Thursday 28 November 2019 6:30 am

Overseas talent is critical to Britain's gaming success

As recent events focus minds on possible Brexit
outcomes, a number of politicians have, once again, raised the question about which sectors receive attention in the debate about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

They are correct to do so. A lack of considered analysis risks overlooking the impact new UK–EU relationships will have on valuable parts of the economy, particularly the video games industry.

Top of our game

The UK video games industry is undoubtedly a national success story. It now employs almost 14,500 people and it added £1.8bn to the UK economy last year.

In addition, the industry contributed an estimated £747m in tax revenues to the Treasury.

The UK is responsible for award winning series such as Forza, Total War, and Sniper Elite — games which are enjoyed across the world and generate millions in revenue.

Much of this success has been dependent on access to highly-skilled workers. Research conducted by Tiga, the trade association representing the video games industry, found that a quarter of the industry’s workforce comes from overseas.

The government must ensure that the UK’s new migration system continues to allow the video games sector to recruit skilled overseas workers. Otherwise, skill shortages will be amplified and industry growth will be hampered.

The clock is ticking

For certain roles, there is already an undersupply of skilled graduates or experienced specialists.

UK games businesses have taken steps to address this challenge: studios have invested in training; games businesses have developed relationships with universities to ensure courses are industry relevant; and Tiga has developed a higher education accreditation programme.

These activities have minimised skills gaps among existing employees but not eliminated skills shortages.

If the industry cannot access non-UK workers to fill roles, the skills shortage will be exacerbated, which in turn will result in the loss of investment and jobs.

The next level

Tiga has submitted evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and the Migration Advisory Committee, calling on the government to ensure that the UK’s future immigration system enables games businesses to effectively recruit highly skilled people from overseas.

The next government should retain the existing roles on the Shortage Occupation List that are relevant to the video games industry and add others including audio roles.

Additionally, the Tier 2 salary threshold should not be increased from around £24,000 to £30,000.

If the government introduces a new points based migration system, then the top three criteria earning the most points should be ‘work experience’; ‘having a job offer’ and ‘language proficiency’.

The video games sector is an export focused, high skills, high technology industry.

If the government introduces a migration system which allows the sector to recruit talented people from overseas, then the UK will remain a world leader in video games development.

Dr Richard Wilson is chief executive of Tiga, the trade association representing the UK video games industry

Main image: Getty