Belfast Telegraph

Brexit changes Scottish independence context, says games firm boss

The co-founder of the UK's biggest independent mobile games firm says his Dundee-based business is better off in the EU and would welcome Scottish independence if it meant staying in the bloc.

Douglas Hare, co-founder and chief executive of Outplay Entertainment, said Brexit uncertainty was already impacting talent acquisition and was weighing on the minds of EU nationals in his 200-strong team.

"It's already had an impact," Mr Hare told the Press Association, explaining that the majority of his 40 non-UK staff were from the EU.

"How people feel about living here has changed, especially while there's uncertainty.

"No one likes that ... it's trickier, and probably adds a little bit of resistance to finding people from the EU to work in the UK."

He added that Brexit had changed the context of Scottish independence, which may be the only option to keep his country in the EU.

Mr Hare said: "In the context of Brexit ... does that then make independence and trying to find a way back into the EU, via that, make more sense?

"As a business, I think it's better for us to be inside of the EU."

Mr Hare, originally from Edinburgh, founded the business with his brother Richard in 2010 after a 16-year stint in California where they jump-started their video games careers.

Rising costs in California forced the brothers to consider alternative locations including Canada and Malaysia, but were finally lured to Dundee by lower costs, a growing talent pool and government support.

"When we looked at Scotland and we realised that there was support there," he said.

"We were considered an inward investment as well, so there was a lot of assistance that we received just in terms of trying to help make us understand what the opportunity was."

Outplay - which is now best known for mobile games including Crafty Candy, Mystery Match and Angry Birds POP! - ended up receiving a total £2.25 million in grants from government enterprise agency Scottish Development International over five-and-a-half years.

That funding was partly linked to Outplay's commitment to creating 150 high value jobs in the area, a number it has now surpassed.

But the company is also backed by venture capital, and initially raised cash from the likes of Pentech Ventures and the Scottish Investment Bank. The most recent round in May and October 2014 was led by Oxford Capital Partners and raised £3 million.

Outplay, which boasts 60 million downloads to date, finally became profitable last year as revenue more than doubled from £6.3 million to £15.6 million.

Pre-tax profit for the year to December 31 came in at £687,424 following a loss of £889,000 in 2015.

The Outplay co-founder said the video games industry had felt growing pains in its transition from a console-based market to online and mobile, but said the sector had grown exponentially as a result.

"The reality is that the industry is far larger than it's ever been ... tomorrow there will be more people playing games than there was today and that's going to continue for several years where the audience every single day gets bigger than it's ever been in history," he said.

"I think the industry has an extraordinarily bright future and the UK just has a huge part to play in that."

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