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For many, the beginning of a new year represents a slow, lethargic time as we wrestle with continued cold weather and busy work schedules after the highs of our New Year’s celebrations.

For some, however, it represents a time of great opportunity and change, as businesses and individuals decide to grab the bull by the horns and embrace a brand new years’ worth of challenges and triumphs.

For Cambridge-based game developer Jagex, their approach to those early weeks of 2021 was clearly marked by decisiveness, motivation, and proactivity, as they attracted fresh interest from American investment firm The Carlyle Group.

The Group acquired the Cambridge developer in a multi-million dollar deal – likely prompted by an increasing interest from US players in the developer’s seminal title, RuneScape. And, while this represents a great move forward for UK game development, it also signals a continued interest in those titles that birthed an entire industry more than two decades ago.

Read more below. 

The Legacy of Browser-Based Games

Back in the early days of the gaming industry, much of development was focussed on the initial wave of at-home gaming consoles – dedicated devices which could connect to the television, and offer relatively basic gameplay to those early gamers.

By the early 90s, the rise of the at-home computer was occurring more or less simultaneously – remaining relatively parallel to the leading game developers, rather than seeing any significant crossover.

Of course, change began to take place when the first few creatives found ways of developing games for web browsers. While the first titles were primitive, many have gone down in history as pivotal releases that inspired an entire movement in the PC landscape.

For Cambridge game development studio Jagex, this was RuneScape – a title which has continued to evolve alongside the internet itself, and its users, and to maintain remarkable significance in spite of the influx of new PC-optimised gaming titles. The story is the same for the online casino, which first made its way onto the computers before the turn of the millennium, and has only gone from strength to strength since then. In fact, the genre of the online casino continues to offer some of the favourite games to win real money in the United Kingdom, attracting innumerable players – both seasoned, and brand new – each and every year.

Where Does it Go from Here?

RuneScape is paradigmatic of the continued success of that first wave of PC games. It continues to draw in countless players each year, and prove that browser-based gameplay is still a million miles from its demise.

The UK game development industry, while not as large as those based in the US, for instance, has been steadily garnering significant attention from overseas investors. One notable example is that of Banbury-based development studio Codemasters, and the awe-inspiring bidding war that took place between Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive as the year 2020 drew to a close. The developer has been releasing popular titles since the mid-90s, with the most recent being F1 2020:

Of course, the UK’s game development industry has plenty to be proud of. In fact, the UK’s output in this arena dwarfs that of Europe, and takes full advantage of the thriving creative industries already operating around the country.

From here, we can anticipate further landmark moments from Cambridge-based Jagex, and from the wider world of game development across the UK, as interest draws in from firms based around the globe. In the meantime, watch this space, and look forward to new, lofty heights for the UK’s creatives in the coming years.