While the UK might not boast the likes of a SEGA, Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo of their very own, we've long had an innovative, independent games industry - running all the way back to the days of the BBC Micro and the ZX Spectrum. Indeed, while it might be the big-boy names that everyone is drawn to, many of the major titles developed under the banner of these behemoths are actually coded, designed and produced in the UK.
There are currently 2286 games companies in the UK, and some of them are among the biggest and most decorated in the world. Here, we celebrate the big guns of UK gaming, and some smaller studios that are making just as big an impact.
The most successful gaming studio in this country is one of the best in the world. Rockstar North is the famous studio behind the groundbreaking Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption games and is perhaps the company pushing the possibilities of blockbuster gaming further than any other when it comes to sheer size, scope and ambition. The scale and complexity (not to mention the realism) of GTA:V and Red Dead Redemption 2 remain unmatched even today.
Team 17 is most famous for its seminal 90s hit, Worms. When the small Wakefield studio launched the original turn-based strategy game of worm-on-worm violence back in 1995, it made the studio instantly iconic and essentially invented the concept of modern turn-based multiplayer gaming.
More recently, the dizzyingly addictive Overcooked 2 and the irreverent Escapists games have made Team 17 an indie darling. They've also expanded into publishing by ensuring some of the most innovative and interesting indie games of the last few years find their way into the hands of gamers.
While it might be more famous as the home of the endearingly popular Little Big Planet titles, Media Molecule has actually been out of the LBP development game for over a decade now. Sackboy and the gang might as well be the PlayStation mascots by this point, but the warm and cuddly Stephen Fry-featuring franchise was handed over to another British developer, Sumo Digital, back in 2011. Today, the company's shining star is overlooked. "Dreams," might just be the most powerful game creation tool that nobody is talking about.
When it comes to innovation, Dreams is a game like no other. In fact, it's not even really a game in the traditional sense. It's more like a suite of creation tools that allow users to build everything from simple 2D platform games to complex first-person shooters and even entire movies (with accompanying soundtracks), all from within their PlayStation 4 consoles. Dreams is a staggering technological and artistic achievement that truly deserves greater exposure.
The Batman Arkham games are some of the most critically acclaimed of the last two decades. With the Suicide Squad game set to debut next year, all bets are off regarding what fresh surprises they have in store for us.
Their Batman: Arkham VR game is of particular interest, despite being released in 2015. Even today, with platforms such as the Oculus Quest rewriting the rulebook on VR, it still stands as one of the most immersive and authentic virtual experiences that money can buy.
Starting life in the early 2000s as Just Add Monsters, Ninja Theory is a Cambridge-based studio renowned for creating incredibly dense cinematic experiences with a very small team. Even though their first big-budget game, Heavenly Sword, was a bit of a flop, commercially it was seen as a graphical benchmark of the time, and the studio has gone from strength to strength since being bought by Microsoft in 2018.
The incredible Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice explores themes of psychosis and mental health in a brilliant way. The sequel is coming in late 2021 and should be a game of the year contender if they can replicate the sputtering aural nightmares of the first game. In fact, if you're looking for a masterclass in video game sound design, look no further.
One of the largest gaming studios in the world, Creative Assembly has had a hand in dozens of games over the last 30 years - everything from sports games to genre-defining sci-fi horror games (Alien Isolation) and Sonic the Hedgehog games (seriously). It is globally renowned for its Total War real-time strategy games.
It was also voted the best place to work by Games Industry thanks to the company's bold HR initiatives (ice cream Wednesdays and in-studio massages amongst them) and the way they allow their team members to work across multiple projects.
That's just a taste of what the UK has to offer. We haven't even mentioned the still operational legacy studios such as Rare (of Donkey Kong Country fame), Core Design (Tomb Raider) and Criterion (Burnout) and even that would only be an introduction. That's before we delve into the world of the solo developer.
There's never been a better time to be a part of the UK gaming industry and there's never been a better time to be a gamer!
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Posted in Gaming and esports
Published on 12 Oct 2021
Last updated on 12 Oct 2021