CAPITAL GAMES; from Booming Studios to a Festival for Joystick Junkies and Even a Pixellated Sadiq Khan, Samuel Fishwick Celebrates a Connected City at the Centre of the Console Action

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

CAPITAL GAMES; from Booming Studios to a Festival for Joystick Junkies and Even a Pixellated Sadiq Khan, Samuel Fishwick Celebrates a Connected City at the Centre of the Console Action


Byline: Samuel Fishwick

OR video game developers, casual "noobs" and hardcore joystick junkies alike, London is a renaissance city. The capital is a pixel powerhouse with more than 500 games companies, the largest hub of its kind in the UK. The industry as a whole is worth about PS4.2 billion to our economy, outstripping the contribution of film, TV, music, publishing, design, fashion, and architecture combined, according to Wired magazine, and it's surging ahead despite economic fears.

On March 30 a pixel Sadiq Khan will open the second annual London Games Festival to celebrate what he calls "the richness of our thriving games industry". With 50,000 people expected over the 11 days, the event's organiser Michael French says the festival hopes to rival Gamescom, E3, and the Tokyo Game Show as one of the world's largest gaming events, piggybacking on the city's reputation as a "real creative crossroads" where tech-driven areas such as film, animation, special effects and games work in "great complement".

Things are looking rosy. "The London game development scene is thriving," says Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie, the trade body for the UK games and interactive entertainment industry. "We have a uniquely competitive offering globally. Many don't realise some of the biggest worldwide successes, such as Football Manager, Monument Valley, the Batman Arkham series and huge free-to-play mobile titles are all made in London."

So what's driving the surge? Tax breaks have "changed the game for Continued on Page 32 Continued from Page 31 developers in the UK", according to French, with productions now benefiting from the same reduced costs enjoyed by film and TV. Growth is being dragged up from the top, as the biggest console platforms, such as Xbox and Playstation, put out reliable blockbuster hits like the Batman Arkham series, developed by Kentish Town-based Rocksteady Studios. French says: "Our game productions are just as financially competitive as a Star Wars or The Crown, and that's conducive to both growing businesses here and attracting investors."

While the big beasts continue to roar -- EA, Square Enix, King and Rockstar Studios also have offices in London -- smaller indie studios are also wagging their tails. Monument Valley, a puzzle game devloped by ustwo, an independent Shoreditch-based developer, was downloaded more than 26 million times and won 20 international awards, including Apple iPad Game of the Year 2014 and the 2015 Baftas for both Best Mobile & Handheld and Best British Game -- quite an achievement for a small studio with fewer than 60 people. Apple CEO Tim Cook met Monument Valley's creators on a trip here last week and was impressed.

Roberta Lucca, the Bafta-winning Brazilian co-founder of Bossa Studios, another Shoreditch company, says London provides a unique foothold for small studios getting themselves off the ground. "It's a sought-after environment where we can get people from all over the world, the best designers and the best engineers," she explains. "Our multicultural environment helps us to create games that go viral all over the world because we have an understanding of what's out there."

UCCA, like many, has capitalised on the mercurial shift in the way we consume entertainment. …

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