SUNAK's new visa policy will hinder the gaming industry

January 08, 2024
London's gaming industry, like many others, is leading the way. In December, James Cleverly announced the government's plans to increase the salary threshold for skilled worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700. Such a spontaneous decision would put London at a disadvantage as Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm vie for position and the industry loses vital talent to other countries. London is a global nerve centre in gaming. It has a diverse range of studios, lucrative opportunities for investment, and an innovative wider tech sector. This is why I set up my own game development studio here in the UK. But underlying all this is the talent pool. It greases the gears of the gaming machine. Without it, the studios shut up shop, investment runs dry and the tech sector withers. In fact, this is already happening. As we go into 2024, a perfect storm is gathering over UK gaming. It’s in the unenviable position of suffering from both global trends of mass layoffs and also localised talent shortages. Amazon’s gaming division reduced their headcount by 180 (Reuters). This trend is mirrored across the board, with firms like Microsoft, Epic and Unity all stripping back (Report). The UK industry is then also blighted by an acute talent pinch. A report by TIGA, the trade body representing the UK gaming industry, details how 93% of studios report a “shortage of applicants with the required skills.” This shortage is “having a negative impact on the UK games industry’s ability to grow.” If you’re an investor, these are not the sort of firm foundations that make you confident in a sector’s future potential. The market has picked up on these tremors and reacted accordingly. UK gaming stocks have been falling consistently over the last year, with several high-profile names on the London Stock Exchange suffering. Frontier Developments, Keywords Studios and Devolver Digital have fallen by 87%, 44% and 70% respectively. The industry is clearly in need of some support right now and attracting talent should be at the heart of this. For a long time now, domestic demand for gaming talent has far outstripped supply. But the solution was simple; employ the best designers, coders, and developers from overseas. Talented young graduates from countries like Turkey, Greece and India have been the bedrock of the UK’s gaming sector. The country has profited from their industry. London became an international gaming leader and a magnet for investment. This capital has seeped through the fabric of the city, finding its way into the wider tech sector and contributing to its rapid growth.