What does the future hold for the “Hollywood of the British games industry”?
Guildford is a place close to Moov2’s heart. Not only is it a little over an hours drive away from the office, it’s also home to a thriving games industry community.
There are over 30 game developers based in the area - according to UKIE and Nesta’s games map – with companies like Criterion, Hello Games and Supermassive Games calling the town home.
But what does the future hold for the cluster? And how can its growth be supported?
Our head honcho Dan Thomas joined a panel at the G3 Futures Annual Conference - featuring industry legend Peter Molyneux of 22 Cans, Ben Ward of Rocket Desk and Jon Weinbren of the University of Surrey – to try to provide answers.
Co-working and community – Guildford’s strengths
The first thing the panel discussed were the strengths of Guildford as a games industry cluster.
They agreed that the biggest plus point for the area was the depth of industry knowledge and contacts. The fact that the town is home to dozens of games companies and plenty of supporting services means there is no shortage of expertise to tap into.
Equally though, the panel also agreed that a big strength of the Guildford games industry is how easy it is to get that expert advice. A proliferation of co-working spaces (in particular the excellent Rocketdesk), an active industry community and the presence of regular events in the social calendar helps spread that knowledge further: increasing its value to the area.
This is particularly helpful for businesses starting off. With plenty of companies having already spun out of EA’s office in the region, such as the hit local indie developer Fireproof Studios, there are plenty of potential experts or mentors out there willing to share advice. Independent developers who are just starting out, but who are humble enough to ask for help, will find plenty of assistance in the area.
Increasing Guildford’s profile
However, despite the inherent strengths of the area, the panel did feel that more could be done to sell Guildford’s value as an industry hub.
While the G3 conference page describes the town very kindly as “the Hollywood of the British games industry”, it certainly lacks something in comparison to its LA counterpart (aside from the weather, that is). There was a shared sentiment that efforts need to be made to ensure the area maintains it's game development renown.
In particular, there was a feeling that Guildford’s status as a games hub could be supported with the help of a centrepiece event for the area. Similar efforts in Manchester, Yorkshire and Dundee have helped celebrate the efforts of local developers – raising their profile along the way.
Furthermore, the panellists believed that an event like this, supported by Guildford Games and working in tandem with local studios, could attract the attentions of investment from both locally and further afield. This would increase the profile of the event and the region, attracting potential investment and media interest along the way.
The pathway to growth
So what comes next for Guildford? Well according to people in the know (Dan, mostly) there are discussions about running a Guildford Gaming Festival in 2018 to provide the region with that showpiece event.
Although it remains an apple in the area’s eye at the moment, the outreach process has already begun and the hunt for partners is on the way. If they can be secured nice and early, with plenty of time to promote the festival ahead of its debut, there is generally a feeling that it could prove to be a bit of a hit.
But more than just being a fabulous event, the hope is that it becomes a rallying point for the area as a whole. Guildford has been a proud participant in the growth and success of the British games industry; the hope is that it can build on that role even more in the coming years.