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Community is the key to gaming say Norfolk companies as industry is valued at £3.86 billion

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:46 04 January 2019

Players at the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Players at the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

Whether it is Fortnite, Pokemon or Call of Duty, gaming has become a part of most people’s lives whether that be as a player or a parent trying to get their child to put the controller down.

But gaming has now become one of the largest industries in the UK, overtaking the film and music sector combined and Norfolk companies are getting in on the action.

The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) has valued the industry at £3.86 billion, more than double its value just 12 years ago.

Gaming businesses in Norfolk say that the reason for this is not just retail sales but the community that the industry has been able to create and the advances in technology.

One Life Left, in St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, is a gaming cafe which encapsulates this community factor. Owner Jon Gage said: “Gaming has always been a big thing but it has only been in the last years that it has become more social with games for people of all ages and there is something for everybody now. It is very much about playing with each other, side-by-side, or online.

Owner of the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe, Jon Gage. Picture: Neil DidsburyOwner of the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe, Jon Gage. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“The community culture around gaming, such as Youtube, has allowed it to grow. It is no longer just about big companies.”

Although the industry has overtaken the video and music sectors combined, physical consoles and the PC games market shrank compared to digital sales seeing a 12.5pc growth.

Mr Gage added: “Retail is moving towards digital and online services which is another reason it is so accessible and another aspect of social play.”

Norfolk is also helping to advance the technology used in gaming. Virtual reality has become increasingly available and has improved in recent years.

Players at the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe. Picture: Neil DidsburyPlayers at the One Life Left - Norwich Gaming Cafe. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Immersive Studios, in Rose Lane, Norwich, has been working with virtual reality technology not just in gaming but in advertising, application development and 3D video.

Co-founder Matt Martin, 38, said: “We started back in 2015 and there were no consumer [virtual reality] kits on the market.

“The technology has improved massively going from quite bulky units which have to be tethered to machines to very lightweight wireless headsets.

“It is making it accessible with the price point coming down to bring it into peoples’ homes.”

Fortnight has become one of the most popular games in the world. Picture: Neil DidsburyFortnight has become one of the most popular games in the world. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Both One Life Left and Immersive Studios are set to expand in 2018 with the latter looking to open a virtual reality venue in Norwich later this year.

Gamer’s point of view

With the industry now worth more than £3 billion. What do the players think?

Scarlett Scott, 17, said: “My friends all play games so it is a way to escape and can help control social issues such as anxiety.

Matthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMatthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It isn’t just friends but you now can get the whole family involved.”

Zoe, 17, said: “I love the massive community around it. Everyone comes together to play whether that is competitive games or child friendly games.”

Norwich youtuber and gaming expert, Daniel Loyall Brown, from Did You Know Gaming? said: “The interactive nature of video games can help to engage their audience significantly more than films and music.

“Because games can engage somebody continuously for years upon years, linear experiences in games won’t feel as trodden in compared to the likes of a film.

Matthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMatthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“But while an album will always feel and sound the same, new technology can often make older games feel outdated.

“New games to be developed, and thus the audience has to pay in again for the latest experiences. This drives the industry’s financial success, as there is an almost continuous flow of money coming in as new games are published.”

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