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UK games industry to grow in 2017, but skills are a concern

Almost 90% of UK games firms aim to expand this year, but some are worried that a lack of skilled workers will be a barrier

Most UK games firms plan to expand their workforce in 2017, indicating potential growth in the industry.

According to research by the Tiga network for games developers and digital publishers, 88% of games firms plan to expand their teams over the next year – an increase of 16% from the same time last year.

Half of the UK’s games firms are also looking to invest in their business through research and development, training or by developing new titles over the year.

Richard Wilson, Tiga CEO, said the growth was being driven by an expanding consumer market, the increase in mobile and tablet devices and the new video games tax relief.

“The UK video games development and digital publishing sector is set to grow in 2017,” said Wilson. “The UK is the sixth largest market for games in the world and 31.6 million people in the UK play games. The spread of mobile and tablet devices, the new console generation, the popularity of PC games and the advent of virtual reality and augmented reality are prompting investment in games.”

The government’s introduction of tax relief around the development of games in the UK has helped to reduce the cost of games production, which is predicted to lead to the creation of 2,800 developer jobs over the next five years.

But 16% of games firms said a shortage of appropriate skills would be a barrier to future growth, alongside other barriers such as lack of funding, lack of diversity and regional challenges.

After the UK voted to leave the European Union, greater emphasis was put on home-grown tech talent, and Tiga thinks Brexit could put a strain on games industry talent.

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About 15% of current UK games development staff are from the EU, raising concerns that, after Brexit, it will be more difficult to find skilled workers, especially in view of the UK’s current skills crisis.

The government has shown support for the games industry in recent years, and in 2015 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced grants of up to £25,000 to boost the UK’s growing games industry.

But funding is still a problem for developers. According to Tiga’s research, almost three-quarters of games firms think their costs are likely to rise this year, and 40% say prices for their customers may also increase – possible backlashes from Brexit. But many gave positive predictions for profit, with 64% of UK games firms saying they expect their profits to rise in 2017.

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