The Guest Blog

There is a crucial third trend threatening the UK games sector (Financial Times, “Underground niche is now mainstream”, June 16th) — a chronic and feudalistic leadership crisis.

Business leaders’ lack of vision, plus overwhelming caution bordering on timidity, contributed greatly to the present innovation vacuum. University chief wizards must also share the blame. Obsessed with feathering their nests of comfort, status and privilege, most failed to recognize (or simply ignored as nuisances best left for their successors) creeping over-the-horizon ICT threats and demographic trends. Let’s not forget, too, those tenure-moated frontline educators who successfully deflect pay-for-performance thrusts.

The net effect is a walking harvest of weak programmers and me-too designers, plus (surprise!) an acceleration of the skills commoditization trend. By default, that upstream troika of change-resistant professional guilds has been superbly successful in spawning the low value-adding downstream ‘work-for-hire’ sweatshops bemoaned in the FT’s article.

Any central government that contemplates granting subsidies to listed members of its home-grown games industry must link same with innovation metrics and targets, hard accountability, and a corporate governance standard with teeth (i.e., ejection triggers for C-level executives and board directors). Additionally, clinical examinations of university fiefdoms should pinpoint dry rot among incumbents requiring de-molding or replacement. Otherwise, public aid will only perpetuate the grim calculus of commercial mediocrity noted in the Financial Times article whereby a 1-in-10 success rate is bizarrely deemed acceptable.

Aggressively root-prune the causes of the UK games sector’s ailments and the fields of innovative talent will bloom again. Otherwise, that sector’s youthful members are doomed to toil in serfdom to foreign publisher overlords.

Jim Egan is an Irish citizen and the Principal Partner (since 2000) at privately-held Ferrumar. The company is creating immersive, experiential digital media projects to influence the emotions, brand loyalties, discretionary spending patterns, and experiential travel decisions of global 100m-sized online audiences. He also serves on the board of an emerging cleantech company that invents household carbon capture and water reuse devices.

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