Mobile Mavens

What do UK mobile game developers think of Brexit?

What do UK mobile game developers think of Brexit?

It's official: the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union, with 51.9% of votes opting to break away.

The full impact of the result is as yet unknown, but it can be assured that UK-based businesses of all shapes and sizes will be facing big changes as a result of the referendum's outcome.

To get a better idea of how exactly the UK mobile games industry is reacting to the news, and how significant figures within it anticipate their business changing, we put together a one-off UK Mavens group to ask:

  • What impact will Brexit have on the UK games industry?
Nigel Little Owner Distinctive Developments Limited

Has the world just ended? Probably not. Is it ultimately bad for the UK games industry? I certainly think it is.

I believe there will be a reduction of inward investment, our educational institutions will suffer and, with a tightening of our borders (both EU and rest of world), attracting and retaining highly skilled talent from around the world will be more difficult.

Additionally, if the general economic situation of the country declines then hard fought support for the industry, such as tax relief, will be the first victims. So, much like half the population, I won't be celebrating Brexit.

Hugh Binns Co-owner Eight Pixels Square

That's a big question!

The most immediate impact is the volatility in the currency exchange rates, which may actually benefit mobile publishers in the short-term where many will have the bulk of their revenues coming from outside the UK.

The key focus needs to be on providing the environment to thrive and be competitive globally.
Hugh Binns

Further along, the main concern is that the UK games industry will need a stable business environment where we retain the VGT and R&D tax relief that are so important, access to IP/Trademark protection mechanisms, and the ability to recruit the best talent from around the world.

That has to be a key focus in the exit negotiations and any further budgets.

For mobile specifically, we'll need to see that access to digital store fronts around the world - including key European markets - remains as frictionless as possible, including local sales or withholding tax administration.

Once the dust settles, I'm very optimistic for the UK mobile and wider games industry - regardless of whether or not we are in the EU.

I think we have an incredible talent pool here, combined with a highly creative and entrepreneurial culture, and the key focus needs to be on providing the environment to thrive and be competitive globally.

 

Paul Farley CEO / Founder Tag Games

Since founding Tag Games in 2006 Paul has built the studio from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and successful mobile and handheld developers in Europe.

He began a long, and some might say, distinguished, games industry career at legendary developer DMA Design, playing a key role in the development of the GTA series

There is an immediate benefit to any studio that is being paid in other currencies. Having just traded a large amount of Euros this morning, the additional benefit for our team is increased donuts and coffee this month!

In the mid-term, given that most of the UK games industry exports to a global market, there is a strong benefit in having a weakened pound.

UK development services which are already very competitive on cost/quality basis are only going to become an even more compelling proposition, however this mostly suits studios operating on a core “work for hire” basis.

Angry Birds Action is a recent work-for-hire project from Tag Games

Those that are self-publishing and generating own IP not only have the issue of the increased cost of ad inventory (which is driving the F2P model), but they will also have concerns over the future of GTR, R+D tax credits, and the many EU creative/development and technology grants, which almost the whole industry is utilising at present.

My concern is that this vote puts on a path that will potentially hinder creativity, innovation, self-determination and risk taking with the UK games industry and move us back towards being the development sweatshop of choice for foreign publishers.

But one aspect I’m not too concerned with is the movement of talent.

This is obviously vital to us, however, in every model of how we move forward from this point, maintaining strong trading terms with the single market will require us to maintain open borders.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

As a London-based studio, The Secret Police benefits greatly from the fantastic talent pool we have available - with both British and non-British staff on our team.

A weakened pound might help work-for-hire studios, but I don't see it helping inward investment.
Harry Holmwood

We'll still be able to access great staff from around the world, of course, but it will be much harder to do so if we lose the freedom of movement that the EU affords us.

Hopefully, we won't lose that freedom - even out of the EU. We've also been able to attract inward investment from outside the EU - I certainly don't see that kind of thing being easier if we leave.

A weakened pound might help work-for-hire studios, but I don't see it doing a lot for inward investment.

Of course, mobile is a global business so we're cushioned, to an extent, from any local recession that will result.

However, for the country as a whole, I think this is an entirely retrograde step, which will exacerbate many of the problems the Leave voters have sought to avoid. Not good.

Ella Romanos Commercial Director Strike Gamelabs

This is clearly bad for our industry, as well as the UK as a whole. We are moving backwards rather than forwards.

I think that it is too early to predict exactly what the impact will be. Things are going to be volatile for quite some time, which in itself will have a negative impact.

The plummeting value of the pound post-referendum - via BBC

Yes, some may find small benefits short term from the weaker pound, but that will be countered with nervous investors, fewer people willing to come to (or potentially stay) in the UK from overseas, and the looming concerns about government grants/tax credits.

Longer term, we will survive and will find a way through. We have a strong games industry in the UK and great leadership from UKIE and others.

This is going to make things harder for us all, but we need to work together and ensure we have a voice when negotiations for the exit are taking place, to try to get the best out of a bad situation.

Jeremie Texier CEO and co-founder Another Place Productions

Like many other studios, our make up and success is very much based on a combination of UK and European talent.

Another Place's co-founders, from left to right: Jeremie Texier, Guillaume Portes, and John McCormack

Indeed, I can't see a future where the UK wouldn't benefit from keeping an open border policy with the EU (or desire/need to trade with the single market) which in turns means having a treaty in place with the EU but no real say on the future of the union.

It feels like a step backwards, which will take decades to unravel.
Jeremie Texier

It all feels like a huge step backwards, which will take decades to unravel since exit negotiations are not the same thing as new treaty negotiations (disregarding the fact that pretty much our entire law system is intertwined with European laws).

Like everyone else involved, we have concerns about VGTR, grants, access to digital markets, investments, and those concerns certainly outweigh the short term gains that we're seeing with a weaker pound.

Being an 'economic' migrant myself, I feel rather dumbfounded by the news today.

Andrew Wafer CEO Pixel Toys

Andy has 14 years of wonderful games publishing and development experiences. Before co-founding Pixel Toys he'd already notched up credits on more than 30 games, and most recently released the zombie splattering GunFinger for mobile and tablet which received over a million downloads in its first month. Andy started at life Codemasters and held Chief Game Designer and Global Brand Manager positions there, he also did some time at Activision, as FreeStyle Games as Head of Digital Platforms before leaving to co-found Pixel Toys in 2012.

It’s fair to say that Pixel Toys has without-a-doubt benefited hugely from the UK being part of the EU, and the benefits membership brings.

From being able to easily hire highly talented team members from EU countries to the many EU-supported initiatives and incentives we’ve been part of that have helped us grow.

The Pixel Toys office

I agree with the general sentiment here from the other Mavens - it’s disappointing for the industry.

But it’s good that we’re generally aligned and I know that here in the UK we’re going to continue to do amazing things in this industry.

Paul Farley CEO / Founder Tag Games

Since founding Tag Games in 2006 Paul has built the studio from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and successful mobile and handheld developers in Europe.

He began a long, and some might say, distinguished, games industry career at legendary developer DMA Design, playing a key role in the development of the GTA series

See ya later, folks!

Oscar Clark Author, Consultant and Independent Developer Rocket Lolly Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

To be honest, I'm just too sad to add anything useful.

There is less reason to stay in the UK now.
Oscar Clark

The situation for games developers will be better than for most on the country. We are an International industry, and yet our home nation has decided on a smaller world view.

The bitter taste of the mistruths told on both sides in this referendum leaves me profoundly upset and I have a knee-jerk desire to move away - there is less reason to stay in the UK now.

But time will tell and, as always, we will make the best of a bad bad situation...

Will Luton Executive Producer Rovio

Without knowing the details of what the UK’s deal with the EU will look like, it’s hard to say the exact impact this will have on the UK scene.

My feeling is that many indies and small studios will be unaffected, but any team that’s looking to attract world class talent, get significant investment and grow will be hit hardest.

Likely there are many disaffected Brits out there now considering what their future looks like. I’ve already seen lots of my peers move out to Germany, Nordic countries and, of course, Canada.

I expect this emigration to continue.

At risk of sounding opportunistic: A Thinking Ape are hiring. Visas and relocation offered.

 

You can read more developer reactions over on our sister site PocketGamer.co.uk.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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