With Or Without EU: How U.K. Mobile Game Devs Are Facing Up to Brexit
Insights & Best Practices
August 11, 2016
It was the vote few thought would happen, delivering a result none thought possible. Yet, the U.K. outside of the EU is set to become a reality and the shockwaves Brexit has triggered, both politically and economically, have already been felt across the globe.For the U.K.'s mobile gaming industry?most of which came out in support of the EU in the weeks leading up to the referendum?the next few years will be dominated by a feeling of uncertainty, as the U.K.'s legal and political association with the EU will be fundamentally altered.[caption id="attachment_20506" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]
Image via Garry Knight[/caption]
The fear that funding for the mobile gaming industry will suffer after the U.K. leaves the EU is on the mind of many a British dev. ?I've been massively concerned about grant funding," says Gregorios Kythreotis, a game designer at the London indie studio Shedworks Digital.Though much of the funding available for games development and the arts in general is delivered via various organizations sanctioned by British government, often the money itself comes from the EU, thanks largely to the European Commission's penchant for cultural development. The concern is, without that drive from Europe to fund the arts, the Government may be forced to cut back such funding when times are hard.?We have directly benefited from a number of business and cultural tax schemes spearheaded by the EU and its liberal, cultural agenda,? says Steve Stopps, founder and CEO of publishing studio Kumotion. ?I worry the current U.K. government won't place the same importance on the arts and creative industries. I think we will see a reduction in more experimental games making and a larger focus on making games that are developed towards already established market trends."
So, if the general perception is life in the U.K. is going to get harder for developers, especially of the smaller variety, might we see an exodus of talent to Europe and North America and beyond??I already have one industry friend who is probably moving to Canada soon, and it's something I've thought about as well," says Kyle Rodgers, the talent behind one-man studio Helix Fox. ?If Scotland was to gain its independence, I'd move to Edinburgh in a heartbeat to get in on that and get back in the EU. I have to imagine the number of people making games in the U.K. will decrease, and it'll become a bit harder for studios to find people to hire."More broadly speaking, for businesses working within a supposedly progressive industry, the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU speaks volumes about where Britain sees itself in 2016. For Catalin Alexandru?the Romanian-born CEO at independent game studio Spicy Thunder Games Ltd and long-time resident of London?it's a worrying statement of intent.?A large part of why I came to the U.K. from Romania in 2010 was to leave behind the sadly prevalent reactionary and regressive attitudes of a society I felt no longer fit me and embrace one that I admired," Alexandru says. ?[After the referendum result], I genuinely thought I'd have to wind up the company and move it somewhere else. I haven't, mostly because I have an attachment to the U.K.?a lot of my clients are British, too, and having a U.K. company makes it easier to work with them."
Eye on investment
Despite these concerns, is there any glimmer of hope U.K.-based studios can grab hold of in the coming months? ?Ironically enough though, the short-term is the most outwardly disastrous for most other industries,? Alexandru says. ?It's also given U.K. game companies who bill in foreign currency a boost. Suddenly they're getting a lot more pounds for their dollars.?Looking beyond the immediate, however, Alexandru sees problems. Across all industries, investors have seemed hesitant to pump their money into the British economy ahead of the EU referendum. With Brexit now a reality, things could stall even further as the negotiations for the U.K.'s withdrawal kick off, with a two-year time limit.?Longer term? VC investment in games was already hard to come by, and it's probably next to impossible now," Alexandru concludes. "Whatever new tech boom, whether VR, AR or geolocation, comes along the U.K. game industry will probably be in a worse position to take advantage of it. But, who knows? Maybe a year from now we'll all be laughing about it in London over a drink."