Industry insight: The impact of Brexit on the UK’s gaming industry
Dr. Jo Twist, OBE, CEO of UKIE, the trade body for the UK gaming industry, takes an optimistic outlook, “as an industry, we’ve been retaining a positive attitude. The key message for now is ‘business as usual’, but the biggest post
–Brexit issue is access to talent.”
She continues, “we’re an industry with a broad spectrum of innovative, diverse talent, with an amazing creative heritage, spanning games, video, film, television . . . Part of this comes from our geographical position in the UK – it’s a productive ecosystem to be a part of.”
Attracting and retaining talent
The UK’s departure from the EU is seen as an opportunity to redefine the immigration laws to position the country as home to the best technological and creative international talent. Indeed, Dr. Twist is adamant that, “the UK needs to remain competitive in the talent it attracts and continue to be a leading destination in digital.”
In the near term, “the most important element that needs to be addressed is providing assurances for EU employees and making them feel welcome after building a life here,” states Dr. Twist, “and resolving this issue would really boost optimism in the sector.” At the same time, she also notes the need to keep an eye on how the UK can encourage home-grown talent.
Gaming is a fast-moving, tech-forward sector. Businesses become global exporters almost straightaway, thanks to the digital economy and innovative distribution models that already exist in the industry. As a result, Dr. Twist thinks that “it is vital that games businesses retain the ease of trade for digital services and physical goods that they currently enjoy through membership of the European single market.”
Future trading relationships with both the EU and new international partners should seek to enshrine the existing trade liberalisation the games industry currently enjoys.
International trade and emerging markets
UKIE is seeking international trade progress in three markets in particular:
– North America (particularly the USA)
– China (which is viewing the UK with great interest)
– South Korea
In the coming years, UKIE also expects India and South and Central America to play a greater role. However, it also depends on the platform chosen – some companies are taking a closer look at Eastern Europe, for example.
What should be the focus of Brexit negotiations?
“My advice to trade negotiators is that there needs to be a pool of global talent – bringing together different experiences and techniques,” states Dr. Twist. She also believes they need to address non-tariff based barriers to trade and create a friction-free, low cost immigration system that is fit for purpose and for the digital economy. As Dr. Twist describes, “this requires a free flow of data across industries, but we must also look forward and future-proof wherever possible.”
Indeed, non-tariff barriers to trade may present more of a threat to UK games businesses than financial tariffs.
A weaker Pound means online access is cheaper; for example, games available on Steam. It also makes computer games, which are mainly imported, more expensive, contributing to inflation. Also, marketing and acquisitions become more expensive outside the UK. Dr. Twist continues, “crucial in navigating this is to plan ahead, being mindful of currency volatility, and the ever-changing markets, and protecting against the risks. We actually work with Halo Financial on our currency strategy and it has saved us a lot of money – it’s no exaggeration to say that this has made a huge difference to our business.”
Dr. Jo Twist OBE, CEO, UKIE
Dr. Jo Twist, OBE, has been CEO of UKIE since 2012. Before that, she was Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Education. A London Tech Ambassador, she is a VP of Special Effect and on various boards and advisory groups, including the BAFTA Games Committee.
UKIE aims to make the UK the best place to develop and publish games and interactive entertainment, supporting, growing and promoting the UK games industry.