Keeping the UK in the game

10 10 2005

TIGA (TIGA) are hosting a day-long seminar in Leeds on wednesday entitled ‘Strategies for the 3rd Generation – How to keep the UK the place to make games in Europe.’

The guardian last week reported on the story, with Keith Stuart writing
“I can’t help but notice that our ambitions have been scaled down somewhat over the last few years. Once it would have been about how to maintain Britain’s position as a world leader – but a decade of corporate take-overs, foul-ups and meltdowns has seen to that. Now, we are a mere outpost, desolate, endangered, struggling to keep the barbarians from the door.

How did this happen? When? It is interesting that the two guest speakers mentioned in TIGA’s press release have their own stories to tell about the sickening of the UK games industry. Rod Cousens was CEO of Acclaim a now defunct US company that put its British studios to work on too many conversions and ‘me too’ genre titles. Ian Livingstone was Creative Director at Eidos once a shining success story, later buried by its heavy reliance on the fading Tomb Raider brand. ” … “Meanwhile, there are other British developers that lead rather than sheepishly follow: Lionhead, Rockstar North, Criterion, Creative Assembly, Bizarre Creations. Most now answer to American paymasters, but still manage to bring local flavour to their mega-hits. However, is there really anything other developers can be taught about the success of these studios – apart from to be in the right place at the right time with exactly the right brilliant ideas? That can’t be taught can it?

And in the end, the question of how to remain a vital force in the worldwide development scene can’t really be answered by the developers, it’s about the publishers. Too many UK studios have become sweatshops for tie-ins and conversions, too many are working to creatively crippling 12-month deadlines. The British industry has lost faith in itself – it is busting its lungs just to keep up with the demands of next gen development. Making games is expensive, it’s scary, so publishers adopt a Pokemon approach – got to have an urban racer, got to have a WWII shooter, an anti-terrorist stealth adventure, a gangsta romp, got to get that blockbuster movie license. Gotta catch ‘em all. And British development is caught up in the maelstrom.

That’s not how to become important. That is how to exist. Becoming a vast outsourcing factory, with the odd pocket of innovative resistance, cannot be this country’s strategy for the third generation – whatever that might be. There is too much history. There is too much potential. “

And there was some interesting industry comments that followed:

“There’s been a poor selection of games over the past few years. We Brits are innovators, but recently we have been trolling out typical stuff, The UK used to define genres and trends not follow them… We need a bit more imagination. Keep an eye on some of the new Scottish development companies there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening there.”
“British companies are trail-blazing on the PS3 lets not forget… off the top of my head F1, The Getaway, Killzone and Heavenly Sword (which is awesomely original) are all done in the UK – the latter 2 by completely independent studios. Also, MS is pinning the release hopes of 360 on a British game franchise in PD0 (albeit less British since they lost the accents, and yes it’s a *quel) and Kameo, and PGR3 (yes, another *quel). But, we’re healthyish.”

“But Credit should go to Sony London who have been developing most of the hugely innovative games for Eyetoy, and Singstar, but I dont hold much hope out for Criterion, who since they have been assimilated by EA, has found no one wants to buy their wonderful renderware for fear of lining the enemy’s pockets, and are now trapped in the inescapable cycle of creating Burnout sequels for the rest of eternity.”

“The British industry deserves everything it gets because it is probably the most incompetent sector of the games industry world wide. FACT.

People there spend too much making shitty games, fucking each other over at every opportunity, and almost nobody is actually in the industry to make great games. They all want to make great products instead.

The problem with the British games industry is the same problem that they have with the British film industry. Which is that the British are far too cynical, far too inclined toward scam solutions to problems, and far too inclined, ultimately, to cut and run rather than build a company. That’s why the US keeps slapping themn around economically. Americans have vision, but British people have none.”


I’ve been amazed at the sheer level of backstabbing, money-squandering and so on that I’ve seen in the UK industry. I’ve not met one single producer or famous designer who didn’t, on closer inspection, turn out to be an utter fraud. Bad management, dishonest practises and a heavy dose of fraud are the calling cards of the British industry these days, and they have only themselves to blame for the appalling state that they find themselves in.

The problem is, I think, that there’s a lot of talent and history in the British industry, but the new generation on the ground are pushed down by the old guard who grew up in the bedroom days. The problem with the bedroom people is none of them have any formal training in running companies or managing people and they’ve been getting away with just pretending to for years.

Now finally economics are catching up with them, and good riddance. These guys, like the Macleans, Hassabisses and Molynuexs of this world are nowhere near as talented as their press reputations make out. They need to be shown the door, and then the new generation, the ones who do have actual talent, might have a chance the make the British industry into something worth praising again.”

“Rod Cousens preaching to the UK gaming industry.. blind leading the blind.

Name me a hit product that the paying members of TIGA have created in the past? Distinctly average.. attending corporate luvvy seminars will not suddenly spark innovative ideas unfortunately.

One thing is for sure; the answers to the British development slump won’t be found within the dusty walls of the TIGA seminar.”

What do you think? Do we have the anwsers? Where will we find them. Will the UK be a outsourcing unit for the US? what happens to us when Eastern Europe wakes up along with Korea, China, and India?

How do we compete?


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