Gaming is the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s tech sector, boasting a legacy that stretches back to the birth of the ZX Spectrum home computing market, through the Lemmings game which ignited the developer boom, to Grand Theft Auto which defined the era of the larger-than-movies mega game.
But more can be done.
Despite this massive success the sector hasn’t enjoyed as much national PR and organized industry support as it might, there is still much more room for growth. The role of this Roadmap is to act as an accelerating catalyst and structure for achieving that growth.
There is also the potential for the industry to help tackle other digital nation challenges, notably the dismal rates of Computer Science adoption. Growing niche sectors like Scottish Esports can cross-pollinate efforts to attract more students into learning the skills essential to Scotland’s digital future.
In this STV News special they highlight just one dimension of the sector, sharing the story of Jade MacIntyre who is developing a career as a game streamer.
Jade broadcasts to more than 20k followers of her Facebook live streams playing Call of Duty.
It has proven more lucrative than the law degree she began and is personally much more rewarding for her too. Jade was urged into it by friends and was initially reluctant but decided to give it a go and her success brought sponsors and advertising revenues.
So this gives a small taste of the fact the gaming offers many different facets and career opportunities not just game programming.
Scotland’s Gaming Industry
From 3m:15s in the video STV move on to describing the gaming industry for Scotland. In the UK it’s now a sector worth £7 billion. Dundee boasts more than 40 companies with thousands of employees, and has plans to open a 4,000 seat capacity Esports arena.
They interview the team at Dundee and Angus College to highlight how the sector acts as a magnet and enabler for students to enter the industry. One very interesting career journey they share is of Lucas Blakeley, who began in motor racing but had to give it up due to costs who then found success as a virtual F1 Esports racer, and that success enabled him to return to real-world racing.
Scottish Enterprise provides industry support for Scotland’s digital sectors, and here provides an overview of the cluster.
The Scottish Games Network reports that Scotland’s industry grew 26% between April 2020 and December 2021, keeping Scotland’s position as the UK’s fourth largest games cluster, following London, the South East and the North West. There are over 2,000 creative staff working on games development in 147 companies, generating over £350 million for Scotland’s economy.
Playing to Win
To the point of our innovation roadmap there are also challenges and much more room for growth, indeed given the success of the sector thus far and the ever-expanding global market, it’s a strategic priority for our whole economy to do so.
The founder of the Scottish Games Network Brian Baglow talks with the Herald’s Neil Mackay in this interview, providing a detailed summary of just how successful the sector has been but yet coverage is very low key – Scotland should be doing far more to shout about it.
The article cites the report ‘Playing to Win‘ published by Our Scottish Future, which warns Scotland’s gaming sector now risks being left behind as American, Chinese and Japanese giants dominate the market, and proposes the development of a UK-wide network to leverage economies of scale.
“The National Strategy for Economic Transformation launched earlier this year in Dundee. It does not grasp the potential for greater cooperation with the rest of the UK.
Nor has Westminster woken up to the value of combining Scottish expertise with industry across the country.”
The report offers a first blueprint that can act as an Action Plan for Scotland’s gaming sector, with a number of recommendations to draw out and act on.
Collaboration Network – Building Scotland’s Games Ecosystem
The central theme of building a collaboration network is one that can be pursued with immediate impact.
As Brian Baglow comments to Digit he already leads such work to great effect, and academics at Stirling and Glasgow Universities teamed up on research to help create more successful companies that can compete on a global basis, producing this report.
This research offers another knowledge asset to build an action plan around, providing a number of critical insights that can be acted on:
- Companies are geographically scattered – No games hub.
- Highly competitive sector.
- Difficulty connecting with potential clients, especially internationally.
- Difficulty recruiting talent: a skills gap and an access issue, locally and internationally.
- Little collaboration between academia and games.
- Lack of funding for joint projects.
- Weak entrepreneurial culture and mindset – Game Makers do not identify as entrepreneurs.
- Weak networks among the game maker community – Weak networks between game makers and other key actors.
- The sector is not well understood, which undermines the quality of support – Key support needs around the commercial side of running a company.
- Lack of role models to inspire future generations. Lack of mentors to provide guidance.
- There is nobody leading the industry (!)
Clearly Scotland’s opportunity is simply one of execution: These are all challenges easily addressed through the resources we have to hand.
The global market is vast in size while our small country punches far above it’s weight in both legacy and sector capability, meaning it’s not a challenge of building from scratch but rather of more and better joining of dots to yield a further boost for an already supercharged industry.
The report offers the headline theme and objective of the action plan: Building Scotland’s Games Ecosystem.