Why Yorkshire is becoming a major hub for the gaming industry - Mark Casci

Yorkshire is used to being a global player. From tea to textiles, coal to caravans, beer to banking, this region has been at the forefront of almost all major industries for hundreds of years.

While some of these industries have fallen victim to the march of progress, new ones have been developed to take their place, with Yorkshire consistently keeping pace with developments and finding its own vital contribution.

One such area that the region has been a strong player in of late has been the video games sector.

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Gaming has been a big deal for decades but has of late become a colossal industry.

Team 1y's Overcooked 2 game.Team 1y's Overcooked 2 game.
Team 1y's Overcooked 2 game.

The video games market is four times larger than the movie industry and three times larger than the music industry.

Indeed, the global XR (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality) market is forecast to reach $286bn by 2025.

And here in Yorkshire we have some of the most impressive capabilities operating in this mushrooming sector.

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Sheffield-based Sumo Group is among many of examples of this.

XR Game's Bobby Thandi.XR Game's Bobby Thandi.
XR Game's Bobby Thandi.

This summer the recently-floated game developer confirmed it was to be taken over by Chinese tech giant, Tencent Holdings.

It is easy to see why. Sumo has a pipeline of new business development opportunities valued in excess of £500m and growing. Its share price has more than quadrupled since it was floated.

The group’s total headcount at the end of June was 1,203 up from 1,043 at the end of December and up from 1,155 at the end of May.

Simply put, it is flying as a business.

Debbie bestwick from Team 17.Debbie bestwick from Team 17.
Debbie bestwick from Team 17.
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Likewise is Wakefield’s Team 17. Led by one of Yorkshire’s most impressive business leaders, Debbie Bestwick, it entered into an agreement this summer to acquire the business and assets of StoryToys, which has produced apps for Disney and Warner Bros.

Best known for the Worms video game franchise, Team 17 continues to see a strong performance across its portfolio, particularly from multiplayer, co-op and online games during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Last year the group said revenues jumped 28 per cent to £39m in the six months to June 30 and it reported a record pre-tax profit of £13.3m, also up 28 per cent.

There is a reason why I picked these two firms for the YP’s annual share tips exercise from the team here on the business desk (had you followed my advice on both occasions you would have netted a very healthy return on your investment, not that I am showing off, of course).

And then there is XR Games, based in Leeds.

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The firm, led by Bobby Thandi, is proving an irresistible magnet for investors with Maven the latest suitor to put up money in the firm.

Maven’s injection of £1.5m will allow Mr Thandi to keep hiring staff as it expands to work with some of the biggest media firms on the planet.

At the moment, the sky seems the limit for XR, something that I feel strongly is also true for the region’s gaming sector.

Here’s hoping for its continued success.

Roadwork nightmare

As the economy opens up people have been enjoying the restoration of their freedoms and the removal of limitations on movements.

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But while the law may have changed the ability to get around remains.

The amount of roadworks in Leeds of late has now reached levels beyond the preposterous with seemingly every other street currently offering motorists severe delays.

A cursory glance of the one.network website reveals scores and scores of works across the city and getting around Leeds is now a deeply unpleasant experience.

While maintenance is of course necessary and expected one has to ask why most of this was not carried out during lockdown and why it has not been paced out at a more sensible rate.

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As we attempt to build back our economy, it is frankly disgraceful how poorly this has been managed and sends a terrible message to both potential investors and its own residents, who have been treated so poorly.

My advice for the next few weeks?

Get a bike or walk because Leeds currently feels like a road to nowhere.