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Surveying Scotland's Games Industry - The Next Level

We Throw Switches games showcase at Parliamentary Reception

Morgan Petrie, Creative Industries Manager, provides an update on our efforts to better understand Scotland’s Games Industry, and reports on future plans to take this work to the next level.

Last year we consulted with TIGA and UKIE and worked with the Scottish Games Network to develop a survey that would help us better understand and track the sector.

We embarked on this with Scottish Enterprise as an outcome of the Holyrood Inquiry into the Creative Industries in Scotland. The first survey ran in January and February 2016 with a second survey running from May to June 2016.

We had initially intended to run a third and fourth round of the survey, but we recognise that you’re busy folk and now believe there’s a more organic way to do this.

Playing games

What did the second survey tell us?

Compared to the first survey, the second survey presented us with a challenge. If you’re not familiar with the process, the survey format was developed in consultation with TIGA, UKIE and Brian Baglow of the Scottish Games Network to track the sector over a period of time in order to better understand its impact and identify potential future support mechanisms. We also added some criteria based on feedback to our first survey.  The plan was to run the survey every 6 months over a two year period to get a longitudinal picture of the health and support needs of the sector.

The first survey had over 150 respondents but only around 10 people answered most of the questions in this round of the survey. Some questions were only answered by 2 people. The problem with this small sample size is whereas the first survey allowed us to draw some key conclusions about the state of the games industry in Scotland (such as the majority of people in the games sector in Scotland are men who work for micro enterprises based in Dundee) maybe the biggest takeaway from this survey compared to the last is simply that few people are interested in completing surveys like ours.

In particular, 100% of the people who responded to the survey identified themselves as a member of IGDA Scotland, with none indicating that they were a member of UKIE or TIGA, meaning that we are only getting one type of respondent. As we shall see when we look at the actual results, some of the data is rather skewed and probably doesn’t reflect an actual picture of the state of the games sector.

Obviously, this means that it is very hard to be able to draw any conclusions from the data, something that will become more evident as we explore the data.

It should be noted that, we spoke about options for surveying more effectively at the IGDA AGM in November 2016. This was a fabulous event, well attended, and it was great to be able to talk to games developers and industry experts to get a bit of feedback. This discussion has proved to be helpful in deciding how to go forward.

Playing games

The facts...

As previously mentioned, the small number of people responding to this survey threw up some interesting results.

Some of the feedback we received last time involved adding more options for people to tell us about the work they do on table top and physical games. We included this as an option, as well as changing the name from the ‘Digital Games Industry Survey’ to just ‘Games Industry Survey’. This appears to have been justified in the data, as over 55% of the respondents said that they were also developing tabletop or physical games.

Here is a brief overview of some of the issues and results being raised by the second survey.

  • 35% of people responding to the survey identified themselves as an employee of a company, with a further 27% as students.
  • Each student who responded to Q2 (‘Which area of the industry would you like to work in once you have completed your studies?’) answered something different, including Programming, 2D and 3D animation, and tabletop gaming.
  • 80% of people who responded came from organisations that employed only 1 person, either as a registered company or sole trader. This contrasts sharply with the first survey, where only 15% said the same thing. This will be skewed by the low number of respondents for the second survey, of which there were only 5. Overall, less companies and more sole traders as a percentage responded to the second survey compared to the first. The proportion of students stayed the same.
  • The ratio of male to female staff members is 3 to 1. It was 4 to 1 in the first survey.
  • Only 4 of the participants of the survey have released a product with the last 12 months.
  • Everyone who responded to the question of postcode gave a EH, G, or DD postcode, comprising of Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee.
  • The organisations identified as being interacted with the most were Business Gateway and Creative Scotland. Nesta, Interactive Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise all ranked low on this measure, with over 80% for each saying they had never interacted with them in any way - though in HIE’s case, this may be related to the low geographical spread of those responding.
  • Some questions were only answered by 7% of those answering the survey. In some cases, this was as low as 2 people.
  • 100% of people surveyed were happy with their working conditions and intended to stay in their jobs next year. While this is nice to believe, it is probably not reflective of the state of the industry. Only 7 people responded to both these questions.

Playing games at Parliamentary Reception

So what’s next?

We’ve had helpful feedback from UKIE. The great resource they’ve developed with Nesta at https://gamesmap.uk/#/companies could provide a good ongoing snapshot of the industry in Scotland, if companies update their record in the database. Key to changing the approach to understanding the needs of people making games in Scotland, is the outcome of our positive discussions with IGDA Scotland and We Throw Switches. This offers a more practical route to gathering information.

Over the course of this year IGDA Scotland and We Throw Switches will host events and hold conversations with the industry across Scotland and provide two updates to us on the “state of the nation”. This will effectively be the industry surveying itself and letting us know the nature and scale of the sector and highlighting key issues and opportunities.

Upcoming events

We’re co-hosting an event on Wednesday 15 March with Glasgow Caledonian University and BAFTA Scotland – Digital Cities: Games in Scotland - looking at the state of the games industry in Scotland today.

Later that afternoon, We Throw Switches and IGDA Scotland will welcome attendees to an evening reception showcase of Scottish-based games creators, in partnership with Creative Scotland and BAFTA Scotland. The evening will feature work created by talented teams and individuals across Scotland, as well as an opportunity to chat with board members from the Scottish chapter of the International Game Developers Association.

Both events are running as part of Digital Cities: Glasgow running from 13 - 18 March 2017 - 6 days of free hands-on training, masterclasses and conference-style sessions, in association with BBC Scotland, the BBC Academy, The Carnegie Trust, TRC Media, Glasgow Caledonian University and Glasgow Short Film Festival.