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UK Gaming industry becomes top employer following pandemic

The sector’s employment rate grew by 20% in 2020 and will triple by 2025

Joanna England
|Nov 12|magazine9 min read

The gaming industry is swiftly becoming one of the UK's biggest employment sectors, with gaming staff contributing an average £80,000 each to the economy - double the national average - new figures suggest.

Gaming has seen significant overall growth in recent years, with the Independent Games Developers' Association (TIGA) revealing that the industry is now generating tax revenues of £907mn annually while gaming has contributed £2.2bn to the UK ‘s GDP in 2020.

Data provider Vancysoft – Gaming: Perfect Play For Growth, teamed up with the global recruiter, Robert Walters to conduct a study on employment figures in the gaming industry. Data shows the market expanded in the past five years, and currently employs 47,000 people.

Game sales also jumped by 218% during the four-month lockdown period from March to July, setting a new trend in ‘afterwork’ gaming.

Commenting on the data, Tom Chambers, Senior Manager Technology at Robert Walters, said; “With the average contribution per employee of the gaming sector sitting at £80,000 – double the national average and the most productive of all the creative industries in the nation – there is no industry quite like Gaming that is able to evidence its high potential in helping to uphold the UK economy as we navigate out of the pandemic.”

Maturing industry

According to the report, the gaming industry is entering a period of maturity. This is reflected by the increased recruitment drives in sales and marketing. In 2019, the sector recruited 25% more staff in these areas compared to 2018. This is in sharp contrast in previous years, where IT has been the largest area of recruitment. 

The figures suggest the gaming industry is seeking to further monetise products. IT hires have fallen to 68% of previous levels, while business supporting roles have increased.

Thomas Shibley, Global Head of Player Support at Wildlife Studios, explained; “The UK and Ireland are uniquely placed in that they have the golden combination of some the best and most advanced tech talent in the world, as well as long-established and best practice methods in product marketing and sales.  

Shibley added, “Whilst currently other countries such as China and USA dominate in the Gaming sector, the UK and Ireland have created the ideal breeding ground for new entrants and established games studios to flourish. As the uptake of Gaming becomes increasingly more mass market, the industry will continue to grow at an exponential rate, further driving the hiring agenda.”

UK gaming hubs

The report also revealed that the nation-wide contributions of the gaming sector are considerably more widespread than other creative industries. Just 28% of gaming industry jobs are in London – compared to more than 50% in the film industry, and there are now gaming hubs in more than 20 towns and cities across the UK.

Regional opportunities

In 2018, 36% of gaming jobs were London-based. But in 2020, that figure has fallen significantly, as 55% of development roles can now be found in hubs outside of London and the South East. 

Leading UK gaming hubs outside London, where the industry generates more than £60m in GVA for local economies, are situated in Newcastle, Scotland, Manchester, Slough, Leamington Spa, Crawley and Guildford.

In total, the report pinpointed 23 UK towns and cities that host more than 20 local micro-business game companies. These small operatives represent almost 14% of the industry total – employing 4,000 full-time roles and generating £339mn in GVA. 

James Perry, Associate Director of Technology (Regions) at Robert Walters, said; "Within the UK, the gaming sector is unlike most in that it is relatively location neutral. With the industry capitalising on regional resources, games companies are experiencing success on a global level.

He added; “Whilst other sectors are just waking up to the exceptional tech infrastructure and talent available in The Midlands and The North – games companies have been strategic in setting up their offices, ensuring that recruitment can happen nationwide and en masse.”

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