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UK games industry needs better broadband to compete globally

Thursday, December 11th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The UK’s games industry needs decent telecoms infrastructure behind it to compete on a global scale, the founder of a new hub to support independent developers has said.

Simon Brookes said the gaming world relies on strong infrastructure and there is “still work to be done” to keep up with other countries.

Mr Brookes has co-founded the Southern Independent Games Network (SIGN), a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, Southampton Solent University and Bournemouth University, to support independent video game developers (indies) and encourage the growth of the sector.

The development of the newly-formed hub comes as recent statistics suggested Britain will need 745,000 additional workers with digital skills to meet the demand from employers between 2013 and 2017.

Mr Brookes, course leader for the computer games enterprise degree at the University of Portsmouth, told Cable.co.uk that while progress has been made in the UK’s broadband infrastructure, more should be done.

He said: “You need excellent connectivity in order to do this thing.

“Okay, I work at a university, our internet connection and communications are brilliant here, but there are people who are based out in the sticks in the region who still don’t have excellent broadband access.

“My home connection is an example of that. I’m out in the countryside and we don’t have cable, so we’re still getting internet down the old copper wires. Clearly to deliver this type of stuff you need good infrastructure in place and the technology needs to be there.”

Mr Brookes said the whole games industry “ecosystem” relies on good communications infrastructure.

“If you’ve got people who are producing games that require really good technology, good bandwidth, and the users can’t access that, then they’re producing games that nobody can actually use.

“And vice versa. Obviously the technology providers, the games developers, the companies, need super access to all that stuff so they can do their testing, they can provide the online gaming service that’s required by their users.

“It’s a requirement from the user and from the producer that the technology’s there, the infrastructure is in place to provide that.”

While the UK infrastructure has improved, with broadband connections going to more premises than ever and a lot of investment, more still needs to be done, he said.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Superfast Britain project aims to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017, with universal access to minimum broadband speeds of 2Mbps by 2016.

Mr Brookes said: “I think if we compare ourselves to other countries there’s still work to be done, there’s no doubt, in terms of our broadband infrastructure and those sorts of things.

He said independent games developers may work on their own or are not necessarily co-located, and so rely on high quality communications.

He added: “In order for their business to succeed or to start in any way shape or form they are absolutely reliant on good quality communication infrastructure and if that’s not in place then it just isn’t going to happen.

“I would like to think that this is a pursuit that can be done remotely, you don’t need, at least in the first instance, people co-located in great big giant connected offices.

“The opportunity to work in disparate teams spread around the region is there if the connections and infrastructure are there.”

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