spotlight on West midlands games industry
(Above: Leamington-based Playground Games, maker of the Forza Horizon franchise. Image: BOP/Ukie/CWLEP report)
There are more than 50 active games companies in Coventry & Warwickshire (of which two-thirds are in and around Leamington, and one-third in Coventry) and a further 80 in the remainder of the WMCA area.
Responses to a online survey of companies, conducted by BOP Consulting, Ukie and Coventry & Warwickshire LEP, in the cluster confirm that a high proportion of companies in Leamington are high-growth (hitting £1m turnover within 3 years of trading, and growing at 20%+ per annum) with a significant minority turning over more than £5m.
There is a core of medium sized companies (between 50 and 500 employees) that ‘anchor’ the cluster: Codemasters, Exient, Ubisoft Leamington (previously Freestyle Games), Playground Games and Radiant Worlds.
This spread of larger companies underpins the employment opportunity for games professionals in the sub-region: there is a very high likelihood that one or more of those companies will be ‘gearing up’ for a new game at any time, smoothing out the ‘peaks and troughs’ of a hit-based business that can affect less wellestablished clusters, or those dependent on a single large company.
The rate of company formation in Silicon Spa is high – 50% of active businesses in the cluster have been established since 2012, and two-thirds since 2010.
Many founders can trace their games industry lineage back 20 or more years to larger firms such as Codemasters and Blitz Games.
In addition to recent inward investment successes – notably the acquisition by Ubisoft of Freestyle Games – there are examples of other mergers and acquisitions, with investors and larger firms growing by acquiring IP and successful development teams.
Both FDI and M&A are measures of success for the cluster, and indicate continuing industry confidence in the ability and capacity of the local talent pool to build new teams to create success original IP in content and games technology.
The report estimates that at any one time there are between 2,000 and 2,500 full time employees in 50+ companies in CWLEP, and in the region of 3,000- 3,500 across the West Midlands.
The Ukie/Nesta UK games map reflects the fact that official statistics capture only around 60% of games companies; so we would expect the ‘official’ record of 700 employees in CWLEP and 1,100 in the West Midlands region in 2015 to be a serious underestimate of actual jobs.
As an indicator of growth trends, it is notable that those figures have increased since 2010 from 200 in CWLEP and 700 in the West Midlands – increases of 214% and 66% respectively. This reflects our evidence that more than half of active games companies in CWLEP were formed since 2010 and that those firms larger than the UK average for the sector.
The online survey, which reports consistently high use of contractors across the cluster, supports the idea that games businesses in the South Warwickshire area can draw upon an additional pool of skilled freelance games professionals of between 500 and 1,000 people, depending on cycles of games development, at any one time. The talent pool includes a range of skills from art direction, to animation, to programming. Companies regularly augment their own teams with a supply chain of smaller developers willing to do ‘work for hire’ on other companies’.
Extracted from Games Industry in Coventry and Warwickshire: A Blueprint for Growth with permission.