VFX Animation Xpress.com Interview with Tiga COO Nikkan Woodhouse -

Animation Xpress.com Interview with Tiga COO Nikkan Woodhouse

“I see many positive cultural similarities between India and UK and I think that people will find working with India much easier than to work with the far east”

Supported by Creative London, BAFTA, ELSPA & Tiga, The London Games Festival 2006, held in London in early October showcased the strengths of UK Gaming both in terms of development and as a market.

Indian gaming was represented at the Festival by iGita (Indian Games Industry & Trade Association), which flew down to the UK especially for the event. The delegation was ably assisted by the UKTI which co ordinated and organised visits for iGita to game

development destinations across the UK. As part of its initiative to bolster Indo – UK gaming relations, iGita had also taken a booth at the Tiga London Content Outsourcing & Middleware Market.

Tiga is the body that represents the interests of game developers in the UK and earlier this year, Tiga had interacted with Indian studios while visiting NASSCOM Animation India 2006.

The collaboration and building of a relationship between Tiga & iGita will go a long way in helping build Indo – UK relationships in Gaming. In an Interview to Animation Xpress.com Editor Anand Gurnani, Tiga COO Nikkan Woodehouse elaborated upon Tiga’s role in the UK Gaming industry as well as on possibilities of collaboration between India and UK on the Gaming front…


When & how was Tiga set up? What are its objectives?
Tiga was set up in 2001 with the help of DTI (Department of Trade and Investment). The Independent developers in the UK realized that a lot of issues could be addressed if they got together and created a body, rather than individually facing those challenges.

It was a very small organization and the idea was to talk about the challenges that the individual developers faced, like their relationships with publishers and perhaps some of the difficulties with reaching overseas markets and business models.

Over the five years that Tiga has been working, its remit has expanded enormously. There are so many issues to deal with. They range from things like exports, tax, piracy, ratings, education, all sorts of things to do with the micro and macro environment in which the games industry operates. Tiga can’t look at everything but tries to focus on the key issues.

Please elaborate on the markets and events that Tiga organises
Besides, the UK games industry has a specific structure and we have very few large native publishers, (Eidos, Codemasters) and a few other smaller ones. That’s not enough to sustain all the game developers, (nearly 120 of them in the UK). We are very dependent on selling content to publishers from the US & Japan. One of the reasons we hold markets like the TIGA Content Market, or the other TIGA forums is to encourage and facilitate networking, knowledge sharing, and discussion of issues plus exposure to latest trends.

We try to offer information to our members about the markets that they might be interested in working with and what their latest developments are. Last year we held a seminar in the UK prior to the new China Joy trade show in Shanghai. The seminars covered particular problems they might face in China, about its culture, what sort of games industry they have over there. Following education we try and support actual introduction to the country by helping UKTI to arrange visits. A group of UK developers visited Chinajoy and were helped out by the UKTI representatives in China to communicate and reach the right contacts over there.

The odd seminar and visit however is not enough. Relationships with other communities have to be built up using an iterative process, an ongoing exchange program. It takes time for a publisher to trust a developer or for a developer to trust another developer. It’s all about reciprocating knowledge and information;, sending our guys to visit countries; bringing foreign delegatesover here. One of the key aims of the London games festival is to allow another opportunity to do this using the UK itself as a venue.

It’s been too long since the UK has been able to host a really significant event that appeals to both consumers and trade and establishes enough of a hub and excitement so as to attract the overseas market year after year…

Is the Tiga middleware group newly formed?

The idea of our new middleware group is to work together with all the people who provide the technical skills and solutions for games. The aim is to try and give a renewed focus on these tools which are seen as key to help reduce the costs of development, particularly in the next-generation platform environment. Tiga members felt that, in the past, using such tools might leave them exposed to risk if such products were then withdrawn from the market (the prime example being Criterion’s Renderware product a few years ago) and so became more reliant on building their own solutions. Tiga wants to try to re-encourage the use of these tools and help the UK sector by pooling resources, services and products between companies where appropriate. The group will meet to exchange ideas and perhaps work together to create new standards and tools.

How many companies are part of Tiga?? And how many of them are game developers?
We have around 130 companies out of which 80 of those are developers…

Activities this year have includeda best practice road show in 4 of the major games regions, Yorkshire, North East, Scotland and Midlands. For the roadshow we created a folder which contained key information on issues important to the games industry such as pitfalls and hurdles of outsourcing; a model contract for developers and publishers to use to cover IP deals; ratings issues; insurance and a host of other practical information on how to make your business work. We also hold 2 or 3 seminars throughout the year covering other issues.. such as the future of next generation games etc.

We also represented the UK games industry on the international stage. We went out to E3 this year and the day prior to the show held a seminar that tried to paint a picture of what goes on in the US, as in what sort of games sell out there who are the publishers who are the prospects out there, what the studios need to do and try and achieve. We held lunch events to encourage networking with business prospects at the overseas events too .

You were with Tiga from inception?
I joined Tiga, a couple of years ago. Tiga succeeded in applying for a Sector Support Grant from UKTI which enabled sufficient funding for me to focus on International Trade and Export work for our members.

You visited the NASSCOM Animation India summit? You saw the gaming scene, interacted with a lot of animation and gaming companies…. Your comments?
There was a huge amount of enthusiasm and drive there, the gaming scene seems to be dominated by four or five particular companies at the moment. But they have been making great progress in reaching out to the global market. I see so many positive cultural similarities between India and UK. I think that people will find working with that region much easier than the far east .. So in terms of synergies between the two I think it is really positive and there is a lot to be gained mutually.

Some people have found success outsourcing development requirements to China. One of our larger members in the North East has done a lot to try and reduce their costs by setting up a subsidiary office there. This type of initiative is a long term process however and no �quick fix�. By the time you invest, plan, start operations etc you may well end up incurringspending as much money in managing the process as you save in costs. The hope is, however, that savings start accruing once this initial spend threshold is overcome.

What sort of support would you offer an Indian company that set up operations in the UK?

If an Indian company were to set up a facility / office in the UK and were to join in what we were doing, we would obviously welcome them and give them support as we would to any other member in terms of introducing them to the community, in terms of giving our best practice guidance, in terms of advising them on seminars and trade fairs, etc… So that one gets that kind of background support. However we have a more expensive kind of currency exchange everything s more expensive here, so it s bound to be very expensive for an Indian company.

What about Tiga’s relationship with ELSPA, and how do u work together?

Elspa’s been around much longer than Tiga and their remit was to represent publishers interests with a particular focus on the retail aspect of games sales and how to prevent CD piracy. They have done a lot of work with the consumer facing retail side which is a really important side from the publisher’s point of view and also made great progress in representing games as a safe and legitimate cultural pastime for consumers e.g. establishing the ratings system as a valid way to grade the content of video games.

International Tie ups that Tiga has?
EGDA (the European Games Developers Association) which represents several Trade bodies across EU at EU level

A little elaboration on the value that Tiga adds to the UK game developer ecosystem?

Tiga facilitates a dialogue of issues current to companies working in the games sector. It enables �one voice� to government and other organizations that perhaps carries more weight than an individual SME might. It helps smaller, newer companies meet the more established members enabling sharing of best practice and trade.

Any tie ups with Indian associations in the offing?

Only iGita if we can get if off the ground!