The UK has a long and rich video game history. It has the 2nd biggest video games industry in Europe and fifth worldwide. Some of the best games of all time have come out of the United Kingdom, and some of the most influenceable developers still remain.
The Developers and The Games
Some of the most famed developers are based in the UK. Rockstar North is based in Edinburgh, Scotland who have primarily developed Grand Theft Auto V, and Red Dead Redemption 2 alongside their sister studio in New York.
The Forza Horizon developers Playground Games are based in Leamington Spa, near Birmingham. The successful race studio was formed in 2010, most filled by ex-Codemasters developers who had left. Up until this point, the studio has released four Forza Horizon games, and are heavily rumored to be reviving Fable – who Lionhead had previously worked on.
Lionhead, who was also from the UK (Guildford, Surrey to be exact), was ‘shut down’ by Microsoft in 2016, alongside the cancelation of Fable Legends – which was planned to be free to play Fable experience. The last mainline Fable – Fable 3 was released on October 2010 for the Xbox 360.
Codemasters is a studio in the UK with a rich tradition. Formed in 1986, they have worked on titles such as official Formula 1 game, and the DIRT series. Codemasters is one of the oldest British game studios, with divisions in Birmingham and Banbury, and also operate abroad in India.
In its early days, Codemasters worked on some ‘interesting’ projects. The first game they ever worked on was Super Robin Hood. This game was a platformer and was released on an astonishing eight platforms. These were: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, C64, Atari ST, Amiga, and the NES. Now, Codemasters is most known for the phenomenal Formula 1 games, that have come ‘leaps and bounds’ in recent years.
Another long-running studio based in the UK is Creative Assembly. Formed by Tin Ansell in 1987, and owned by Sega since 2005. In its early years, it worked on porting games from the MS-DOS from Amiga and ZX Spectrum platforms. They also had a spell working with EA under their EA Sports title branch, and later entered a publishing partnership with Activision.
Creative Assembly is best known for the Total War franchise, in which there have been nearly 20 releases. Since being purchased by Sega, they have worked on Sonic The Hedgehog games, and a personal favorite of mine: London 2012.
Criterion Games are based in Guildford, England. They have assisted with Many Need for Speed titles, and led the development of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, that released in 2012. In recent times, they led the development of Firestorm – the new battle royale mode for Battlefield V.
Sticking with the theme of development studios based in Guildford, we come to Media Molecule. Founded in 2006, and later brought out by Sony Computer Entertainment, they have most recently been work on Dreams for the PS4, that is currently in early access. Prior to Dreams, Media Molecule was best known for the fun Little Big Planet series – also exclusive to the PlayStation system.
The Stats – The UK’S Video Games Industry is Thriving
It’s all well and good saying how much of a success the UK’s video games industry is, but what about the hardcore stats to back them up. Well, here they are:
Grand Theft Auto V that was developed in the UK, was the fastest-selling video game of all time. It made an incredible £511 million worldwide in the opening 24 hours. Since then, it has hit new records including the best-selling action-adventure game in 24 hours, fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion, and the highest-grossing media product of all-time – passing the $6 billion mark in profits.
In 2009, the profits of Britain’s video games industry exceeded those of its film industry for the first time. Since then, it has gone from ‘strength to strength’. In 2018, Britain’s video game industry was worth an estimated £5.7 billion – a 10% increase from the previous year. As of 2019, the video game industry in the UK was larger than the music and film industry combined.
Every major console release has eventually made its way into the UK market. The ZX Spectrum that was developed by Sinclair Research was released exclusively in the United Kingdom in 1982. The ZX Spectrum’s main competitor was the Commodore 64 which was available worldwide. Despite this, the ZX Spectrum still managed to ship 5 million units.
The PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 were both released later in the UK as compared to Japan. The PlayStation 2 for example released in March 2001 in Japan, and November 2001 in the UK – 8 months later! However, in recent console releases, they have come to all regions day-in-date.
To date, the PS4 has sold 5.5 million units in the UK, 4.3 million units for the Xbox One, and 3.9 million for the Nintendo 3DS.
Like other forms of media in the UK, the video game industry is tightly monitored. The British Board of Film Classification and PEGI are responsible for this. The latter was elected in 2009, subsequently began doing so in July 2012.
The Media and Gaming Events
The UK is a large hub for games media and games events. IGN and Gamespot both have offices in London. The largest European games media site Eurogamer are based in Brighton, and Kotaku also has an office in the city of Bath.
EGX is the largest gaming event that takes place in the UK. It takes place in London this year in October and gives UK gamers the first chance to play the biggest games releasing that holiday season and beyond. In the past few years, the event has taken place in Birmingham in September.
The UK also has many Comic-Con’s that take place throughout the year in many major cities. These include London, Birmingham, and Manchester.
Insomnia Gaming Festival is another gaming event that takes place three times a year in the UK. Taking place in Birmingham, it brings gamers together to play the latest releases and meet their favorite content creators. In the past, popular YouTubers such as Ali-A and Syndicate have been in attendance.