Scots gaming firms seek lotto cash to ‘lead world’

The industry in Scotland is best-known for Rockstar North's bestselling Grand Theft Auto series and 4J Studio's console versions of Minecraft. Picture: Jane Barlow
The industry in Scotland is best-known for Rockstar North's bestselling Grand Theft Auto series and 4J Studio's console versions of Minecraft. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCOTTISH video game dev­elopers could leapfrog their global rivals and become a “world-beating” industry if they are able to access National Lottery funding, according to the sector’s trade body.

Richard Wilson, chief executive officer of trade body Tiga, said there is nothing to stop other companies producing bestselling titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series if they are given improved access to fin­ancing.

Although the industry is reg­arded as one of Scotland’s modern success stories, the trade association stressed that up-and-coming firms would be able to grow and retain creative control if a Lottery funding scheme is rolled out.

The British film industry invests more than £26 million of Lottery funds each year to support film development and production, and Tiga believes that having a similar scheme would ultimately benefit the entire Scottish economy.

Its call for a shake-up in the way the funds are distributed comes after Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee recommended that the UK government introduce a Lottery distributor for the video games industry. It has asked the government to consult with the industry over the coming months and respond to its points.

Under Tiga’s proposals, a pot of around £5m would be made available, either through Lottery funding and grant in aid, with developers able to access up to £200,000 on a pound for pound, match funding basis.

Wilson explained: “The main issue facing developers is access to finance. The vast maj­ority of developers in Scotland are small companies and they might be looking for capital from publishers or third party investors.

“One of the reasons a developer loses control of their intellectual property is because they have to give away equity and control of the firm and, effectively, the game they’re making.

“But if money is available through this creative content fund it would increase the bargaining power for developers. They’d not only be able to access finance but be able to keep control of their products. The standing of the overall industry would be significantly enhanced.”

The industry in Scotland, best-known for Rockstar North’s bestselling Grand Theft Auto series and 4J Studio’s console versions of Minecraft, contributed almost £108m to the GDP in 2014, an increase of £9m on the previous 12 months.

But Wilson believes Lottery funding would help the industry flourish further, pointing to a Finnish government-backed scheme which has provided nearly £50m in finance to developers.

“The Finnish model has helped establish world-beating companies and there’s no reason the same can’t happen here,” Wilson added.

A spokeswoman for the Dep­artment of Culture Media & Sport, which launched a £4m prototype fund last October to help boost the UK’s video game industry, said: “The creative industries in Scotland and right across the UK make a huge contribution to our culture and economy. We will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government to support this important sector.”