National games agency heading for Sheffield

The BGI, the new national agency for games modelled on the British Film Institute, is opening its national headquarters in Sheffield.

BGI will also move the National Videogame Arcade from its current home in Nottingham to the new premises. BGI will maintain an educational and research facility in Nottingham, where it will also run the GameCity festival later in 2018. The NVA will close to the public in Nottingham in mid-September, before opening again in Sheffield in late October 2018.

They will be based at Sheffield Kollider. a new hub for creative and technology industries currently being developed in the former Co-op Castle House in Castlegate, the historic heart of Sheffield.

The Kollider building is being renovated with DCMS funding as part of a wider push by Sheffield to create a new cluster for high growth industries in Castlegate and the wider City. The BGI is one of the first arrivals from a range of creative, technology and biotech businesses expected to locate in Kollider over the next 12 months.

The NVA is the country’s only playable museum, and the first ever permanent cultural centre for videogames. A unique visitor attraction which welcomes over 50,000 visitors per annum to learn about games culture and development.

The NVA’s work with the public on videogame culture has been recognised globally and its first book was published earlier this year. Education and outreach is particularly important to the NVA, welcoming hundreds of school visits every year.

Rick Gibson, CEO of BGI: “Our move to Sheffield is a big statement for BGI. After looking at multiple locations across the UK, we’ve chosen Sheffield because it has a vibrant creative technology sector, a fantastic track record in games led by Sumo Digital, one of the best games universities in Sheffield Hallam and a growth-focused culture. The Kollider building is a unique opportunity for BGI to be at the heart of a growing creative cluster in the North with outstanding support from the City, wider region and DCMS.”

Adrian Hackett from Kollider said: “We are delighted that BGI is joining the Kollider community. It’s a huge step forward for us. With a museum filled with school children learning about what games mean and how they are made, the Arcade is all about empowering and guiding young people from all backgrounds to achieve their potential as coders, artists and creators.”

Iain Simons, Culture Director of BGI, said: “The NVA was proudly born in Nottingham, so it’s bittersweet to be leaving. Whilst we’re opening a new chapter in Sheffield, through the continuing work with Pixelheads and our other education programmes, the GameCity festival and our forthcoming research facility, Nottingham will remain an important centre for BGI activity.”

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce this major development in our new digital and tech space in Castlegate, right in the heart of the city. Castlegate is on track to become a thriving digital industry quarter that is creating new opportunities and cementing Sheffield’s status as the fastest growing digital sector in the country, supporting more than 22,000 jobs and growing the economy by millions.

“The further announcement of a new home for the National Video Game Arcade continues a rich legacy for our city which spans from early innovators like Sumo Digital and Gremlin who started here to the multi-faceted industry we see in the city today.”

The video games sector is worth £1.5bn a year to the UK domestic economy. 16,000 developers make games professionally in the UK today for a global market worth over $110bn per annum. The UK games development workforce has been growing at 7% each year since 2012. Only 22% of the sector’s workforce is based in London and it is a textbook export-driven knowledge economy industry with a 40 year track heritage of leading the world, including the creation of the best-selling entertainment product of all time, Grand Theft Auto V.

The BGI is a new national games agency. It is an industry-led initiative that was announced in January 2016 to win new funding for cultural games production, games as culture projects and games production and commercialisation skills. Following lengthy consultation with over 120 games, arts, investment and educational stakeholders, it proposed its programme to government in September 2017.

The BGI announced its intention to merge with the National Videogame Foundation in February 2018, which merger will complete later in 2018.