Playing games is a serious business. Video games that is – and in Ireland it is getting ever more serious. According to the IDA, the sector employs 1,500 people and that doesn’t include two jobs announcements for a total of 300 people last week. Employment in the industry in Ireland has quadrupled since 2002. Growth in the traditional console games market, dominated by Nintendo and Microsoft’s Xbox, has slowed in recent years. It is the online multiplayer, social-media games sector where all the action is.
Ireland, with its pedigree of attracting online players such as Google, eBay and Facebook, is in the thick of it in the hottest sectors, according to a full-page feature in The Sunday Times. “We have leveraged our success in that area to target the games market,” said Maeve  McConnon, head of the IDA’s content division, which targets new media. “We have a very active pipeline. We are in discussions with all the top players.”
Electronic Arts, one of the behemoths of the global games industry, announced last week that it would be bringing 200 jobs to Galway, where it is establishing an operations centre. But, according to McConnon, it is not merely a glorified call centre. “In fact, that part of the operation may be outsourced to a cheaper provider,” she said. “EA is building an operations centre for customer management, technical assistance, games enhancement.”
But these are still not the high-level software jobs the Government craves. Dylan Collins, one of the leading figures in the indigenous games industry, thinks we need to move up the value chain and not be content with the lower-value support jobs we have managed to create so far. “We have become one of the biggest online games hubs there is. If you are a US online games company targeting Europe, you will think of Ireland. But what we really need to do is to gets these companies to think of what else they could be doing here.” Collins reckons we are not talking to the games industry as a whole in a cohesive fashion.
He contends that we need a kind of games ambassador.

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