Brexit could favor London in the long run
The long-term benefits of a Brexit could outweigh its short term costs for LondonReuters

On 23 June Britain voted to leave the European Union; a result that shocked the world and sent global markets plummeting. It will take some time for the Brexit to officially take place and the full consequences to be felt, but many UK-based companies, including in the technology and gaming sectors, have voiced their concerns.

"We're incredibly disappointed with the result of the Brexit vote," Katie Goode, co-founder and creative director at Triangular Pixels told IBTimes UK. "It is already affecting us financially, but on a more personal level it makes us question our identity."

"Before the vote we were proud of being a Cornish and British studio, but now I don't want to be associated with being 'British' or 'English.' I feel embarrassed about our new forced identity and closed mindset. I would much rather be identified as European studio."

Goode also claims to have seen some fellow developers' application forms that have been sent for Canadian and Irish citizenship, with a few others considering Scotland as well. She notes that this could be due to worries about cuts in EU funding, hiring and retaining EU talent and the fear of investors not wanting to risk UK business.

"On a personal level, seems like a lot of developers are just disappointed that their open views to the world just don't line up with how the country they were born in feels, and feel betrayed." When asked if the studio will choose to remain in the UK, Goode says that are going to have "a serious think."

"I've always wanted to stay in England," said Goode. "I've always seen myself as British. But if it means we can't have a studio any more, or I feel a foreigner in my own country, then why bother staying? We're not out to make a fortune, we just want to keep making games and ticking over."

According to Goode, Scotland could prove to be the "shining bit of hope for the games industry," should they vote to leave the UK, become independent and try and join the EU themselves. "There's already a strong tech industry up there, with studios producing games such as Grand Theft Auto," she said.

Coatsink Games CEO Tom Beardsmore echoed similar sentiments, saying that although his team does respect the democratic process, they too are "extremely disappointed" with the result. "Voters were clearly misled by propaganda, and those lies are already unravelling spectacularly," Beardsmore said.

He also mentioned plans to move his company out of the UK. "We're exploring our options now and, at the very least, plan to start a second studio outside of England to allay both the economic and ideological concerns," he said.

Many local independent studios and developers often rely on the financial and development support of different UK Trade and Investment initiatives and growth hubs for mentoring, advice and grants provided through the regional growth fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

A survey of members of Tech London Advocates found that around 87% of those polled wanted to stay in the EU. Just 3% supported the UK leaving while 10% declined to take a stance. About 70% of respondents also said they were concerned that a vote to leave could London's reputation as a global technology hub.

Experts have also warned that leaving the EU could exacerbate a talent shortage in the £4.193bn creative industry due to harsher immigration restrictions as well as make it harder for skilled European developers to move in and contribute to the growing sector.

"As a creative industry, we rely on talented people, and talented people are spread around the world so we need to make sure we can continue to ensure our industry flourishes despite the referendum results," award-winning British games developer Team17 said.

They added that although the industry is "entering a period of uncertainty," they do hope that the progress made by UK video game trade bodies TIGA and UKIE including access to finance and a favourable tax environment, will remain in place.

However, Forrester Research analyst Laura Koetzle says digital and customer-focused firms that require talent to build and deliver great customer experiences will look to move their operations out of the UK.

"London boasts one of the best talent pools in Europe," Forrester said. "Uncertainty over the UK's future immigration laws ("who will have the right to stay?") will both drive footloose talent to look for jobs abroad and dissuade others from coming, and firms will struggle with new and likely more difficult work visa regimes. This will make it yet harder to recruit already-scarce developers and engineers who build customer-facing systems."

"Further, digital startups will set up shop in cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, and Stockholm over London, and gaming firms might well do likewise."

However, she does note that the uncertainty and volatility in response to rumours will cause damage in the short term where technology firms, and other sectors, will deem the situation too risky to invest in starting new ventures or launching new products in the UK.

Another major concern following Brexit is that major gaming companies who have previously invested in setting up offices and studios in the UK such as Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft and EA, might be hesitant to invest as much, if at all, moving forward.

EA Corporate Communications spokesman John Reesburg said, "like everyone, we are watching the developments closely. Nothing further we can share at this point."

Despite the heavy uncertainty looming over the UK at the moment, the impact of the decision on gaming businesses in the UK still remains to be seen. Still, Ukie has assured local game businesses and developers that it will continue its efforts to ensure "the UK is the best place in the world to make and sell games."

Some developers, however, are still holding out hope for Britain to change its mind about leaving.

"Scary time, but fingers crossed for someone seeing sense in the government and keeping us in somehow," Goode said. "But some damage has already been done and will be a scar for years to come."