• Arch Creatives host UKIE event
  • Speakers included IBM Softlayer, Altara Games, Press Space, Pollen and Unity.
  • Panel included Playground Games, Pixel Toys & You42
  • VR is predicted to be niche in 2016 but could be profitable for some early entries
  • UKIEs message – there is funding and grants and you can benefit from them
  • Pizza was a good decision, providing a familiar feeling we were all in crunch.

 

This week it feels like spring is on its way  here in Warwickshire, England.  Living close by to the gaming development cluster known affectionately as the ‘Silicon Spa’, Leamington this evening played host to a UKIE event for game developers in the region.

The venue for the get together was none other than the sizzling incubator ‘Arch Creatives’, the brain child of Steve Stopps, Ollie Clarke and Dan Walters, indie developers acting out their dream of building their own games under their own rules.

This was my first get together at the Arches which involved a schedule of speakers and networking, Sam Collins of UKIE hosted the evening and welcomed the visitors.  The guest speakers provided some entertaining and valuable thoughts around the current thinking in games development, the future prospects and some insights into the success of Leamington as a games development cluster (in the top 12 of ~1900 companies in the UK).

We were first treated to insights from Martin Macmillan of Pollen VC.  I first met Martin at Pocket Gamer in 2014 and it appears the business of app store revenue investment is going well.  Pollen provide a service which re-invests revenues quickly into user acquisition instead of waiting the 60 or more days for the platform holder to release them.

Ella Romanos of Altara Games provided her thoughts on UK Game Funding and Tax rebates.  Altar Games can provide a loan against rebates which will help developers with interim funding during those tricky periods prior to launch.  Ella is also a member of UKIE board and runs two development studios.  You can apply for support at http://www.bfi.org.uk

The role of communities around games is something of a vague topic to most developers; focussing on the constructions of a game can lead to neglecting those that could be insuring what you are constructing will succeed and even help with its marketing.  Natalie Griffith of Press Space provided a useful talk on her top 10 rules for communicating with your users and fostering a valuable community; in a nut shell she boils it down to a cycle of communicate, listen and act.

Richard Pilot was next up from IBM.  Richard provided an entertaining talk on the value of cloud gaming and server options – the neglect of which, he outlined, forms the majority of complaints from gamers when you look at historical cases, he cited SIM CITY and the recent Street Fighter amongst others which left gamers angry and frustrated at ‘server down’ messages at launch which were due to poorly balanced and/or planned server scaling; top tip – don’t try and plan your server needs, you will probably get it wrong, use a scalable server system instead…Softlayer I guess?

“When I met the Darlings, they were in Somerset and they wanted to move location as there was ‘nothing there’, they stuck a pin in the centre of the UK and moved to Southam…”


 

Our last speaker was Cathy Yates of that little engine company…whats it called again?  Oh yeah – Unity.  Cathy explained that the Unity web site offers a profile page for developers and game projects and can usually expect around 68k visitors a week so well worth tapping into that network; you can post updates, share ideas etc.  And she shared pictures of her cats, one was called Chains and the other had a regular cute name, but I can’t remember it; funny that.

For the grand finale, before networking pizza and drinks, we were entertained by three local gents of the development persuasion; Andy Wafer of Pixel Toys, Trevor Williams of Playground Games and Ed Blincoe from You42 Games.  The panel provided some laughs and gave their generous opinions on the subjects of startup strategies and VR.  Trevor shook his head in abject dismissal of the platform, “…its not really our business right now…” and Ed provided a fairly direct summary “its a niche market, if I had 5 or 10 million riding on it right now, I would be worried, I think its a few years off yet…” – fair enough, I think there was one VR developer in the room…he seemed to grumble a bit.

Asked why Leamington has been such a success with games development the panel all concurred “…Codemasters has been a huge employer for developers in the region and without its success I don’t think we would all be here…” indeed Andrew Oliver added, “When I met the Darlings, they were in Somerset and they wanted to move location as there was ‘nothing there’, they stuck a pin in the centre of the UK and moved to Southam…”.

Asked how many attendees had either worked at Codemasters or the former competitor Blitz, a great majority of the attendees raised their hands.  Sam noted that some 75% of creative companies in Leamington are games developers.

A great event and warm, welcoming venue, if you are a developer in the region and would like to meet others I recommend keeping an eye out for future get togethers at the Arches.

Further reading

http://ukie.org.uk/event/2016/02/23/growing-your-games-business-leamington-spa

http://invest.warwickshire.gov.uk/business-sectors/ict-information-communications-technology/silicon-spa/