Why business skills and startups are essential for UK game development

Why business skills and startups are essential for UK game development
March 6th 2014 at 3:31PM

Ahead of TIGA’s Games Summit this Friday, for which Develop is the media partner, TIGA CEO Dr. Richard Wilson discusses the rationale behind the event and the issues those supporting the Summit are seeking to address.

TIGA research shows more than 50 per cent of UK games businesses are less than four years old, so whatever helps startups will be of maximum long-term benefit for the whole industry.

A big part of the reason Microsoft is our headline sponsor for this event is because this is a focus and strategy we have in common.

This is what Anand Krishnan, General Manager for Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, has to say on the issue: “The startup-led nature of the UK development scene has been a key driver for many of our recent initiatives. Microsoft has always been supportive of tech startups, so investing in a healthy UK games ecosystem from the grass roots upwards, is a natural thing for us.

"Examples of these initiatives include the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Whitechapel, the Microsoft and Creative England Green Shoots  initiative and at a global level, the BizSpark programme while more than 200 developers are already creating games using dev kits provided by the ID@Xbox programme. 

“Of course we want developers to create games for our platforms, but it’s also about the bigger picture. We need to help games businesses move from a position of surviving to thriving, if we are going to have great UK studios making games for our platforms in the long term.” 

Just like Microsoft, when we speak to our members we hear that, first and foremost, the biggest challenge indie devs face is business survival and the bottom line – funding and cash flow, followed by discoverability.

Which is why, at our most recent event in Newcastle, and at our upcoming events in Leamington Spa and Sheffield, as well as at the TIGA Games Summit on Friday, we are focusing on opening the door to finance. This means getting our members in front of investors, and giving them the advice they need to be as good at running a business as they are at making games.

Key to our efforts to achieve this at the TIGA Games Summit are our sponsors Kingston Smith, a top 20 UK accountancy firm with real understanding of and expertise in the games sector.

In particular, Richard Heap, a partner in Kingston Smith’s technology & media division, will be running a practical workshop on business model and revenue planning. Here’s what Richard has to say on the importance of these concepts to UK developers: “With any creative industry, and indeed with any creative person, there will always be a preference for focusing on the product, the design, or the idea. Which is great, that’s what makes games makers and the games industry such a fascinating and rewarding place to be.

“But right now, we are in an environment where a lot of startups competing for funds and they won’t get a second chance if things go awry. So skills such as how to plan a business model, how to map out and forecast your revenue and cost streams, your cashflows, evaluating which markets and platforms to prioritise, these aren’t nice-to-haves any more. It’s also the kind of work you want to have done beforeyou meet potential investors in the first place.

“For start up developers in the UK today, it’s business planning and the capability of making intelligent financially informed decisions that will make the biggest difference to their future. There’s no shortcut to getting over 20 years’ worth of business wisdom, but I’m hoping to share some useful and effective tips that attendees can apply to keep their business in the black.”

At TIGA, we are seeing more and more evidence that a focus on startups, access to finance and improving the core business skills of developers will create the best return for the industry as a whole.

As such these issues will remain at the heart of our events calendar throughout 2014 and beyond. So if you haven’t managed to get your hands on a ticket this time around, you can be sure there will be other opportunities to gain practical advice and support at a TIGA workshop or conference near you soon.

If you’re reading this and have any other suggestions on issues you’d like TIGA to address, then we’d love to hear from you.

To all those attending, I look forward to meeting you on Friday, and finding out more about your business and the challenges you’re facing.