UK candy crushes California

By Juliette Garside

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

London's tech economy is booming as apps and games made there entertain the world - and experts predict the first global trillion-dollar company will rise in the UK, most likely in big data. What is the secret to this rapid success?

Near the tree trunk-shaped reception desk and the tubular slide, youngsters in skinny jeans perch among beanbags scattered on the Astroturf floor. Beneath a ceiling sprouting jungle foliage, the talk is all of apps and coding.

We are in the offices of one of the most successful children's games studios on the planet, but the location is not Silicon Valley, it is a back street in the east London district of Hoxton.

"Mind Candy could be the next billion-dollar company coming out of London," said Mark Woulfe, a 22-year-old studying for his masters in computer games at Goldsmiths college, south London.

Woulfe is on secondment to the British developer whose Moshi Monsters online playground has just passed 90 million subscribers.

Woulfe is helping Mind Candy make games for phones, where the most popular titles can attract more than a billion players.

The technology and information sector in London and the south-east is growing faster than in California, with 382,000 people working in computing, gaming, telecoms, film and media, according to a report by South Mountain Economics. Include Oxford and Cambridge, and the numbers are bigger than California, with 744,000 workers.

John Earner is an American games veteran who chose London rather than Silicon Valley as the location for his mobile gaming startup, Space Ape, which makes the phone and tablet game Samurai Siege.

"With the rise of the app store you don't get to choose your market any more," Earner said. "You make a product and the next thing you know there are people from 150 countries using it."

Down the road from Space Ape is King Digital Entertainment. With a head office in London and its main development hub in Sweden, King is one of the most successful products of the Anglo-Norse gaming scene. It was valued at US$7 billion when it floated on the New York Stock Exchange this year, and thanks to its sweetie-swapping hit Candy Crush, more people play King games than live in the US. Observer

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