. 'My mum said I'd end up marrying my Spectrum computer,' he says.

Beckwith says: 'The computer games

industry is massive in the UK for two reasons: Clive Sinclair, inventor of the Spectrum, and the bad weather that confines children indoors. …

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