Today’s announcement of the winners of the first round of the UK government’s Games Fund has given a major boost to one of the fastest-growing sector of the nation’s industry.
And retro gamers and retro computing fans across the nation have been particularly delighted to hear that one of the original founders and pioneers of that industry, Hewson Consultants, has sprung into action once more, as one of the first to benefit from the scheme!
Paul Durrant, Managing Director, UK Games Talent and Finance CIC said following today’s announcement of the winners by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy:
“The level of creative activity in the UK’s games development sector is running at record levels. The 100 plus applications we received to the first round of the UK Games Fund has surpassed any of the rounds in our previous fund. Our new portfolio of supported companies represent the first members of our talent-led movement to build on the UK’s creative strengths in video games development.”
Now worth £84 billion to the economy, the creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories. Government support through things like tax credit and the UK Games Fund is helping to drive that growth.
Twenty-four companies across the UK have been selected in this first round of the UK Games Fund and will now receive grants to develop their projects. The Fund will run until 2019 and will provide grants of up to £50,000 to support video games projects, create jobs and help develop new talent.
Hewson Consultants rides again
Created in the early 80s by Andrew Hewson, and now represented by his son Rob, who for the past few years has been busily flying the flag for the next generation with one careful eye on their heritage, the much-loved company Hewson Consultants started out by publishing a hints and tips book for one of the first affordable and now most collectable British home computers – the Sinclair ZX80. The enthusiastic response to this book encouraged them to move into games production, at a time when the UK was a hotbed of cottage industry coding in the midst of the home computer revolution.
As a result, for a heady decade from 1980, Hewson Consultants wrote their name in brightly-coloured pixels as a highly-regarded publisher of what are now classic games for a wide range of popular micros .
Popular eight and sixteen-bit games such as Uridium, Paradroid, Exolon, Ranarama, Zarathustra, 3D Seiddab Attack and Dragontoc were amongst many games published by Hewson between 1980 – 1990; the list goes on and on. During that period they also set up a label for re-releasing other publisher’s games under the Rebound label.
Computers such as the Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, Dragon 32, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and PCW, BBC Micro, MSX, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and even early Nintendo and Sega consoles all benefited from the expertise of Hewson’s coders, leaving a legacy of collectable games that are still sought after by present day retro computing enthusiasts, decades later.
Into the 21st Century
The company closed in 1991, but the management didn’t rest on their laurels. Andrew Hewson founded the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), and the power that was Hewson morphed into 21st Century Entertainment, which was to become popular in the field of high quality pinball games for 16-bit machines. But winding forward into the 21st century itself, the old Hewson was gone but not forgotten, and remained popular as a result of the fond memories of past players and the rapidly-growing hobby of retrogaming
Back to the future
More recently, however, the elder Hewson returned to books, and for some time now has been in the process of writing and publishing a title which is a nostalgic echo of his first: Hints and Tips for Videogame Pioneers rapidly became a popular success even before publication, through the modern medium of crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Mr Hewson’s official biography of Hewson Consultants and 21st Century Entertainment is available for pre-order now, and we hope to review it in due course.
Today, thanks to the creative energy of the Hewsons (with Rob working hard behind the scenes for the past 4 years towards this goal) and a kick-start of a different kind from the UK government, Hewson Consultants is about to rise from the ashes and be born-again from its 1980s incarnation. The regenerated company will be headed up by Andrew Hewson (chairman and finance director), Rob Hewson (chief executive and creative director) and John Ogden (technical director). Other staff and future projects have yet to be revealed.
Rob Hewson told Retro Computing News today:
“I’m delighted to be joining the company I grew up with. Our aim is simple – to develop and publish original, innovative games once again. We are extremely fortunate to have a small but hugely passionate community of retro gamers behind us, and we are excited to take them along on this journey.”
The ultimate beneficiaries of this exciting news are of course those gamers themselves, who now have much to look forward to, and will who will already be wondering, with bated breath, what will come out of the reincarnation of one of the best-known companies of the classic era. First to come, though, is Andrew Hewson’s new book. Game on!
Funding the games we’ll play
Hewson Consultants are not, of course the only beneficiaries of this round of the UK Games Fund.
Announced today by Ed Vaizey, and also to be congratulated, the list of first round winners also includes: Atomicom, Cardboard Sword, Clever Beans, Coatsink Software, Fallen Tree Games, Futurlab, Noble Games, Nosebleed Interactive, Paw Print Games, Plug-in Media, Roll 7, Ruffian Games, Rumpus Animation, Semaeopus, Sensible Object, Six to Start, Slug Disco Studios, Spilt Milk Studios, Tag Games, The Secret Police, Two Way Media, White Paper Games and Yakuto.
The UK Games Fund is managed by UK Games Talent and Finance and will explore joint initiatives with organisations such as Digital Catapult, BAFTA, Ukie, Tiga, Creative England, Creative Scotland and BFI.
Businesses can now apply for the second round of funding of grants up to £25,000, see: http://ukgamesfund.com/. Applications are open until Monday 18th April 2016, 12pm noon.
Some images courtesy Hewson Consultants and the UK Games Fund.