It’s great to be back on the National Theatre’s deck for the opening of London Games Festival.
Many of you in the room will have heard me say this many times before - but you’re going to hear it again.
I strongly believe that the nexus of art and technology is how Britain will pay her way in the 21st Century.
So much so, in fact that it was right here on this very deck I hosted my first in a series of ‘Digital Drinks’ - an evening where I bring together the very best minds from both the digital and cultural worlds to share thoughts and ideas.
Video games are right at the heart of this nexus. They were born digital and exhibit some of the best creativity Britain has to offer.
Here are the figures. New research published by Ukie show that the UK games market was worth some £4.3 billion in 2016.
You are trailblazers and your value to our economy continues to grow.
Yes, your industry is growing here in London but also in clusters right across the country.
More figures from Ukie - thank you Jo - show that there are now over 2000 video games companies in the UK - all of whom are creating jobs, opportunities and improving life chances for thousands of people.
As your Minister, I am also very proud of our global reputation for excellence in games development.
And on today of all days, I think it’s right to reinforce the point that your world-beating industry and the wider creative industries are one of the greatest forces for openness we have.
Right here in London we have some of the world’s very best talent and companies. I was fortunate enough to pay a recent visit to Rocksteady Studios - makers of the award-winning Batman Arkham games. An incredible company revered across the world.
Government support for video games
So how are we supporting your industry?
Well, video games, and the wider creative industries, are at the heart of our work on developing a new Industrial Strategy.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, who I am sure most of you in the room will know, is leading an independent review of how the UK’s creative industries can help underpin our future prosperity, by utilising and developing new technology, capitalising on intellectual property rights, and growing talent pipelines
We have also published our Digital Strategy, which will create the right conditions for the UK digital sectors to remain world-leading and ensure that the benefits of digital are felt by every business and individual across the country.
It includes a £1 billion programme to accelerate the development and uptake of next generation digital infrastructure - including full fibre and 5G - and also a review of artificial intelligence.
It is great to see these themes, along with the cultural impact of video games, are being explored and celebrated through the London Games Festival’s range of events over the next 11 days.
And of course there is the highly successful Video Games Tax Relief, bolstering cultural content from the UK, benefiting the economy and a vital ingredient in our offer to inward investors.
Official figures for 2014-2016 showed that over those 2 years more than £45 million via the video games tax relief was paid out, which supported production investment of over £400 million.
But early stage development is just as important. So we’re investing.
Our £4 million UK Games Fund supports the creation of new IP, promotes entrepreneurialism, supports talent development and boosts regional growth.
The Fund has so far had an incredible response. We have received more than 500 applications from young businesses since the Fund launched, which is a true testament to the wealth of creativity around the UK.
A few months ago I had a very enjoyable visit to one of the companies we have supported via the UK Games Fund, Sensible Object, based across the river in the “Makerversity” space at Somerset House. I tried out their game Beasts of Balance - I won’t tell you how I got on, but as they say it’s the taking part that counts.
I was there to open Round 3 of the UK Games Fund - and today I am delighted to announce the winners.
The 15 successful applicants were selected from an incredibly strong field.
These young businesses have been selected from right across the UK including in Leamington Spa, Southampton, Guildford, Ipswich, Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester and Dundee.
And with our support they will be making games for mobile, console, PC and VR platforms. I look forward to seeing and playing the final products..
I’d like to finish by saying a huge congratulations to everyone involved in the London Games Festival - and not just the psychic who picked out this historic date.
I am delighted to be part of this celebration and to help mark the creativity, innovation and talent in this industry that I am so very proud of.
As your minister you can be assured we will do all we can to help build on the success of the video games industry and promote it as the major economic and cultural force it truly is.