Where did it start?
Before we look at how the video games industry in the UK became a billion-dollar industry, let’s trace it back to its roots where it all began. The first successful video game design in the United Kingdom goes back nearly 40 years ago when a pair of games called Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson founded a company called ‘Games Workshop’ which specialised in wooden board games that would prove a hit for like-minded gamers.
As the business grew year on year, they introduced a game that would still be a hit today, Dungeons and Dragons. This is one of the most popular role-playing games, and it is revolved around the players solving puzzles and battling against one another in a mythical world. The first digital game came in 1978 when a pair of university students created something called MUD which was a text-based adventure game – taking inspiration off Dungeons and Dragons.
The industry today
Today the industry in the UK has taken note of just how lucrative the market can be being worth billions of pounds each year. Last year, reports suggest that the market for video games in the UK grew 10% to a total of £5.7 billion. From this, many universities across the UK have had the foresight to put in place courses to nurture home-grown talent and further strengthen the UK’s contribution to the video games industry.
A total of 60 universities between them currently offer a combined 215 undergraduate courses in video game development and a total of 40 master’s degree courses in video game development. A staggering 18% of all video game development companies are based in the Midlands in the UK, including Codemasters who are based in Birmingham. This incentive to educate home-grown talent has certainly worked with a vast majority of the workforce in the industry being skilled, studies suggest that around 63% of all workers attained themselves a degree before starting their careers.
The UK workforce is also at the forefront of a lot of the latest innovative ventures when it comes to emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. In addition to being at the forefront of video game development for consoles, they’re also at the forefront when it comes to games development for smartphones.
As you can see already, the industry in the UK has come a long way from the Games Workshop where people would play with the best free solitaire games they could come up with and Ian and Steve were making wooden board top games. Since then, technology has developed at such a rate that companies are almost struggling to keep up.
Now we have huge video game development companies such as Rockstar games who are responsible for record-breaking games such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise and also for the two Red Dead Redemption games. Going forward we can expect to see more encouragement from educational establishments to further nurture our home-grown talent, particularly in areas such as the Midlands which is already a hub for video game developers.