The gaming scene in Liverpool has moved from strength-to-strength in the last couple of decades, competing now with cities like Edinburgh, Dundee and London.
Virtual reality, gaming and advanced technology are playing a part in a new digital revolution as they move from strength-to-strength, gaining popularity in today’s tech-obsessed world. Gone are the days of investment and growth being focused only in the south, as tech start-ups begin to thrive in regional clusters up and down the country.
In the last year alone, 68 per cent of digital tech investment (£4.6 billion) was recorded outside of London, which is testament to a diversifying investment landscape, claims the 2016 Tech Nation report. And it’s cities situated in the Northern Powerhouse - Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool in particular - that are really reaping the benefits of this significant cultural shift.
Liverpool specifically is rapidly becoming a prosperous gaming hub, gaining a reputation in the UK as a major player in the gaming industry and challenging more established cities in the sector like Edinburgh, Dundee and London.
With improved investment, gaming and virtual reality agencies are thriving in areas of Liverpool that were once littered with derelict warehouses and empty offices. According to the report, from 2011 to 2015, Liverpool saw a 29 per cent increase in the number of digital tech businesses, with a growth rate of 22 per cent following this increase.
In addition to this, in 2015 the city saw a tech birth rate (a measurement of new companies as a proportion of all businesses in an area) that exceeded Manchester’s at 16.8 per cent and 15.6 per cent respectively.
Across the city, new quirky offices have seen the introduction of several coworking spaces that are helping the digital tech sector grow even further. The ‘Baltic Triangle’, for example, is a creative area located in the city centre that specialises in e-commerce, software development and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Kevin McManus, head of digital & creative at Invest Liverpool, says that the city is particularly appealing to smaller, more agile games studios; not least because the city's commercial and residential property rent prices are some of the lowest in the country.
A gaming hub
When it comes to gaming, Liverpool has had a strength in the industry which dates back to 1984 when Lemmings and Wipeout developer Psygnosis first set up its business. In the past, studios in Liverpool have been owned by companies such as Sony, Bizarre Creations and Evolution.
Now the city is home to the likes of Ripstone - the creator of computer games such as Pure Chess and Ironcast, Firesprite - which has collaborated with PlayStation WWS Japan Studio on THE PLAYROOM for PlayStation 4, developing the game’s visual style, and Lucid Games - which develops games and apps and has worked on the Grand Theft Auto games, among others. There’s no denying that this city is the launchpad to the next level in gaming.
And the gaming industry’s growth within the city shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. With the regeneration of Liverpool’s Crosby area and the port, the city is likely to attract even more gaming start-ups as it paves the way for new office space and a fresh wave of culture.
“There's just a really good feel to the tech scene here at the moment and a genuine feeling that we are at the start of something special,” said McManus. “It has happened organically and that means that there is an incredibly supportive and collaborative community here that it is great to be part of.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Liverpool’s gaming industry starting to thrive is because it is making efforts to break down boundaries when it comes gender. Historically, the gaming industry has been saturated by men whilst being highly under-representative of women. However, in Liverpool, this is something that businesses and gaming professionals are working to change.
Liverpool Girl Geeks group aims to encourage more local girls and young women to work in the technology sector by running bootcamps that are backed by videogame giant PlayStation. Michelle Tilley, senior release manager at PlayStation, commented: “There is a gender imbalance within our technology sector and we need to take action now to ensure a more balanced and inclusive industry for the future.
“The games industry is an amazing place to work so we should actively encourage young women to join it by inspiring, championing and empowering them to achieve their dreams. I believe by supporting Liverpool Girl Geeks we are working towards this culture change.”
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