THE economic significance of Scotland’s computer games industry – widely recognised as one of the country’s most successful sectors – may have been underestimated by a lack of the right type of data, according to researchers.

Their concern is that official statistics give an inaccurate profile of the industry that under-records its significance and underestimates it size.

A team from the University of Glasgow said this had implications for monitoring, evaluation and benchmarking of the industry, business decision-making and promotion and visibility of the industry.

The study came from Dr Helen Mullen and Professor Colin Mason from the university’s Adam Smith Business School, and Dr Matthew Barr from the School of Computing Science and was based on discussions with more than 30 organisations from across the industry, and involved in data provision or use. They identified several issues with existing data which included: under-representation of small companies and freelancers in non-government data sources; limited coverage of information, notably economic information; and the breadth of activities in the industry is often overlooked and under-represented.

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The authors suggested that in the short-term specific limitations in existing data had to be addressed, but this has to be complemented by a longer-term strategy that takes an ecosystem perspective, incorporating more extensive data that describes the industry in a more economically, culturally and socially meaningful way.

“Scotland’s games sector is rightly regarded as an important part of our economy but our research shows that the breadth of its social, cultural and economic importance may not be fully recognised,” said Mullen.

“This is due to a range of circumstances, including the creative nature of the industry and the fluidity of the business models within it.

“When providing support for the industry, information for potential investors, or analysis to compare it with other sectors it is important that the whole picture is understood, so Scotland can get the maximum advantage from a growing sector.

“Now we have identified the limitations we can start to improve things.”

Morgan Petrie, creative industries manager at Creative Scotland welcomed the report’s publication and ambition.

He added: “We recognise that accurate data about the industry is a crucial factor in the development of effective strategies, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with industry, government, public sector partners and projects like InGAME, to align future activity that will help the on-going creative and economic growth of the sector.”