Scots video game industry ‘could be bigger than oil’

Chris van der Kuyle described Grand Theft Auto as 'bigger than the whole of the recorded music industry combined'. Picture: Contributed

Chris van der Kuyle described Grand Theft Auto as 'bigger than the whole of the recorded music industry combined'. Picture: Contributed

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THE opportunity afforded by Scotland’s video game industry could make North Sea oil “look like a drop in the ocean”, according to a leading entrepreneur.

Chris van der Kuyl, director of Scotland-based game developers 4J Studios, told MPs it is time to “get serious” about the industry or lose out.

Grand Theft Auto originated in Dundee and is one of the most popular video games on the market. Picture: Jane Barlow

Grand Theft Auto originated in Dundee and is one of the most popular video games on the market. Picture: Jane Barlow

He was speaking to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, which was in Dundee to hear evidence on the creative industries in Scotland.

Mr van der Kuyl told the committee that the game Grand Theft Auto, which originated in Dundee, is “bigger than the whole of the recorded music industry combined”.

He said: “This is the biggest entertainment industry in the world and Scotland actually has a serious foot in the door and we don’t treat it that way.

“We’ll talk about our TV industry and our film industry - our film industry is nothing in terms of relative scale to our games industry yet I don’t think we appreciate the resource that we have nor give it the focus that it deserves.”

If I were to be asked to compare [the Scottish video games industry] to the opportunity of North Sea oil, I would say it will make North Sea oil look like a drop in the ocean

Chris van der Kuyl

He told MPs that emerging markets such as virtual and augmented reality could offer potential annual growth of hundreds of per cent.

“Especially for a country like Scotland, who really have nibbled round the edges and done very well, the opportunity is huge.

“If I were to be asked to compare it to the opportunity of North Sea oil, I would say it will make North Sea oil look like a drop in the ocean.

“This is the ocean we are playing for this time. We’re just trying to hold a tiger by the tail.

“If there was ever a time to get serious about this industry now is it. If we let this opportunity pass by others will take it and Scotland will languish, but we shouldn’t and I think we are brilliantly positioned to be successful.”

Mr van der Kuyl said an “enlightened immigration policy” was essential in order to attract the best international talent to Scotland.

He also called for a real focus from public sector agencies such as Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise on championing the industry.

“Either we decide that this is such a focus that we’re going to get a games champion and put them into a position of strength, of being able to pull in the right agencies, come up with strategies, implement quickly and have real teeth to do that, or don’t.

“Just be reactive generic agencies that will all come knocking if we so feel like it.

“But the bit in the middle where we pretend to do it, I think it’s a waste of everybody’s time and money.”

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