No-deal Brexit would ‘devastate’ UK gaming industry, says report

A hard or no-deal Brexit threatens to cause serious harm to Britain’s gaming industry, which contributes almost £2bn a year to the economy, a report says.

Because the industry works across borders and competes for highly skilled international talent with other high-growth areas such as AI research, it stands to suffer in the event of a harsh Brexit that leaves the nation disconnected from the European economy, the campaign group Games4EU argues.

“UK interactive entertainment will be harmed by a hard Brexit … and devastated in a no-deal Brexit,” said the report’s author, Jas Purewal, a digital entertainment lawyer. “This will make it harder to recruit talent into the UK and over the longer term may aid a brain drain of talent out of the UK and into the EU or elsewhere.”

Ian Livingstone, the founder of Games Workshop and one of the leading lights of Britain’s games industry, said in an interview that the games industry “ticks all the right boxes for the knowledge economy – high skills, high tech, high growth, IP-creating, regional, digital, 80% export in a global market worth $120bn per annum”.

He said: “By removing certainty and many of the existing benefits of EU membership, it is feared that Brexit will hinder the UK industry’s ambition to be the best in the world.”

Livingstone argued that gaming’s status as a British success story was under-appreciated, leading the sector to be left out of government thinking on industrial strategy.

“Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto 5 generated $1bn in revenue in less than a week. The global revenue from hit mobile game Golf Clash will exceed $100m in 2018. It was developed by Wilmslow-based Playdemic Ltd with less than 60 employees. The industry contributes over £2bn to UK GDP,” he said.

“But nobody writes about the industry’s success and what is needed to keep it best in class. The video games industry is a flagship for British creativity and a cornerstone of the creative industries. Young multinational, multicultural designers, artists and engineers thrive in British games studios.

“Hiring the best overseas talent does not displace British jobs, it helps protect them. Future growth and performance is dependent on the best talent in order to develop the best products. This in turn attracts the best projects and the most investment from all over the world. What’s not to like?”

Between them, Games4EU and a sister group, Tech For UK, gathered more that 2,300 signatures to a letter sent to Theresa May last week calling for a public vote so people can have the final say over whether to leave the EU.

The Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, who signed the Tech For UK letter, said: “A good tech sector relies on an open and outward-facing business culture. But that’s threatened by this Brexit deal, which pulls up the drawbridge and leaves us isolated.

“That’s why some of the most exciting firms in the country are against the deal. We demand a final say on Brexit to secure the future of our industry.”

In a poll of the industry taken just before article 50 was invoked in March 2017, 40% of UK games companies said they were considering relocating to the EU after Brexit, largely out of a need to address the expected skills shortage that would follow.