If you have been keeping your ear to the news over the last month or so, you would have learned that a historical choice was given to the people of the United Kingdom. The referendum, nicknamed Brexit (for "British exit"), would decide whether the UK would stay or leave the European Union (EU). After the vote yesterday, the eventual choice landed on an option many couldn't believe would happen — the UK voted to leave the EU.
The repercussions of this act have already been numerous, swift, and harsh. The pound has fallen to an all-time low, a low not seen in 31 years; the UK's Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after failing to keep the country he helmed in the EU; Scotland and Northern Ireland are beginning to discuss their own referendums to remain in the EU and to reunite the two regions of Ireland consecutively; and even London is attempting to figure out a way to stay within the arms of the EU and possibly become an independent city-state.
But amidst the chorus of British people screaming at each other from the lofty digital mountaintops of Twitter and Facebook for dragging the nation out of Europe's playground, is anybody out there considering the repercussions of Brexit on the UK gaming industry? You know...the home of Grand Theft Auto.
What "Brexit" means for the UK games industry
Eurogamer diligently discussed Britain's odyssey from the EU with various prominent figures within the UK's gaming industry. Most all of the luminaries questioned were against leaving, due to it being an insanely problematic move for the world's markets as well as the UK's gaming industry.
In an article packed full of disheartening news, we were able to glean these major points to reflect on as the UK takes a long look at itself in the mirror and ask, "Why?"
1. Free movement of workers restricted
"We are in uncertain and tough times anyway. Leaving the EU just pours a load more uncertainty into the pot and that is not good for anyone really. Add in the free movement of skilled labour, which EU residents have enjoyed for years, and that could mean we will have a talent deficit until we can train our talent up."
- Andy Payne, founder of ApplyNation & ex-chairman of UK Interactive Entertainment
One of Brexit's greatest talking points is the free movement of workers across Europe. Passed in 1951 and 1957 respectively, the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Rome both allowed workers to travel between and reside in the 27 countries that make up the EU.
If the EU were to make an example of Britain in order to dissuade other European nations from also opting out, they would surely restrict British citizens' right to move freely throughout the mainland and restrict EU citizens from moving through the UK, which would come as a major hindrance when attempting to hire talented staff members — especially when considering the time it will take to train future devs.
But the whole act of leaving the EU will take a fair amount of time to negotiate, which in Piers Harding-Rolls's opinion is a good thing. The director of analyst IHS Technology had this to say about Brexit:
"In terms of existing staffing and distribution, it will be at least two years before we have a fully negotiated exit from the EU so it's business as usual in the short and medium term.
However, the vote result may undermine the ability of UK-based developers to acquire talent from the EU based on the uncertainty it has caused. That could have implications for our competitiveness versus other leading centres of games development."
2. Emigration of commerce
Another emerging fear is that we could see major AAA studios that have set up shop on the UK's shores leaving in droves to hold up in other European financial strongholds like Dublin and/or Frankfurt, and the investments pouring into the British economy from these huge companies could slip into the ether.
Microsoft-owned Rare is situated in the UK, as are Sony's London Studio and a few other studios of theirs. EA and Ubisoft also have offices there, as does Rockstar — (Rockstar North, studio famed for GTA, is based in Scotland). And Batman: Arkham helmer, Rocksteady (who is a subsidiary of Warner Bros.), is also present on the island. Andy Payne had had this to say about that particular topic:
"Multinational games companies may reduce their investment given uncertainty around the economic and cultural mood which could ensue. Scottish developers will no doubt be back in Europe soon enough, and that may see some relocations of studios taking place north of the border."
3. The price of purchases could skyrocket
As discussed earlier in the piece, the pound dropped to the lowest it has been in the last 31 years. The price of a video game and video game hardware is linked to the local stock exchange, which means if there were to be a monumental change in the pound's value, the price of entertainment would be greatly affected but mainly only hardware, as Harding-Rolls explained:
"There has been at least one example in the past where UK pricing has been increased, specifically for console hardware, in response to a weak pound. Any currency exchange rate swing is more likely to impact console hardware pricing over software, as margins on hardware are generally tighter than on software."
There is no denying how big this decision is, and its ramifications will be felt worldwide for years to come — especially by those within the arts sector and low-income families. Whether it was the right idea or not isn't for me to say, because it's way too late to bemoan the approaching chaos. And is there much point now?
The British have made their bed, and we're all going to have to figure out a way of laying in it together. It won't be comfortable, that's for sure.