Employment in the Irish-based video games industry has increased 91pc since 2009 to a current estimated total of 3,344 workers and has generated revenues of €2bn since 2001, a study of the industry has revealed.
The study, unveiled this morning at the GAME exhibition at Dublin’s Science Gallery, was written and researched by Jamie McCormick of Gamedevelopers.ie with input from Dr Aphra Kerr of NUI Maynooth and Dr Phil Bourke of LIT Thurles. McCormick is also marketing systems manager with Dublin-based Gala Networks Europe.
The survey shows that in 2009 there were 13 games development teams active in Ireland. In 2012, that figure now stands at 51 teams, almost a 300pc leap in just three years.
The study has identified 3,344 jobs across 75 companies on the island of Ireland.
Of these, 280 people work in core development, including 41 separate game development teams working across 12 different platforms.
Development was found to have centred primarily on the iOS platform, with browser and PC platforms also commanding a significant focus.
Some 445 people are employed in various services supporting the games industry, including middleware, quality assurance, localisation and consultancy.
A further 736 jobs were estimated across retailers and services focused on the consumer games market.
A total of 1,883 people work in publishing and business functions, including customer support and various game operation roles.
An exciting time for Ireland's game industry
At the launch, GAME curator Steve Collins, whose company Swrve this week announced an investment of US$6.25m and its plans to create 100 new jobs, commented, “Right now is an incredibly exciting time for the game industry, so it’s a really opportune time to challenge our current thinking about what a game is, who plays games, and how the nature of games and gameplay is going to change in the near future.”
However, this industry is not without its upheavals. A follow-up survey to the March survey in October showed that the winds of change swept across 27 companies, resulting in the loss of 590 roles. Three international companies, including PopCap Games and one indigenous company, Jolt, closed in the intervening six months between surveys.
McCormick explained to Siliconrepublic.com that the games industry in Ireland has been in a remarkable state of flux in just a short period of time and that the transition from a services-based supporter of the industry to being a hive of development and publishing activity is accelerating.
Citing the example of companies like Digit, which is creating a games start-up hub in Dublin's city centre, McCormick said the barriers to entry have reduced, thanks to the explosion of platforms like iOS and Android.
“It was all well and good selling and making middleware with just a handful of games made locally between 2005 and 2010, but now we’re seeing a new game a month coming onto the scene taking in a variety of platforms.”
McCormick warned there is a need to bolster the sudden increase in games development activity with business skills and managerial know-how.
“Most people in this space know how to make a beautiful piece of software, but don’t know how to promote it or to sell it. If you are setting up a games studio you are in effect setting up a business,” he urged.
“There are companies that created three or four games and suddenly realised they had become a business with employees and the associated responsibilities, such as working capital, running costs and HR responsibilities.”
McCormick said that at present there is an emphasis in Irish universities and colleges on the making of the games and the writing of the software which is all well and good but he argued there also needs to be a focus on running digital media companies and marketing digital media products.
“Computer science and games design are different things. The jobs are currently in areas like localisation and game management – but there are no college courses for these things. Some colleges are still focusing on teaching kids how to create Xbox games when the market is all about iPhone games or MMO browser titles.”
Despite the need to boost the business skills of entrepreneurs, McCormick said many of the lessons are being learned the hard way.
“We are seeing companies evolve in this way: three or four pals make a game, eventually they are onto their third game and it's an international title and suddenly the company is earning €100,000 a month and it’s a business.”
The GAME conference today will be followed by workshops tomorrow in which McCormick will show game developers how to internationally market their titles. The editors of influential games RSS feed GamesList will also be present via videoconference to show publishers how to properly PR their new titles and get coverage in the games press.
The Gamedevelopers.ie survey comes just months after a Forfás and Irish Government-backed taskforce predicted 2,500 new jobs could be created by the video games business in Ireland by 2014