Richard Wilson, CEO of games industry association TIGA responds to criticism from Zee-3 and Pickford Bros co-founder Ste Pickford, arguing that there is value in being a member of a network of developers and digital publishers
This blog serves as a response to Ste Pickford's recent piece 'Free or Paid?'
Trade associations fundamentally exist to support their members. TIGA was founded to give UK independent developers a chance in a competitive international industry: it lobbies the Government for financial and business support; it lobbies national media to promote members and industry achievements; and it offers support to members to give them the best chance of growing their businesses.
None of this can be achieved for free. A car can’t run without fuel, a tiger can’t run without food, and an effective trade association can’t run on thin air.
TIGA is a not-for-profit organisation, but it is also a not-for-loss organisation. Trade associations are not charity shops. They do not operate on donations of old clothes and books and are not run by volunteers with some spare time on their hands.
While games firms, recently driven by the app culture, may offer products free of charge (but with the aim of generating advertising revenues to more than make up for a lack of a purchase price) trade associations such as TIGA work within limited means to promote and support members’ interests and the interests of the games industry as a whole.
TIGA is itself a small business and is run by UK developers and digital publishers for UK developers and digital publishers. TIGA has a responsibility to deliver high quality services to its members and to avoid making a financial loss. Members support TIGA to campaign for business-changing policies, such as games industry tax breaks, or to strengthen links with education providers in order to share knowledge and enhance skills, or for providing a platform on which independent games companies can collaborate and share professional advice and information, safe in the knowledge that they are not going to get ripped off.
Like other excellent trade associations, TIGA’s duty is to its members, the wider industry and to the wider UK economy. TIGA’s members – and many non-members – recognise the work we put in to push for tax breaks for games developers in the last budget. It was the result of over four years of campaigning, which involved researching and developing a workable solution, regularly meeting MPs to garner support from within both Westminster and Holyrood and generating support from the media to keep the issue live and in the minds of economic advisers in particular. Make no mistake: the tax break victory is not simply good for TIGA members. It is good for the games industry generally because it will result in more investment; it is good for employees and students because it will create more job opportunities; and it is good for the economy at large because it will help to support the economic recovery.
But it doesn’t stop with tax breaks. Enhancing skills in the games industry is a significant issue. We are working with colleges, universities and private training providers such as T2G to develop and promote relevant courses, disseminate best practice and to provide industry guest lecturers.
Nor does it stop with skills. TIGA recently ran a GameHack with Blue-Via and 15 industry partners for members and non-members alike. TIGA organised the GameHack to give developers of all sizes a chance: the chance to think creatively and to develop an original game within the inspirational setting of Pinewood Studios; the chance to win some amazing prizes; and the chance to network with some of the best developers in the UK games industry. TIGA also helped to raise over £1,000 for charity in the process.
The provision of information and advice is crucial to business success. That is why TIGA developed the Guide to Self-Publishing. We want to give our members access to the best quality and advice from top lawyers, accountants and other games companies. We want our members to understand the importance of issues ranging from setting up and managing IP and age ratings to platforms, marketing and sales. Yet quality information and advice has to be found and collated and double-checked. That takes time and money. It is right that paying TIGA members who make a contribution to the future success of the industry receive valuable reports for free.
Ultimately the issue is whether or not a trade association can make a difference. Without the support of our members we would not have been able to campaign for tax breaks, which will now benefit the whole industry. Without the financial backing, we would not be able to provide quality information and advice or host quality industry events. Without the commitment of our members we would not be able to provide commercial opportunities for our members or to save members money from our network of 39 industry suppliers.
TIGA is a member-driven organisation. It has a mix of start-ups and more established independent UK games companies on its board. The games industry, which is still a relatively new industry, needs strong and tigerish support. Games firms do not have the time or individual resources to do this on their own, which is why they group together and form associations. If we want to see a flourishing developer and digital publisher sector, with rising numbers of start-ups and growing sustainable studios and declining business mortality rates, if we want to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business, then we need an effective trade association.