London Underground

London Underground

By Develop

January 19th 2009 at 1:00AM

The UK capital has found itself in the midst of a renaissance for games development of late, with new studios and games-related business springing up. Develop goes on a London studio crawlâ?¦

Just over three years ago, an article in Develop predicted that studios in London were set for extinction. Some high profile studio closures – Argonaut, blue52, Intrepid and Elixir – and the rising value of the pound suggested that games development as a business was being priced out of the UK capital.

But it hasn’t taken long for that prediction to be proven wrong. In the past few years new studios in London have been opened by Rockstar, Zoe Mode, even Atari and Xbox. So, a resurgence is on the cards – and about time, too, say many of the people there.

“London, apart from being the capital and a huge city in its own right, is probably the most cosmopolitan place in the world. Whilst many games companies have moved away from London over the years there is still a huge opportunity to draw on the unique resources London has to offer, increasingly interesting in today’s competitive climate,” says Headstrong chief Bradley Crooks.

The city represents a key source of talent for those based there as well. Sony London Studios’ development director Mike Haigh describes the unique cross-cultural nature of creative industries such as film, television, music, art, fashion as well as games, blending with the fast-paced London lifestyle as making the big smoke prime for “pulling in world-class talent, not only within the UK, but from other thriving global cities as well”.

“When I started in the industry 12 years ago there was a thriving games development community in London which seemed to ebb away during the latter half of the 1990s and the early part of this decade. I think a lot of the guys who worked at places like Argonaut and Psygnosis look back at that time with great affection, I know I do, particularly some of the rather legendary ECTS parties. It always made a lot of sense to me to set up in London; it’s a great place to live, it’s got a massive pool of talent to draw from and it’s far easier to attract people from other countries. I think the fact so many other developers have returned backs that up,“ says Nick Rodriguez, head of the recently-opened Zoe Mode London.

Due to its size, however, London doesn’t boast the same kind of community feel for its developers that hubs like Brighton, Leamington Spa, Guildford or Dundee might claim to have – even if it has more developers working in its city limits than those. Many in London, however, are happy with this more independent feel.

“I’d certainly endorse a stronger London development culture. Maybe it’s the inherent competitiveness that London provokes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” says Ideaworks3D’s studio head Rob Hendry.

“I think developers in London aren’t too aware of each other because we are scattered around the city and the various operations are still, on the whole, relatively small. That will change as we all grow,” adds Zoe Mode’s Rodriguez.

“In terms of developing that in a more formal sense I think London developers need a voice, we need to shout about why this city is back on the development scene and why it’s a brilliant place to live and work.”

Over the next five days, check back for profiles of many of the studios in the city.