The pretty spa town of Leamington Spa has long been known for being a major hub for the UK’s games design industry. It is said to be the third biggest gaming hub in the UK, with 34 games companies, together employing almost 1,000 people.
The sector provides a major economic boost for the West Midlands, according to a report by UKIE, the organisation supporting the UK’s interactive entertainment sector. Three quarters of the digital media companies in the area are gaming companies – a more typical share would be 5-10 per cent.
The industry began in the town in 1986, when brothers David and Richard Darling founded Codemasters. The pair sold their interest in the business in 2007, and in February this year, the company was sold again, this time to California-based Electronic Arts (EA), for a cool £1.2 billion.
Other games studios followed the Darling Brothers to Leamington. Playground Games was established in 2010 and has gone on to create four award-winning hits. Its Horizon games have picked up more than 100 awards.
Another successful games studio is Ubisoft. Founded in January 2017 and headed by Richard Blenkinsop, the studio has a growing team of more than 50, and with significant plans for growth the studio is recruiting heavily across a variety of job roles.
The sector is well supported by the local further education colleges. Royal Leamington Spa College’s foundation and bachelor degrees in Games Art have been accredited by ScreenSkills Select, the industry-led skills body for the screen industries – film, television, visual effects, animation and games.
The college is one of only eight institutions in the country to have the ScreenSkills Games badge and is the only college to have received the accreditation, with the others all being universities or training schools.
It is estimated that 500 more jobs in game development will be created in the town in the next two years.
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