Is Ireland the next big gaming hub?

Ireland has emerged as a strong contender in the global gaming industry, drawing the attention of both game developers and enthusiasts alike. Supportive government policies and a rapidly expanding talent pool have helped create a vibrant tech scene – positioning the Emerald Isle as a rival to established gaming hubs such as Japan, South Korea, and the USA.

The evolving gaming industry

As an industry, gaming has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years, and has become a leading form of entertainment worldwide. While console gaming like Playstation and Xbox was already hugely successful before the pandemic, and continued to grow in the period since, many other platforms have started to gain traction in the market. Mobile gaming has quickly become one of the most popular forms of gaming. Driven by the proliferation of mobile phones, comparatively low price point and wide variety of games, the mobile gaming industry unsurprisingly caters to a more diverse customer base and has led to strong growth across the sector.

Elsewhere, e-sports are turning gaming into a competitive arena and professional tournaments are drawing millions of viewers worldwide, creating dedicated fan bases and substantial prize pools (peaking at $40 million). E-sports have become grand spectacles, with players competing in games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and more. Such events are becoming an industry in their own right, attracting sponsors, advertisers and a range of increasingly sophisticated investors.

Ireland as a natural hub

From the rise of mobile gaming to the emergence of e-sports – and with new technologies such as virtual reality and cloud gaming coming into the mix – the industry has recorded extraordinary growth, with Global Data predicting a $470 billion valuation in 2030 (up from $197 billion in 2021). So where can such a dynamic industry find a home for the next stage of its stellar growth? One country that is becoming an increasingly popular choice is Ireland, due to several attractive attributes.

Pro-business environment

Ireland’s pro-business environment is a major draw for gaming companies with international operations and is bolstered by the release of the new digital gaming credit. The digital gaming credit allows eligible companies to have the opportunity to receive a refundable tax credit equal to 32% of their expenses on designing, producing and testing a digital game, with a maximum limit of €25 million per project. This means that recipients of the credit could potentially receive up to €8 million, which could prove to be the final deciding location factor for companies aiming to scale.

Strong legal foundations

Ireland has a common-law system which is beneficial for the gaming industry for several reasons. First, it has a specialised intellectual property (IP) Commercial Court that is well-known for its effectiveness in dealing with intellectual property infringement claims, supporting the gaming sector by protecting and enforcing IP rights. Second, Ireland’s common law regime presents stability and predictability, enabling businesses to plan and manage risks effectively – and since Brexit, Ireland is the sole common law regime within the European Union (EU). Third the flexibility and adaptability of common law allows the legal framework to quickly respond to dynamic business practices and changing market dynamics.

Bridge between Europe and the US

Ireland is strategically located between Europe and North America and is the only native English-speaking country in the EU, – an ideal gateway for gaming businesses that are looking to operate in both regions. With direct flights to all major countries across Europe and North America, Ireland’s strong connectivity has already supported hundreds of companies in exploring new markets and improv global reach.

Ireland’s skilled workforce

All this is boosted by Ireland’s highly skilled workforce, particularly in the creative, technological and commercial fields necessary for the gaming industry, such as software development, computer science, animation and video production. The country is home to renowned universities and technical institutes such as Trinity College Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology, as well as complementary research institutions like Tyndall National Institute. This ecosystem is dedicated to building a highly skilled workforce in Ireland, with the ultimate aim of providing valuable support for gaming and technology companies.

Ireland is one of the best places in Europe and the world to produce animation. The Irish passion for storytelling and the arts has a created a culture perfectly suited for world class animation studios to succeed. The skilled workforce in these fields has been demonstrated by the number of award-winning animation studios based in Ireland – such as Cartoon Saloon, a five-time Academy Award®, Golden Globe®, BAFTA and Emmy nominated animation studio, as well as Boulder Media, famed for its animated shows such as Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends and The Amazing World of Gumball.

Looking ahead

Ireland’s gaming space has made significant strides in recent years. This is demonstrated by the several industry giants that have established bases of operations in Ireland – such as EA (known best for their sports games), World of Warcraft’s Activision Blizzard, and Riot, developer of the global phenomenon, League of Legends. These household names have helped to establish a strong cluster and skilled talent pool, leading to many award-winning indie games developers/publishers also choosing Ireland as a hub. This includes the likes of Team 17, the developer responsible for Worms, The Escapists, Overcooked and over 90 other titles.

The ecosystem in Ireland continues to grow and is also supporting a wide range of Irish companies. There are currently over 60 gaming start-ups in Ireland – including Vela games, War ducks, Pewter Games and more. All which have greatly benefited from the emergence of a skilled workforce and are eager to scale operations.

As the gaming space continues to expand, the range of supportive government policies, strong legal framework and skilled talent pool will only continue to drive the country’s appeal as an attractive location.

Niamh Breslin is Territory Manager UK for IDA Ireland, based in London. Niamh works with UK companies across all sectors as they grow their operations in Ireland. Prior to this, Niamh held multiple different roles in IDA Ireland, with a focus on the Technology, Consumer and Business Services Division and has also held roles in NUI Galway as External Consultant for Innovation.

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