Report – Panel 2, State of Play: Games Up North!

Posted on: Thursday 16 November 2017 4:49pm

This session discussed how programmers, animators, artists and musicians are coming together to once again create world class games in the North


  • 2016: Global spend was £100bn on games industry in UK.
  • Manchester is the biggest city outside of London for game developers. The North has a strong heritage in making games and is a hub of world class creative talent.
  • UK universities need to offer specific courses – there are very specific skill-set shortages. Marketing skills should be built into courses so graduates know how to make money.
  • Analytics systems are vital in order to make money from game developing.
  • Visibility and exposure of games as well as putting the right tools in the right hands will see gains in the industry.


The panel
Stephen Hey, Director, HeyStephenHey (moderator)
Dominic Hood, Head of Art, Sumo Digital
Bradley Harris, CEO Silo Black Games
Nick Clarkson, PR & Marketing, Merge Games

The panel discussed the following areas:

What’s so special about the North?

Dominic: There is a short gap between small and large companies so the community is strong and you’re always mixing. There are excellent meet-up opportunities which allows students and game makers to meet up with people they could work with in the future.

Bradley: There is greater growth in start-ups with new ideas. A lot of that is due to shared technology.

Nick: Education in the North is excellent and people are challenged to build teams and make projects. Rental prices are significantly cheaper.

Caoimhe: There are excellent meet-up opportunities which allows students and game makers to meet up with people they could work with in the future.

What’s holding us back as game developers in the UK?

Bradley: Education is good in the UK but European countries have courses that are aimed specifically at the market. Aesthetic ability is missing since UK courses are far more open now. There are very specific skill-set shortages.

Nick: From academia to the working world there is a grey area. To make money, people need help. Commitment and passion get you a long way and to improve from failure is fundamental.

Caoimhe: Building and maintaining your network around you is key. Learning people-skills and how to take criticism is vital. University students are difficult to convince regarding what a consumer would want rather than what they want to make themselves.

Dominic: We found funding hard. We straddled this grey area where some studios make small games, and others are huge – you’re either one or the other. We have found that apps allow you to make your own game so there’s the tech available and it has saturated the market. Analytics systems are so important to seeing opportunities within games to make money.

What can the government do?

Bradley: Our industry is global now, our teams work anywhere. It’s difficult to get a tax break.

Nick: There are so many barriers to market. Help with getting tools into hands of talent would help. Tools are what make the difference.

Dominic: We need to re-engage with the console player. People who make mobile games want to move into console games. There’s huge amount of content being created each week but you need the visibility.

Bradley: Getting an idea up and running as quickly as possible is very important.

Where are we going in the future?

Nick: Online is getting faster and faster. VR is definitely the future. Once the wires disappear and the price comes down you’ll find yourself in different parts of the world, together.

Caoimhe: I think the future is girls. I’m a lecturer in this field and the number of girls is increasing and they are owning it.

Dominic: I see the future of games as blurring between a phone and console.


By Kelly Beckett

Manimation Blog animation animation industry games North The North Virtual Reality VR