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Channel 4’s £1m lifeline for Dundee games industry

Channel 4 is to pump £1 million into Dundee’s beleaguered computer games sector for a series of new projects to convert hit TV shows and celebrities such as Come Dine With Me and Gok Wan into digital products.

The news comes just days after the city’s biggest independent games developer, Realtime Worlds, went into administration with the loss of 194 jobs and £3m in debt.

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The company sunk after its new game APB -- which was five years and $100m in the making -- failed to find favour with fans.

The £1m Channel 4 investment has been hailed as “timely” and one that will provide confidence for the digital sector in Scotland.

The companies commissioned by the broadcaster are:

   Tag Games, which will create apps and games based around the TV shows Come Dine With Me and Peep Show  Dynamo Games, which has been commissioned to create a Facebook game, Beauty Town, which will draw upon themes and advice offered in Channel 4 lifestyle shows such as Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked  TV production company Headlight Scotland, which will produce a three-part television series exploring the Dundee games sector

 

The commissions mean that 10% of Channel 4’s digital budget has been spent in Dundee alone this year, a city that Stuart Cosgrove, the Perth-born head of the channel’s Creative Diversity, admitted “had not even been on the radar” five years ago.

The Tag Games and Dynamo Games commissions have received joint investment from the Digital Media IP Fund, managed by Creative Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise.

“It is a timely investment,” said Ian Mackenzie, media project manager for Channel 4 Creative Diversity. “This is a very positive counter point to the bad news of Realtime Worlds. This investment is one example of people recognising the talent that is in Dundee.”

Paul Farley, head of Tag Games, added: “Losing Realtime Worlds is definitely going to have an impact. Ultimately we are going to lose a lot of talented people from Dundee. Realtime Worlds is referred to as the jewel in the crown, but it is just one part of what is going on here. In some ways the spotlight coming off Realtime will now come on to companies like Tag or Dynamo, who are much smaller, part of the next generation of games companies.”

Fears had been growing of a brain drain from Tayside following Realtime World’s collapse. Within 24 hours of administrators being called in on Wednesday, major companies such as Sony and Activision were hosting recruitment fairs in the city. More will take place next week.

Scottish Enterprise has confirmed that, in a bid to keep the talent in Scotland, it is in negotiations to encourage such companies to set up offices in Dundee.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Enterprise said: “This isn’t the end of the story. Our experience of large studios going down is that new studios grow out of them. This week has been hugely depressing, but in the next few weeks we may start to see interest in buying Realtime Worlds.”

Scottish Enterprise has already given advice to dozens of former Realtime Worlds employees looking to set up their own businesses.

Commenting on Channel 4’s investment, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: “The announcement of new commissions from Channel 4 is clearly good news for the sector as a whole and will provide some confidence to those working in Dundee-based companies.”

While calling Realtime World’s demise “disappointing news for all involved”, she also berated Westminster’s inaction on creating financial structures to support the industry.

She said: “Scottish-based games developers must be allowed to compete on a level playing field. That is why it is particularly disappointing that the UK Government has so far failed to listen to the industry and the Scottish Government on the crucial issue of tax breaks.”

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