MORE than 1,500 people now work in creative roles in Scotland’s video game industry after employment surged by 20 per cent since March 2016, with mobile games driving the growth.

Video games industry trade association Tiga says there are now 91 companies working in the games development sector in Scotland, adding a direct and indirect contribution of nearly £172 million to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

And the chief executive of the group behind the data has called for a Government-backed investment fund to help fledging developers access finance to ensure this growth continues.

Tiga said Scotland is the largest games cluster in the UK outside London and the south east. A total of 1,540 permanent and full-time equivalent creative staff work on games development, up from 1,290. The sector supports an additional 2,814 indirect jobs, found Tiga, up from 2,408.

Richard Wilson, chief executive of Tiga, said: “The Scottish video games industry is rocketing away. [It] is diverse, with companies working in games for mobile, online, educational and console markets.”

Annually, Scottish games development companies are estimated to invest nearly £77m in salaries and overheads, up from £62m in March 2016 – the last time the survey was carried out.

In addition, the research found they contribute £71 million in direct and indirect tax revenues to HM Treasury, and make a direct and indirect contribution of nearly £172m to the UK’s GDP, up 25 per cent.

Mr Wilson added: “There are a lot of good businesses making good content being bought by players all over the world. Of course there is Rockstar but there are a lot of other capable companies, very bright and innovative companies propelling growth.”

Scotland has a rich heritage of video games production, going back to the launch of Lemmings in 1991. Its reputation was cemented when Edinburgh studio Rockstar created what became the billion-dollar Grand Theft Auto franchise.

The sector north of the Border has built a reputation for developing games for mobile platforms, in addition to consoles and personal computers (PC).

Mobile gaming is believed to be a major factor in the recent hiring spike – with firms such as Dundee’s Ninja Kiwi and Outplay Entertainment driving this growth.

Ninja Kiwi’s executive vice-president David Hamilton said the company has grown by around 20 per cent in the last year.

“Scotland’s game industry is doing really well, we had some huge titles like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) in the early days and we’re still punching well above our weight,” he said.

Mr Hamilton founded Ninja Kiwi in 2005 with fellow Abertay University graduate Barry Petrie. Ninja Kiwi’s games have been downloaded more than 100 million times.

Tiga gathered data through email and telephone surveys carried out in partnership with Games Investor Consulting (GIC). They spoke to 566 companies, or 70 per cent of the UK total. Estimates were taken for the remaining companies through public data and GIC sources.

The data shows that Scotland is home to 8.9 per cent of the UK’s total games companies and 11.6 per cent of its developer headcount. This has increased from 9.8 per cent in 2016.

Mr Wilson said more Scottish businesses should ensure they benefit from the video games tax relief which was introduced in 2014.

And in October, Tiga proposed the introduction of a Games Investment Fund (GIF) to enhance studios’ access to finance, promote the development of original intellectual property and to encourage studio growth.

The move was backed by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson and Dundee West Member of Parliament Chris Law.

According to figures from interactive entertainment trade body UKIE, there are 37 active games companies based in Glasgow, 32 in Dundee and 30 in Edinburgh.