The electronic video game industry is now worth somewhere north of $90bn, and is expected to grow to $113 billion by 2018. The UK is at the forefront of this, producing some of the world’s most successful titles, including Grand Theft Auto V, the most successful worldwide entertainment product of all time, including movies, having grossed $1bn worldwide in just 3 days. The UK video games industry already generates in excess of £4.5m a day for the UK economy, and directly employs more than 19,000 people. However, despite their massive popularity, video games are still not recognized on the same level as other entertainment forms like movies and music, particularly by governments, and subsequently the industry does not receive the same sort of support or attention from investors.
Central to changing this mindset is digital data. There are in the region of 1.5 billion video game players in the world, and these are increasingly playing digital-only games. The plethora of digital retail platforms like Steam, Origin, Playstation Store and Xbox Live also make tracking sales easier than ever before. Every time a player logs on to a game, they are using code written to provide them with a particular experience, and their movements can be tracked from start to finish. Every movement, every bullet, every death is recorded, producing a virtual footprint that can be used to understand why people play games and how they play them, helping to greatly enhance in-game experiences.
Video game companies like Rockstar and EA are already using data to achieve these ends, but data is also being used by the games trade body Ukie to try and encourage more wide ranging reforms that can benefit the whole industry. In December last year, Ukie announced that they had reached agreements with a number of leading data companies to support games businesses with bespoke data on the digital games market in the UK.
Access to such data is an excellent tool to use when presenting to political decision makers, providing evidence that reinforces the potential of the market, and its importance to the UK. Not only does it encourage them to act, but it also helps highlight what MPs can do that would be most effective. CEO of Ukie, Dr Jo Twist, noted that: ‘Access to data is of the highest importance to the sector, as well as to Ukie as a trade body, so that we can act appropriately on behalf of the industry that we represent.’ Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData, one of the companies to partner with Ukie, added that ‘Getting a full picture of the market that includes categories like free-to-play MMOs and digital console, will be key to the UK industry’s domestic and international success.’
Recognition of how important video games are to the UK economy is already growing. In October of 2015, the government pledged £4 million to small video games companies over the next four years. The work of Ukie and their use of data is central to ensuring that this growth does not stagnate, and the UK gaming industry is helped to reach its full potential.