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By Jack Wentworth-Weedon on

Played globally, created locally: The Northern gaming powerhouse

Did you know lots of well-known videogames originate from the North of England? Read on for an exploration of our fantastic local games industry.

On 11 June 2020, PlayStation presented their ‘Future of Gaming’ event. Livestreamed around the world to 3.5 million people, it revealed their next generation console, along with a range of games coming to their new system. YouTube confirmed that it was the most-watched gaming live stream in their history, and by 15 June it had already surpassed 80 million combined views.

After the event, it was observed by the local gaming community that, for a global showcase, an astounding amount of the games on show originated from the North of England.

Of the 26 games revealed by Sony, three of them were made locally… That’s MORE THAN 10%! These included Sackboy: A Big Adventure created by Sheffield developer Sumo Digital, Destruction AllStars coming from Lucid Games in Liverpool, and Oddworld: Soulstorm created by Leeds based developer Fat Kraken. This isn’t some coincidence either; according to a 2020 report by the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) the games industry in the North East, North West and Yorkshire is worth an estimated £300 million across 375 different games companies which employ 2,600 full-time employees. Gaming also now accounts for more than half of the UK’s entire entertainment market, which is significant for an industry that is considerably less London-centric than film, music or television.

Also, we’d like to point out that this isn’t really a new thing… In York, adventure game creator Revolution Software found global success in 1990 with Beneath a Steel Sky and their Broken Sword series. Leeds-based Mobius Entertainment began developing a range of games in 1997 before being acquired in 2004 by Rockstar Games—creators of the Grand Theft Auto series—and continue to make games played by millions of gamers worldwide.

What we are seeing is a rise of super independent developers—employers of no more than 10 people—contributing to the industry in a big way. Ukie reported that companies of this scale make up 23% of the national gaming workforce who contribute £339 million (14%) to the industry total.

The individual input from game makers is staggering. Not only can many of these creators self-publish using digital marketplaces and completely control their content—full-time games employees contribute considerably more to the economy than the national average. Part of what makes individuals so impactful is the games community: networks of independent and institutional support both locally and nationally. Since gaming is both a hobby—arguably more so than, say, TV or film—and a career, games creators are often tied to the industry both professionally and personally, partnered with a freedom to create and an abundance of tools to do so. Many developers also really like this, and ‘indie’ development is a choice and not necessarily a stepping stone to a job in a ‘big’ games studio making AAA (big budget) games.

But what does all this mean? Well, aside from a fantastic impact on the local economy, it also means that you’re far more likely to be able to ‘shop locally’ for your entertainment than ever before. In fact, you’re likely to be able to find more than one game developer based in your city or town—23 towns and cities in the UK are each home to more than 20 registered games companies.

Visitors playing games at the museum as part of Northern Games Showcase

Each year we invite some of our favourite local developers to Yorkshire Games Festival as part of our Northern Games Showcase. You can see our online official selection for this year’s edition comprises some incredible and exciting games—including a few demos you can play for free!

Since the UK has the largest gaming sector in Europe, you might be already playing something that was created close to home. Why not check next time you’re playing Tomb Raider (1996), Gang Beasts, LittleBigPlanet 3, Hitman 2, Forza Horizon 4, Sniper Elite, Battletoads or even Worms—they may have been made (at least in part) by a company right on your doorstep…

This year’s Northern Games Showcase, part of Yorkshire Games Festival, is available online until 28 February 2021.

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