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Who are Grand Theft Auto's new contenders on the block?

 
Andy Moore
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On the button. Work hard to play hard in the UK's £4.2 billion games sector. (Source: SDI)

Imagine inventing an awesome digital game. It then reaches global domination in sales. The fruits of becoming a billionaire might even be incidental to the sheer satisfaction of creating a global best-seller. And especially so when you work hard and play even harder.

£4.2bn in UK consumer spend

The UK game industry is booming: According to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, the sector was worth nearly £4.2bn in UK consumer spend in 2015, the sixth largest for consumer revenues after China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Germany.

With the global market anticipated to increase from £79.6bn to £94.8bn by 2019, opportunities for the UK games sector are big. Very big.

At the start of this year, there were 2,088 UK games firms (UK Games Map) of all sizes, drawing on first class talent across the sector; from mobile, PC and console to rapidly-morphing industries such as VR / AR, esports and Artificial Intelligence.

So which are the UK games firms without frontiers?

  • Monument Valley, by Shoreditch-based ‘ustwo’, had been downloaded over 26m times, winning over 20 international awards. These include the Apple iPad Game of the Year 2014 and the 2015 BAFTAs for both Best Mobile and Handheld, and Best British game.
  • Another game flying from the streets of London is Batman: Arkham Knight by Rocksteady Studios. It was the fastest-selling game of 2015 and winner of multiple awards, including the 2015 BAFTA for Best British game.
  • Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V has stolen the show for sheer games gravitas. Globally. It remains the fastest-selling game of all time, grossing $1bn worldwide in just three days. By November last year, it sold over 70m units worldwide and is the top-selling UK game of all time, generating over £240m from over 6m physical copies sold - or roughly 3.5 sales per minute.

Grand Theft Auto V has become as hot as the cars in the game

Dundee and Edinburgh have become a global force to be reckoned with in the games industry. It’s 'game on' for the cities’s abundance of tech investment talent and infrastructure. Grand Theft Auto V has become as hot as the cars in the game: it returned to the top of the UK charts in January 2017, three and a half years after it was first launched. The cities are a testament to the tech talent, investment and infrastructure that have spawned a nucleus of groovy games and the firms that make them.

Recently, a new £50,000 project, aiming to grow the next generation of internationally - competitive digital media and technology companies was unveiled. The ‘Global Domination Accelerator’ will be delivered by Elevator on behalf of Scottish Enterprise, and is now open for applications from software and gaming companies with international growth ambitions based throughout Scotland.

One company that moved there in 2011 was Outplay Entertainment. Douglas Hare, Outplay's CEO, says:

It was very important for us going to a place that is world class on a tech basis. Most important for a business like us is available talent, being able to go in rather than having to build talent out of nowhere. We saw a great level of experience and expertise there.”

Another company receiving all the right building blocks for growth (quite literally) is 4J Studios, famous for the meteoric success of Minecraft. Chairman Chris van der Kuyl had an internship at NCR in Dundee when he was aged nine, sending him to Silicon Valley for the first time. He enthuses: “I was really struck by the volume of people doing things in software and other branches of technology at that time. But what also struck me was that the talent in Scotland is as equally as good at technology, and as smart, and there was no difference there.”

Innovative games such as these will be making some noise at the world's largest running professionals-only game industry event, taking place this week at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in Moscone Centre in San Francisco.

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