OPINION: UK has lost triple-A games to Canada

OPINION: UK has lost triple-A games to Canada
Michael French

By Michael French

November 3rd 2010 at 3:15PM

But it isn't the end of the world, Britain still has what it takes to thrive in other areas

There’s a bunch of people who I am sure this month’s issue of Develop will rankle. Good.
 
For all the championing everyone in the UK games development sector has done – even Develop through our increasingly popular Industry Excellence Awards, which services all of Europe – it’s clear that Great Britain ain’t so great on the global stage we once dominated.

It’s not just a ‘the writing’s on the wall’ scenario. The facts bear this out. Tiga’s recent census of the UK sector shows that half of the jobs lost in the UK went overseas, three-quarters of them to Canada.

Some more anecdotal context: our ‘Six Reasons Why Canada Thrives As UK Shrinks’ mini-feature wasn’t a stretch to put together, it tripped off the tongue given the many positive things Canadian patriots (many of them UK ex-pats) relayed to us.

So yes, a long list of games that includes Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell and Mass Effect proves a new fact of life; the UK just can’t cut it in the big boy league of traditional games.

APB killed RTW. Enslaved was effectively a flop. Even this month’s diamond releases that show the strength of UK development are the new Bond games by Bizarre and Eurocom – games ultimately based on a sure-thing licence and bankrolled by the richest publisher in the world. Yes, there’s Fable, Batman or GTA – but they are exceptions to rule.

But you know what? Let’s leave the triple-A games to Canada. It’s territory lost that we just can’t win back.

Despite this, the dynamism that defined the UK industry’s strengths on fixed platforms in the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s – Spectrum, SNES or PS2 – hasn’t disappeared. But it has moved on.

The exciting UK companies aren’t the 100-man studios pumping out 360 games, it’s nimbler non-traditional outfits. Moshi, Hello Games, Wonderland, Six to Start… Just ask EA: it’s the one that spent $500m in 12 months to buy iPhone and Facebook stars from London and Macclesfield.

UK developers, those that want to stay in the game in the UK, need to start preparing themselves for these arenas – if they aren’t already – and fast.