Opinion

Column: Is it all a game to you? Well, it should be!

In Paris I witnessed the signing of a mega-publishing partnership between Gameloft, Ubisoft and Gree - a Japanese game developer.

Oddly it was depressing on so many different levels.

Kronenbourg in Paris is £10 a pint and only one journalist in five returned the favour. But worse torture was to come. The presentation was in French, so those of us who failed French O-Level had to wear a headset, based on the crown-of-thorns design sported by Jesus at the Crucifixion.

But the biggest blow, which brought out my normally suppressed inner jingoist, was hearing how the French and the Japanese own the European games industry.

Britain used to rule at this. Yes, we might be rubbish at everything else but we are fairly creative sorts. However, according to Richard Wilson, CEO of industry body TIGA (the independent gaming association), we lost our lead to other nations because they subsidise their gaming industry.

Look at Canada, for example, where developers pay much less tax on revenues. It makes the UK companies less competitive and means creatives from here are more likely to cross the Pond for more money. There's even been something of a brain drain from Britain to the US and Canada.

For lack of any financial back up, many of our leading games companies got pwned by foreign competitors. A few years ago I remember some hack from a US magazine asking for British game industry contacts she could talk to, as she didn't know this topic at all. When her piece finally came out, it loftily informed our industry that they lacked ambition and business savvy. If that wasn't bad enough, her words were treated, by the BBC and the rest of the mainstream, as if sacrosanct. 

We can't invest in our games industry because of EC regulations which forbid that sort of thing. Naturally the French have somehow got around this sanction but, well, they're different aren't they? Mustn't grumble eh?

Doubtless there are legions of embedded Jacque-boots who will oppose any such industry encouragement, if anyone were to dare try it in the UK.

Surely there's another way around this. Couldn't the IT industry help out? Manufacturers and distributors are always talking the talk about 'thinking outside the box' but they rarely walk the walk. So why not use games to exemplify your message?

Every single press release, without fail, released by a technology company is written in the same, morale sappingly dull prose, with the same awful phrases endlessly repeated. Value added. Leading Edge. Paradigm Shift. 

That's no way to 'engage' your audience is it? It's not exactly the (yuk) 'compelling content' that will help you tell your story.

Instead of paying someone to write a press release, which your marketing team will then needlessly re-write 20 times, so the agency then has to charge you 30 times as much as it needs to cost to compensate for all the time you wasted, why not do something more creative? 

Why not tell the story about your new technology or channel programme or research, through a game?

Even Gree, with all the game developing talent that give it a billion euros in annual revenue, still didn't have the creativity to tell its story in pictures and actions. 

So there's a gap in the market. There are plenty of creative story telling games developers out there. All that's needed is a bit of nerve. Are you with me?

Oh forget it. Never mind. Let's just wait to see what your bosses in the US head office instruct you to say.

This was first published in March 2012

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