by Simon Smith
17th November 2015, Tech North HQ, Manchester
Tech North, the agency tasked with promoting and supporting tech companies across the North of England, invited us to meet with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP who was visiting Manchester today. We also invited some established local companies who have experience of applying for Video Games Tax Relief, which came into effect under Ed Vaizey’s tenure. Simon Smith (thumbfood / Gameopolis), Keith Andrew (Keith Andrew Media / Gameopolis), Don Whiteford (Nomad Games), and Simon Elms (Cloud Imperium / Foundry 42) met with Mr Vaizey at the Tech North HQ in Manchester.
Simon took the opportunity to speak about the burgeoning games development scene in the Greater Manchester / North West and to tell Vaizey about the more than 44 companies and over 650 people employed in video games in the area. He explained the purpose of Gameopolis and we discussed how we felt that many national organisations do not seem to venture far from London and so we have took it upon ourselves to organise locally.
Don Whitehead is MD of Nomad Games, in Lymm Cheshire, a company comprised of North West game development veterans (Rage, Juiced, Warthog, etc) who specialise in making digital versions of popular physical tabletop games such as Talisman and Backgammon. Don spoke about how he would like more support for trade missions, especially for trade shows outside the usual European/North American areas and Mr Vaizey talked about UKTI and their efforts to promote UK businesses abroad. Tech North took the action to make sure Don is put in contact with the relevant people at UKTI (it should be noted that there is a UKTI event about visiting GDC in Liverpool on 26th November that we have made sure Don is aware of).
Simon Elms is the CFO of Cloud Imperium Games, who are making Star Citizen, and their studio in Wilmslow just south of Manchester is creating the Squadron 42 single-player campaign game starring Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, and many more. Ed Vaizey was keen to hear more about Cloud Imperium after hearing they created the most successful crowdfunding campaign in history ($90 million and counting). Simon was keen to point out that they have created a studio of 150 people (soon increasing to 180) here in the North West and this has been maid possible by the UK Video Games Tax Relief creating a level playing field with countries like Canada and thus helping to reduce the ‘brain drain’ abroad.
All in all we had a productive 30 minutes with Mr Vaizey in which we managed to get the idea of Gameopolis and the Greater Manchester/NW video games hub into his head, and also drove home the point that UK Video Games Tax Relief has had an immediate positive impact on creating valuable jobs in our local area and should be encouraged.