The UK has the X-Box factor – London Games Festival highlights the economic impact of the gaming sector
They become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them as they play the machines,” thundered George Foulkes, Labour MP for South Ayrshire, in 1981, during the furore surrounding Space Invaders and other arcade games that were said to be transforming the nation’s youth into mindless, truanting zombies.
Well, it possibly hasn’t escaped your notice that the days when a pearls-clutching moral majority passed Foulkes’s hastily drawn-up “control of space invaders and other electronic games” bill through parliament are well and truly gone. Today, the UK games industry (more than 2,000 UK-based games companies) is worth £4.2bn, catering for 31.6 million Brits, operating across every platform from phones to PCs, consoles and virtual reality headsets, making us the sixth-largest games market in the world.
The UK industry’s success stories are legion, from Eidos (Tomb Raider) to Rocksteady Studios (Batman: Arkham Knight – the fastest-selling game of 2015) and Edinburgh-based developers Rockstar North, whose Grand Theft Auto V is the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time, grossing $1bn (then £625m) worldwide in three days.
Underscoring such triumphs – and during the same month that Nintendo launches its new console, the Nintendo Switch – the London Games Festival returns for its second year, beginning 30 March. Organisers are expecting to draw 55,000 attendees during the 11-day extravaganza, which has already brought over £8.5m in potential investment to the capital.
Opening the festival, EGX Rezzed at Tobacco Dock focuses on British independent talent (hotly anticipated games include Yooka Laylee, which raised $1m via Kickstarter in record time), while other events include the British Academy Games Awards, and the Games Finance Market, which connects developers and content creators with investors and funders.
“It’s fantastic to see the festival expanding in scope, reach and ambition, and connecting London-based talent with overseas investment partners,” says London mayor Sadiq Khan, who fully supports its mission to make the city “the world capital for video games”.
Long may the UK be invaded.
London Games Festival 2017 will take place from 30 March–9 April
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