Brexit has already dealt a heavy blow to the UK games industry.
That’s according to interactive entertainment lawyer and Games4EU co-founder Jas Purewal, speaking at the Life After Brexit speed panel at Pocket Gamer Connects London.
Our own Chris James headed up the panel with Purewal, Bulkhead CEO Joe Brammer and Wicked Sick founder Craig Fletcher to ask what UK games companies can do to prepare ahead of the UK’s planned exit of the European Union on March 29th.
All agreed that the country is currently in a constitutional crisis. As the dreaded date approaches, they see a second vote as the only option left to avoid a disastrous no-deal. But even now, the effects of the 2016 vote are affecting UK companies.
According to Brammer, Bulkhead had already almost lost EU employees thanks to the uncertainty. Fortunately, the company’s new Munich office has helped with more than just keeping EU hires - Brammer has found a wealth of benefits to working with the Euro and accessing German business services.
“I don’t think there are any negatives in trying,” said Brammer, encouraging others to get a foot in the EU.
Purewal explained that it may not all be doom and gloom - despite heading up the pro-Remain group Games4EU, the lawyer explained where there may be the slimmest silver lining.
He explained: “The games industry in the UK has some fundamental resilience. The English language, the size of its market and ties with the US. The industry has done well to bring international business to the UK.”
There may also be potential for links with growing markets like India, which has been pegged as the next great games hub.
But the overwhelming sense was that damage had been done already; more due to the absolute uncertainty than any concrete repercussions of leaving the European Union.
“Even if we were to revoke article 50 tomorrow, a lot of damage has been done,” said Fletcher. “Investment has been impacted - we found it easier to raise money for companies in the Netherlands than in the UK.”
So what can developers do? Purewal insisted that remaining a purely UK-based business could be disastrous in a worst-case scenario.
“If we are gonna see a no-deal Brexit, you need to have an EU presence now,” said Purewal. From tax and data necessities to keeping access to game servers frictionless, setting up in Europe is vital.
Fletcher added that some EU countries like Portugal and Belgium are offering incentives to UK tech companies to encourage them to branch out to the continent. But the spectre of no-deal could threaten an entirely-UK based company’s ability to thrive on the mainland.
Multinational companies may be able to weather the storm. But smaller studios can’t avoid political turmoil through sheer scale.
Purewal explained: “With only a couple months left - if there is no article 50 extension or there is a no-deal Brexit, most companies need to get into contingency planning”