For gaming fans and tech-heads alike, being a full-time game developer is one of the most highly coveted professions there is. Putting aside the insanely high salaries that such positions now command, the opportunity to create a video game of your own that other people will play and enjoy seems like an extremely fulfilling way to spend a career.
Unfortunately, a person’s chance of becoming a successful game developer varies greatly depending on where they are located. Someone living in, say, California has a much greater chance of breaking into this highly competitive industry than someone living in Canada does. The global gaming industry is not evenly spread by any measure, with most of the top distributors, studios, expertise, and funding clustering around a few select areas.
This, in turn, attracts more talented developers to these areas, further centralising the industry around a few small regions. One country which has a wealth of opportunities to become a successful developer is the UK, which has one of the strongest gaming industries on the planet. Here’s why the UK is the best place in the world right now to launch your game developer career.
The UK Employs More Developers Than Anywhere Else in Europe
The UK gaming industry currently employs about 50,000 people, according to an in-depth report by The Telegraph. About one-third of these are developers of some kind, ranging from remote “bedroom coders” to fully dedicated team members working on games with multimillion-pound budgets. The epicentre of the UK gaming industry is, unsurprisingly, London, where the majority of the big tech companies are based. However, other cities with significant numbers of residents working as game developers include Nottingham, Leamington Spa, Manchester, Milton Keynes, and Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Home to Some of the Biggest Game Companies in the World
For ambitious devs hoping to rise to the top of their career, the UK affords more opportunities than most other places to do so. For a start, many of the largest game companies on the planet have their European headquarters in the UK. This includes Rockstar Games, the people behind Red Dead Redemption 2 and GTAV, as well as Sega, Sony Games, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Activision. Local game companies with a global footprint include Creative Assembly, The Chinese Room, Curve, BossAlien, and 4J Studios. Beyond this, there are hundreds of mid-sized companies producing everything from MMORPGs to smartphone puzzle games.
A Hugely Diverse Industry
Unlike other countries with sizeable game industries such as the Czech Republic or China, the UK industry isn’t focused around one particular sector. Every area of the industry is well-represented in the UK, whether its combat games, mobile games, online fantasy games, or VR games. One rapidly-growing sector is the online sports betting industry, which is arguably the strongest in Europe by a considerable margin. While sports betting may fall outside of the scope of the gaming industry, much of the biggest bookmakers have fuelled their growth by expanding into online casino gaming, or iGaming. Just one glance at an online sports betting comparison site like Oddschecker shows dozens of UK digital betting companies, most of which are experiencing rapid levels of growth and investment in large part due to their offerings of online games which are provided by international partners. The UK gaming industry has something for developers of every shape, size, and expertise.
At the Forefront of Emerging Technology
The UK is embracing emerging technologies at a much faster rate than neighbouring countries. It is already the AI centre of Europe, investing more in the development of the technology than almost anywhere else in the world. London is also home to some of the largest virtual reality technology producers in Europe, as well as a number of innovative startups that are embracing the technology of the future.
The Industry is Awash with Investment
Good ideas and talented developers are all well and good, but what any gaming industry needs to thrive is money and lots of it. Fortunately, the UK attracts the second highest amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) out of anywhere else in the world, with billions of that money going directly towards the gaming sector. Political uncertainties aside, the UK still outranks other European countries when it comes to tech investment by a considerable margin, receiving more than £4.5 billion in the past year alone.
Salaries Are Higher Than Almost Anywhere Else
If pursuing your passion and creating popular games isn’t enough to fulfill you, then the money should sweeten the deal. Game developers in the UK earn more on average than almost any other country. According to the popular job-hunting platform Glassdoor, UK game developers earn around £45,000 ($60,000) a year, which can easily rise to over £100,000 for those who have several years of experience. Only in the United States do game developers stand to make more money.
Education Opportunities Are Strong
If you’re just starting out in your developer career and want to get the skills you need to make it, the UK is the place to be. Several UK universities offer world-leading courses in game development, which offer students the chance to network and embark on work placements at some of the biggest companies around. The BA Game Design course at London Univerisity of the Arts is frequently ranked as one of the best in the world, according to the Times Higher Education tables. Similarly, the Game Design degree programme at De Montfort University in Leicester is critically acclaimed, as is the Computer Games Design Bsc at Glasow Caledonian University.
With any career, location is key. If you want to rise to the top of your field and access the best opportunties, you need to be in the right place at the right time. In 2019, the UK is clearly one of the best places to start your game developer career.