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International video games conference shines a light on North East England’s thriving gaming sector

By Invest North East England
September 2019

David Pattison, Inward Investment Manager at Invest North East England, explains why Mortal Kombat and Fortnite are helping put North East England on the map

One of the earliest video games ever made was a simple 2D tennis game called ‘Tennis for Two’. Created as part of a science experiment by William Higinbotham in 1958, players could serve and volley a ball from one side of a net to the other. It wasn’t too dissimilar to the famous arcade game, Pong, which was released 15 years later.

Who would have thought then that video games would go on to become a $135 billion industry? From classic characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Brothers to global smash hits like Fortnite and Call of Duty, the games sector is growing year on year and is excepted to be worth $180.1 billion by 2021.

North East England has been at forefront of the global games industry for some time now, with 50 internationally renowned, specialist gaming companies based in the region. You might not know it, but some of the world’s biggest games have been developed and made right here in the North East.

Gateshead-based Atomhawk Design developed the concept art for Mortal Kombat 11; Newcastle-based Ubisoft Reflections created Tom Clancy’s The Division franchise; and the Gateshead office of Polish-headquartered People Can Fly worked on the biggest video game in the world right now – Fortnite.

On Thursday 12 September, businesses, industry leaders, professionals and experts from across the gaming industry will descend on Newcastle upon Tyne for Northern Exposure; an annual B2B games conference that brings speakers, exhibitors and delegates from around the UK and Europe to network, share ideas and do business with the North East games community.

Invest North East England is delighted to be sponsoring the event to showcase why our region is one of the best in the country for companies working in the gaming sector and are hosting a delegation of international companies to explore the region as part of the event.

There are over 15,000 people employed in our creative industries with more talented people entering the sector every year. The North East’s five universities have the highest proportion of students studying STEM subjects in the UK, meaning games companies based in North East England can employ the skilled people they need. Sector-specialist courses like Computer Games and Visual Effects (Northumbria University), Game Technologies (Newcastle University) and Innovative Computing (Durham University) add to the region’s appeal.

North East England offers businesses working in the sector access to a world-class support network that includes facilities like PROTO: The Emerging Technology Centre and VRTGO Labs. As the first UK virtual reality industry-led centre of excellence producing cutting-edge VR and AR technology, VRTGO Labs connects businesses with leading international brands including Audi, PlayStation and Oculus. PROTO is Europe’s first dedicated centre for emerging technology and specialises in XR, 3D character capture and mention capture. It really is an unbelievable facility!

Affordable and fit for purpose office space is essential for any growing business and North East England has it in abundance. The Northern Design Centre in Gateshead is a hub for design innovation and product development in the region and already boasts Atomhawk Design as one of its tenants. Sunderland Software Centre is a state-of-the-art incubator for software, tech and creative enterprises. It too is home to a number of games developers and software development companies, including Coatsink, another North East gaming success story.

With some of the lowest office property costs in Europe and the second fastest broadband connections in the UK, it’s no surprise more and more of gaming’s biggest names are choosing to come to North East England.

The global games audience is estimated to be around 2.6 billion, which gives you a sense of the opportunities this market offers. North East England has positioned itself as a major player in the video games market and we hope events like Northern Exposure will help encourage more businesses to base themselves here and inspire our existing games companies to grow and create more and better jobs for the region. My son’s are already plotting their careers in the sector.

David Pattison
Inward investment Manager
Invest North East England

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