MORE than 1500 people are now employed in Scotland’s soaring video games industry, which has grown by 27 per cent in the 20 months to last November.

A report from TIGA, the trade association for games developers and digital publishers, shows Scotland is the second-fastest growing cluster in the UK’s games sector behind the north west of England, and the third-largest cluster in the UK after London and the South East.

It said Scotland had a total of 1540 permanent and full-time equivalent creative staff working on games development in 91 companies – including at big names such as Rockstar, creator of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), and mobile developers Ninja Kiwi, in Dundee. That figure is up from 1290 staff in 85 companies in 2016.

Scotland is now home to almost nine per cent of the UK’s games companies and 11.6 per cent of its developers, and the sector supports a further 2814 indirect jobs, up from 2408 in 2016.

TIGA said Scottish games development firms contributed almost £172 million to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), invested an estimated £77m in salaries and overheads and contributed £71m in direct and indirect taxes to the Treasury.

This compares to £138m, £62m and £56m, respectively, in 2016.

However, TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson said more had to be done to support the games sector.

He said: “The Scottish video games industry is rocketing away. TIGA’s latest research shows that the Scottish video games industry grew by a remarkable 27 per cent in 2016-17.

“The Scottish video games industry remains the third largest games cluster, after the South East and London.

“The Scottish games sector is diverse, with companies working in games for mobile, online, educational and console markets.

“If the industry is to continue to grow then we need to ensure that more Scottish games companies benefit from Video Games Tax Relief, a measure which effectively reduces the cost of games development.

Wilson added: “We also need to provide start-ups and small studios with better access to finance, business advice and access to a highly skilled workforce.”

“We should introduce a Games Investment Fund (GIF) to make grants or loans available to games businesses on a matched funding basis.

“The GIF would also provide a commercial mentoring business advisory service, staffed by industry veterans, for games companies that access its grants or loans.

“The GIF could be managed by a new British Games Institute.

“We should also ensure that the Scottish and UK video games industries can continue to access highly skilled people from the EU and the wider world post-Brexit.”

Ninja Kiwi was established in 2005 and has grown by around a fifth in the past year.

The firm’s executive vice-president, David Hamilton, praised the work done in Scotland.

He said: “Scotland’s games industry is doing really well. We had some huge titles like GTA in the early days and we’re still punching well above our weight.

“There are people making console games – 4J Studios ported Minecraft to Xbox and Playstation – but lots of studios are focused on mobile games.”