ECTS: Let's hear it for the UK games industry!

The UK games industry is not getting the credit it deserves for mega hits like Tomb Raider according to industry trade body, European Software Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA).

The UK games industry exports over £417 million worth of software making the UK "the games software capital of Europe". The recently established UK branch of consumer technology analyst PC Data has independently measured the UK games industry and states: "The UK game hardware and software and PC software markets may be a fraction of the size of their US equivalents but from a growth standpoint they are keeping pace. PC software unit sales rose on both sides of the Atlantic in July, relative to July 1997, but revenue growth in the UK was nearly three times the magnitude of the US increase." Speaking at ECTS, PC Data analyst John Goodson said: "The market's growing, and the fact that this is the busiest show there has ever been is testimony to that. " He continued: "As far as the future for the UK games industry is concerned, it is looking pretty good."

ELSPA spokesman Steve Cheese told GameSpot: "About 18 months ago, everybody in the government was running around shouting, 'The Full Monty! The Full Monty! What a wonderful British export,' nobody was shouting 'Tomb Raider' or 'Lara Croft'. It made as much money globally as the Full Monty, and it was a British product. British funded and developed... The Full Monty wasn't funded by British money, it was funded by American money. It was English actors, by it wasn't an English movie if the truth be known."

In a white paper published Monday by ELSPA, the trade body set out a specific shopping list of requests for the Department of Trade and Industry. Top of the list is a stronger line on piracy - estimated by ELSPA to be costing the UK games business £137 million in lost sales in 1998 alone. "From the antipiracy point of view, we need the Home Office. We need computer crime to become part of the training for the CID in the police, and we also want the Copyright Act to make it a statutory duty of Trading Standards to proactively go out and enforce copyright infringements - which they don't at the moment. The law for copyright in the UK is great and it is great throughout Europe too, but it is not being enforced.

"Secondly, we are trying to inform the government of just what a cherry they have in the UK leisure software industry. The British games industry owns 12 percent of the American games market. British films have only 3 percent of the American film business, yet there are tax incentives for making British films," says Cheese.

ELSPA's shopping list also includes a change to the system where the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) classifies UK computer games. "It is taking the BBFC sometimes up to six months to rate a game. Now, if you've got a game that has slipped anyway, and you are getting ready for the Christmas season, for some developers and some small publishers, it's hand to mouth, one game pays for the next one and so on. If you have a game that has slipped already, and the BBFC then sits on that game for six months and doesn't even advise you on a monthly basis, that is very, very difficult. Especially when they come back and ask you to cut scenes. It's easy from a movie but from a computer game it is very difficult."

ELSPA concludes: "We have been speaking to the DTI on an informal basis for some time, and yes, we have had a favourable response."