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UK games industry seeks big hug

Wants government recognition

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The UK's video games industry has called for the government to recognise the contribution it makes to Britain's economy before a subsidised bloc of Nordic and Central and European producers hits the indigenous industry where it hurts.

According to a Screen Digest report - published on behalf of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) - the latest official figures show that Brit-based games companies recorded a tasty positive balance of trade close to £200m. The industry now employs 22,000 people - up 7.5 per cent on 2000.

However, the immediate outlook is not as rosy as it should be. In fact, the number of UK game development studios' employees dropped six per cent between 2000 and 2004. The overall rise represents the "increase in people working in other sectors of the games industry – publishing, distribution and retail".

Roger Bennett, director general of ELSPA, explained: "Our greatest asset is our creativity and in recent times we have seen this talent being leeched away through lack of funding and more attractive prospects overseas. The UK is at risk of losing its position both as the font of some of the most successful games produced for a global market worth $20bn and as the major European destination for global investment. It is now time for Government to recognise the valuable contribution we make to the UK economy, comparative to other entertainment sectors.

"It needs to give the games industry the same level of support provided to the film industry for example as announced on Thursday in this week’s budget. The Government should also reflect the policy in other countries where investment in game technology and creativity is encouraged and where attractive location incentives are readily available."

The report also found that the big growth area is the "network games market" - non-retail sales channels which are expanding more than seven times faster than the traditional retail market. Ben Keen, Screen Digest’s chief analyst, commented: "While retail sales of games continue to reach new levels, new distribution channels are now expanding fast. Mobile and online have become significant markets in their own right and we expect all forms of networked games exploitation to account for 20 per cent of the total Western world market by 2008." ®

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