Home > Culture > In depth: Invisible games industry

In depth: Invisible games industry

video games

Welsh video game developers are being ignored by local media outlets despite contributing considerably to the UK’s economy

[youtube]https://youtu.be/47IT1wXlvDs[/youtube]

When thinking of Welsh culture, it is unlikely that video games will spring to mind first. However, with at least 11 video game related companies in Cardiff alone, South Wales is brimming with emerging talent in the video game sector. Cardiff has also been picked by Nesta (an independent innovation charity) as one of the 12 leading hubs for creating video games in the UK.

Nesta estimates that the video game industry contributes as much as £1.7 billion to the UK economy and BBC Newsbeat has since reported that the government has given the games industry a £4 million boost. The Welsh government also offers a Digital Development fund of up to £25,000 to support local games. Although the government’s support will a go a long way to helping the industry, pumping money into the industry will not guarantee success alone, as video game developers stress the importance of media exposure.

Grand Theft Auto V generated £90 million in the UK within 2 weeks, illustrating the importance of video games for the UK's economy

Grand Theft Auto V generated £90 million in the UK within 2 weeks, illustrating the importance of video games for the country’s economy

There appears to be next to no coverage of the video games industry as a whole in local media, especially in news platforms such as South Wales Echo and Wales Online. Meanwhile Buzz (South Wales’ leading free monthly entertainment magazine) covers multiple culture sectors such as film, music, theatre, food/drink and art with a large focus on local events, yet has little coverage of video games in the magazine, usually only offering a small box-out on their review page.

“I feel that there isn’t enough on games in Wales”

Buzz magazine editor Luke Boult says, “Personally, I feel that there isn’t enough on games in Wales,” and reveals his plans of introducing a technology/games section to the Buzz website in the near future. He did however concede that he worries that there is a lack of regular releases of local video games to justify frequent updates.

New Platforms

With the lack of coverage on the industry, non-profit organisation Games Wales was setup to help promote the Welsh games industry. Ian Thomas, chair of Game Wales, explained that coverage of the industry is needed not only to advertise games to consumers, but also to attract people working within the industry.

“The ambition for Games Wales is to keep enough publicity going here and encourage, help and handle new businesses, so we have a self-sustaining ecosystem, rather than have everybody bugger off somewhere else,” says Ian Thomas. He also claims that people do write about the local video game industry, but on personal blogs, as there is no central place for people to publish and receive locally focussed video game news.

Video games

Ian Thomas, chair of Game Wales, discusses the growing video game industry in Wales

Ian Hardgreaves, professor of Digital Economy at Cardiff University says, “I think there is scope for a professional journalistic activity in this territory and I think that there is scope for locally focussed journalism.” He did however suggest that the difficulty of finding a business model for a locally focussed video game media outlet to make money could hinder such journalism. This leaves a large divide between unprofessional blogs that are unable to attract a large audience and national publications that focus on mainstream media.

The Developers

Phill Page, a games developer for Pencoed-based Dojo Arcade, says that he has not seen much coverage of the South Wales video game industry. Dojo Arcade are currently developing an upcoming game called Creature Battle Lab and were recently successful in their application for the Microsoft GreenShoots fund, but Phill confessed that no media outlet or journalist has approached them regarding this achievement. “Media coverage can mean the difference between success and failure for a game,” Phill stressed while also calling for a dedicated news site to showcase Welsh video game companies.

“Media coverage can mean the difference between success and failure for a game”

Lucas Gracia, creative director of the newly formed video game studio 4th Wall Interactive says, “It would be great if the local media were more interested in games and local development.” However, Lucas also says that he believes the industry in South Wales is still in its infancy and more interest will come as the development scene in Wales continues to grow.

Revolve

Newly founded game company 4th Wall Interactive are currently working on upcoming game Revolve

The general consensus seems to be that the South Wales video game industry is still in its infancy and it must grow bigger to attract the attention of the local media. With at least 11 video game-related companies in Cardiff the industry is growing rapidly. News such as Dojo Arcade receiving support from Microsoft is also encouraging for the growth of local industries, but the fact that it has not been reported on by the media is worrying. The local media must soon acknowledge that their coverage is needed for the industry to build on the success of being chosen as one of the 12 leading hubs for video games in the UK and jump to the next level.

Read More
#InPoverty: Does Wales’ media news narrative on poverty serve the masses?
In depth: It pays to save a pension early
In depth: Welsh videogames industry
Creative Cardiff is a network bringing together creatives from across the city
Cardiff: a capital of creativity