Barclays and the gaming industry: a multiplayer partnership
The UK gaming industry is valued at £5.7bn – and Barclays is a pioneer in this rapidly evolving sector. David Gowans, Head of Creative Technologies at Barclays Ventures, shares his insights into the bank’s approach to gaming and esports – and why every sector can benefit from its innovations.
“The gaming and esports industries are more valuable than the TV, film and music industries combined,” says David Gowans, Head of Creative Technologies at Barclays Ventures. “And yet it’s still growing quickly, thanks to the sector’s culture of innovation.”
According to the industry body Ukie, there were already 2,261 active games companies in the UK in 2018, from mobile and console to growing sectors such as virtual reality and augmented reality, esports and artificial intelligence – and 45% of games businesses have seen an increase in revenues during and since lockdown.
Around 37.3m in the UK play games, helping to make the UK the 6th largest video game market in terms of consumer revenues – valued at £5.7bn in 2018. And with many experiencing growth as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Gowans is enthused by the sector’s continuing evolution.
It’s an exciting time for the gaming industry. It’s one of the UK’s most creative sectors and is a breeding ground for tech-driven innovation
Head of Creative Technologies at Barclays Ventures
“It’s an exciting time for the gaming industry,” he says. “It’s one of the UK’s most creative sectors and is a breeding ground for tech-driven innovation. Gaming developers helped pioneer technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence that are now used across society and business.
“As a bank that is dedicated to embracing innovation, we have a lot to gain from working with experts in this industry. It’s a proper partnership – we’ve been able to help an innovative sector grow and in return we’ve been immersed in the deep technical knowledge you find in the Games industry, which helps everything we do.”
How Barclays is supporting the gaming industry
Gowans says Barclays has become a trusted partner to the sector by creating a wrap-around offer that caters to “gaming companies of all sizes with the financial backing, investment advice and business know-how they need to get ahead”.
He says it’s the bank’s partnership approach that has differentiated its offering. “In our arsenal we have the expertise and resources to help all parts of the industry. Our efforts are directed towards the gamers themselves as well as the game developers.”
From traditional banking to a full suite of games-specific products, the Barclays Games and esports team has worked closely with industry organisations like UKLC, NSE, Gamerpublic, Women in Games and TIGA to develop a thorough knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing games businesses.
This has led to tailored products, like the pioneering Video Games Tax Credit Loan. The loan helps tackle delays that businesses often encounter before money lands in their accounts by allowing them to receive funds against future tax credits from HMRC.
Barclays has also made the most of its expertise in payments to make in-game purchases of downloadable content safer and easier, bolstering an important revenue stream for developers while providing a seamless micro-payment process for gamers: “It’s vital that we make players’ experiences as smooth as possible by ensuring payments are secure and don’t get in the way of their enjoyment,” says Gowans.
The benefit from the gaming sector’s innovation will be felt across the bank and society. It’s up to Barclays to understand and apply these new ideas across all the sectors of the economy
Head of Creative Technologies at Barclays Ventures
Meanwhile the bank’s network of Eagle Labs – workspace hubs across the UK designed to support entrepreneurs – has provided a platform for sharing new ideas and knowledge: “Startups and creatives are focused on delivering a great gaming experience, but might not have considered how to build their business. We can help them with the fundamentals, like setting up accounts or protecting their IP.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Barclays has taken a number of measures to enable innovation and networking online. The bank has sponsored the UK Games Industry Slack channel, allowing its 3,000 users to access features like video calling and file archives, which Gowans explains will help to “fill the gap where developers would have met in person. Accessing these features will help them to share ideas more quickly and in more detail.”
And, Gowans highlights, this relationship gives Barclays more than just a lesson in sales growth – it yields insights into the importance of strengthening customer relationships: “As a result of experimentation with behavioural data analysis, developers have been able to upgrade both the gaming experience and their purchase offer, to meet customer preferences.
“These improvements to live experiences have allowed the developer-consumer relationship to continue indefinitely – it’s taught us a lot about how we could engage consumers beyond the point of initial purchase in lots of other sectors.”
Gaming support: the next level
Looking to the future, Gowans is particularly excited about an increasing focus on esports: “We are putting our money where our mouth is. We have signed sponsorship deals with the UK League of Legends championship, and the National Student Esports league. I think this really signals our backing of the esports league concept. We’re excited to see how our sponsorship takes off, just as our partnership with the Women’s Super League has done.”
At the same time the bank’s wealth team can also support individual esports athletes, many of whom have become successful very quickly at an early age and are adapting to rapid changes in their spending power. Gowans says, “We already support young top-tier footballers to look after their money effectively, so we can use our knowledge to help esports athletes too”.
He adds that Barclays is constantly moving forward to cater to the fast-paced changes of the industry – and bring tech knowledge back into the bank to benefit all customers and clients.
“We want to make the sector’s hard work go further,” he explains. “We are increasing our investment and are constantly reviewing where we can create new products to address existing needs. The benefit from the gaming sector’s innovation will be felt across the bank and society. It’s up to Barclays to understand and apply these new ideas across all the sectors of the economy.”