Tayside and Central Scotland

Phone apps 'could boost' Dundee economy

Apps on a Blackberry
Image caption The global apps industry could be worth about £10bn a year by 2014

The "lucrative" market in smartphone applications could be a huge boost to Dundee's digital economy, industry experts have said.

Some estimates show the apps business being worth about £10bn a year globally by 2014.

Andrew Mackenzie, from Dundee College, said many ex-employees of the video games industry were now looking to apps development as an alternative career.

Apps are often viewed as less risky to develop than expensive video games.

And Mr Mackenzie said that in an economic downturn, many people were reluctant to spend £80 on video games when they could get a "quick hit" on an iPhone or Blackberry for 60p.

"Look at the popularity of a game like Angry Birds. It hasn't got a huge graphics engine driving it, but it's got great playability and entertainment value," he said.

Job losses

Mr Mackenzie is arranging a conference for app developers in Dundee, which he hopes will attract experienced developers laid off by video games companies and recent graduates.

The city's digital economy was recently shaken by the collapse of Realtime Worlds, one of the UK's leading video games developers.

More than 150 were made redundant in Dundee when the firm, founded by Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto creator Dave Jones, went into administration.

And a study in September by the video games trade association Tiga claimed Scotland had lost almost a fifth of all jobs in the computer games industry so far this year.

Mr Mackenzie told BBC Scotland: "I know for certain after meeting with many ex-employees from Realtime Worlds and others that they're keen to get into this.

"Many have ideas that they've been thinking about for a while, but haven't done anything about them."

Developing smartphone apps takes less time than building a complex video game and is generally a lot less expensive. Companies can also publish direct to app stores.

David Romilly, from Dundee app developer Waracle, said making computer games was often a "big gamble".

He said: "You saw what happened to Realtime Worlds. You develop a game and you live or die by its success.

"I foresee a lot of small, independent studios starting up in the ashes of Realtime. It seems to be lucrative at the moment."

'App jam'

Mr Romilly said he scaled staff levels up and down as the work demanded, using the "amazing talent" available in Dundee.

"Dundee has some of the most talented programmers and developers in the whole world," he said.

"It's a perfect place to be running the type of business we're in."

The Dundee College apps conference will run from 8-10 November and includes an "app jam" when developers attempt to build an app from scratch in 48 hours.

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