The United Kingdom’s scheduled withdrawal from the European Union (EU) in March 2019, known as Brexit, will be “terrible” for the country’s multi-billion pound video game industry, according to a new pro-EU activist organization.
Games4EU’s mission is to inform people about the potential damage the more severe Brexit scenarios might have on the UK video games industry and, ideally, help halt the process altogether.
Games4EU Limited was incorporated as a non-profit in late July 2018, but the campaign was officially launched just over two weeks ago. Games4EU co-founder Tracey McGarrigan said the movement she started alongside digital entertainment lawyer, Jas Purewal, and content marketer George Osborn already numbered over 2,000 supporters.
According to McGarrigan, Games4EU is sustained by nearly 200 volunteers and has industry heavyweights like the Games Workshop co-founder Sir Ian Livingstone on its advisory board.
We’re excited to announce the launch of Games4EU – the UK video games industry’s fight to stay in the European Union. Sign up today and help us fight Brexit while there’s still time! https://t.co/tKgn6kePc1
McGarrigan told WikiTribune, “We want to fight against what’s coming, because there’s no information, and the information we have all indicates that this is going to be terrible for our industry.”
She added, “Games4EU was born out of that desire to get like-minded people together, to engage people in the conversation and to educate people about what we believe Brexit will do to our industry.”
McGarrigan said industry professionals are worried a no-deal or hard Brexit will severely impact the industry by raising business costs, limiting access to funding, and prompting job loss. Increased hiring costs for EU nationals, loss of access to EU funding and the Digital Single Market are some of the industry’s main concerns, she said.
Fifty-seven percent of UK games businesses employ EU workers, who on average make up 34 percent of these companies’ employees, according to a March 2017 UKIE Brexit report.
Multi-billion pound industry faces Brexit disruption
According to UKIE, the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry sole trade body, the UK video games industry market value in 2017 was £5.11 billion ($6.59 billion),. This made it the fifth largest market in the world in terms of consumer revenues after China, the U.S., Japan and Germany. An estimated 32.4 million people in the UK play games.
There are currently over 2,200 games companies in the UK, according to interactive tracker GamesMap.uk, with the highest concentration to be found in London. In 2013 – the latest available figures WikiTribune was able to find – the UK video games industry directly supported some 12,100 full-time workers, according to the British Film Institute’s February 2015 Economic Impact Report. That figure increased to 23,900 if multiplier and spillover effects were taken into account. The industry also generated £1.4 billion in GVA and contributed £429 million to the nation’s coffers.
In a March 2017 report analyzing the threats and opportunities that Brexit posed to the UK video games industry, UKIE found that companies’ main priorities were ensuring continued access to EU talent, retaining current trade arrangements through “membership of the European single market”, protecting cross-border data flows, and reforming UK public funding structures to replace “restrictive and outdated criteria” for EU funding.
UKIE found that most companies predicted growth for 2017, but that over a third – particularly smaller ones – reported a negative impact in their ability to attract investment and talent since the referendum in June 2016.
When WikiTribune spoke with UKIE CEO Jo Twist in February 2018, she said her organization was waiting on a number of policy papers setting out the government’s position on key issues to be published.
“I think that the UK government gets it, but it’s not… there is a little bit of frustration, in the country about how negotiations are going,” said Twist. “I’m not overly concerned because I think that they have understood that people drive the economy.”
Last week, the UK government published 25 technical notices covering “no deal” scenarios for a number of business sectors. In response, UKIE issued a press release urging the need for certainty on talent and data, saying the industry was still “somewhat in the dark”.
In a separate statement, Twist told WikiTribune: “Uncertainty caused by Brexit is already impacting industry confidence and whilst Government clearly understands what needs to be done in terms of a deal, we are keen to see more progress towards achieving one. Games4EU is yet further evidence, if it were needed, that confidence in the Government to secure a good deal is lacking.”
Brexit negotiations have “been baffling to watch”
Some in the gaming industry are more vocal in their criticism of the government. Rhodri Broadbent, founder of Cardiff-based independent games studio Dakko Dakko, echoed many of the concerns outlined in UKIE’s reports. Although he doesn’t believe the UK will leave the EU without a deal, he is worried about any deal that takes Britain out of the single market and threatens freedom of movement.
The added paperwork and associated costs would mean “a sea change in how we’re able to hire people from across Europe,” he told WikiTribune. “Anything that reduces that [hiring] seamlessness will put us at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of Europe, who can continue to have access to all that skillset.”
As a small business owner, he said May’s government wasn’t representing his interests. “I really think their whole rejection of evidence-based policy in this regard is very damaging to us and it’s made us even reconsider staying in the UK.”