Scotland’s small but high-profile games industry employs a mere 200 people and contributes almost nothing to its economy, a widely-criticised report from Government agencies Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise has concluded.
The games industry figures outlined in a wider study of the Scottish arts and creative industries (A&CI) are couched with plenty of qualifications that might explain the extraordinarily small amount of economic activity attributed to what is usually seen as a notable sector.
Some of these look minor. The actual ‘gross value add’ could in fact be slightly more than nothing; the survey didn’t record activity under £10 million so the zero number comes with a rounding uncertainty.
More significantly, an unknown volume of games-related economic activity might lie hidden within a separate sector, ‘Software and Electronic Publishing’, while some games development may be classified by parent companies whose primary business is not games.
Software and Electronic publishing is reckoned by the authors to employ 19,100 people and to have a value to the economy of £940 million, making it the largest of the business sectors looked at in the report.
So if the figures are inaccurate, how big is the Scottish games sector?
Critics – and there seem to be plenty of them - have slated the report for publishing a figure that appears by its own admission to risk inaccuracy.
According to the UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) Association, the games industry in Scotland employs around 500 professionals in 110 businesses generating at least £40 million of added value.
“Scottish studio output has generated over £1billion in revenues over the last 5 years alone,” the Association said. “Clearly the Industry has value.”
“In light of the anomalous report, UKIE has also called for better gathering and analysis of statistics for the entire UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry.”
Games industry body TIGA agreed, telling the BBC:
"While the data in the Creative Scotland report was compiled across all of Scotland's Arts and Creative Industries and the anomalous information explained by the absorption of companies into other categories in the survey, TIGA believes the results do not reflect the true value of the games industry in Scotland," commented TIGA CEO, Dr Richard Wilson.
Others had sharper words.
“This report is a clear snub by the Scottish Government to the computer games industry in Scotland,” said Labour MP Jenny Marra, whose Dundee constituency is associated with the cottage games development industry that turned out famous titles including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
“It should be ripped up and started again. It grossly underestimates the value of our games sector,” she thundered.
Only last week, the Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced grants to seven games companies to help with marketing as part of a European Regional Development Fund initiative.
Elsewhere in the report, the Scottish creative industries appear to be doing fairly well, employing almost 130,000 people directly and indirectly and generating a gross value add of £6.3 billion. Behind London – which accounts for half of all employment in UK creative industries - Scotland sits in fourth position in the UK with 12,000 creative businesses.