Dreams to make Dublin an indie games hub rekindled as Digit secures US$1.25m

27 Jun 2012

Dublin could once again strike for being a major indie games hub following the news that Digit Games Studios – a start-up headed by four seasoned games executives – has raised US$1.25m and has opted to locate in Dublin rather than London.

Digit Game Studios has acquired significant funding from Irish investors to establish a major independent games studio in Ireland. The initial team is expected to grow rapidly as the games deployed expand on multiple platforms. The management team has held senior positions in EA, Atari, Jagex, PopCap Games and Jolt/GameStop.

The team – consisting of two Irish founders and two UK founders – were torn between Dublin and a number of locations in the UK. Collectively they have contributed to major games such as Tomb Raider, Star Trek Online, Colin McRea and Mirror’s Edge, to name a few.

Richard Barnwell is the former CEO of Jolt Online and an adviser to GameStop. CMO Martin Frain, who has worked at Atari, Hasbro and EA, recently worked as marketing director of Stan James. Art director Fergus Duggan worked at Jolt, Monumental Games and Circle Studio. Head of studio David McGovern was head of studio at Jolt and was previously mobile QA lead at PopCap Games.

The US$1.25m investment is led by ACT, Delta and Enterprise Ireland.

Barnwell told Siliconrepublic.com that a jobs announcement is imminent from Enterprise Ireland and he couldn’t reveal job numbers at this point. However, he did say the company has begun recruiting developers, engineers, artists, QA managers, community managers, website designers and UX managers at senior and junior levels.

Barnwell said Digit had been looking aggressively at various cities in the UK and Ireland. “We looked primarily at London but it came down to a few essential things – access to talent, appetite for investment among venture capitalists and support from government agencies.

“We were assured by the amount of people who really wanted something like this to exist – big ambitions for incubator programmes, etc – Dublin became the standout choice for us.”

Barnwell explained that a 5,500 sq-foot warehouse on City Quay has been converted into an indie games studio that is all about fostering and inspiring creativity.

Opportunities to develop an indie games ecosystem in Ireland

Barnwell explained that Digit is focusing on building multi-platform and multiplayer games that capture the device revolution as well as the demand among hardcore gamers for more immersive titles in the social and mobile space.

While Ireland has all the big names associated with gaming, from homegrown players like Havok and Demonware to global giants like EA, Activision and PopCap Games, many of these operations are about the technology and services associated with games.

What has been missing is the creation and inception of video game titles. Globally, locations like Scotland, France, Seattle in the US and Vancouver in Canada have developed powerful indie gaming ecosystems and now it’s Ireland’s turn.

“I think Ireland, while there has been a lack of significant games development studios, has a great track record for technology and middleware and many satellites of large games companies like Riot and Zynga are here.

“But actual development teams developing IP from scratch aren’t here in force and we’re here to change that,” Barnwell said.

Welcoming the announcement, Greg Treston, Enterprise Ireland head of High Potential Start Ups, said: ‘Digit Games Studios is a highly innovative young Irish company which will rapidly make a name for itself in the games sector. In Enterprise Ireland we have been very impressed with their progress to date.

“This is a hugely positive development and confirms Ireland’s reputation in the marketplace for start-ups in the games sector. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Digit Games Studios to ensure their international success,” Treston said.

Want to work for Digit Games Studios? Then check out its job listings on our Jobs board.

Digital art abstract image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years