Creative Assembly

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Creative Assembly's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Creative Assembly is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Tim Heaton, studio director
Creative Assembly team
As one of the longest-standing and largest games
development studios in the UK, Creative Assembly
(CA) is an exemplar of the strength of the UK’s game
industry. In 2017, CA celebrated its 30th anniversary and,
while the team behind the BAFTA award-winning games has
doubled in size in the last five years, the studio works hard to
retain its original ethos and team-centred values. Studio director
Tim Heaton reflects on CA’s long-standing heritage within a
young industry, recognising more than most the importance of
addressing UK education shortfalls and the challenges that the
digital skills gap presents.
CA’s objective is simple; everything is focused on creating quality experiences for
our fans and we’ve built a prestigious reputation on the authenticity and detail
within these virtual worlds. While we never had the intention of being the largest
UK games development studio, the opportunities to explore new projects with
world-leading partners has naturally led to growth.
It wasn’t until 1996 that we entered the strategy games market by doing
something radically different at the time – creating historically accurate battles
conducted in real time with entire armies displayed in 3D. The cult following
our game received was the start of the now multi-million-selling franchise,
»Studio director: Tim Heaton
»Established in 1987
»Based in three sites in Horsham,
UK, and one in Sofia, Bulgaria
»Services: One of the UK’s
games development studios
»No. of employees: 504
»The only UK games development
studio to have all its development
in-house, with its own 45 camera
motion capture studio and 13
dedicated audio studios
»World-renowned partnerships
including with Games Workshop,, 20th Century
Fox, 343 Industries and
»The multi-award-winning strategy
series, Total War, has amassed
three BAFTAs and an Ivor Novello
»The critically acclaimed Alien:
Isolation won 72 Game of the
Year awards including a BAFTA
Creative Assembly
A strategy for an evolving
The UK games market is the fifth
largest in the world and is out-
performing both the film and music
industries, with games generating
£5.11 billion in 2017. Building global
partnerships and gaining investors is
key to the UK industry’s success and
CA has benefited from this approach.
In 2005, SEGA bought CA, its first
acquisition of a development studio.
This relationship has provided a
successful balance with CA retaining
creative and operational independence
while still benefiting from SEGA’s full
support and the many advantages
that come with being part of the
multinational SEGA group.
One of our key strengths as a business
is our stability, which provides a
platform to continue to embrace
unique and creative ideas. In this
sense we are a studio with a dual
strategy, with one side focused on
exploring new historical eras and
fantasy realms for our dedicated 1.2
million monthly Total War players,
and the other pursuing new ideas
and passion projects, ensuring we
don’t let an exciting opportunity pass
us by. This dynamic approach has
led to world-recognised partnerships
with 20th Century Fox, Microsoft,
Games Workshop and Wargaming.
net and we are currently working
on a brand-new unannounced
Global partnerships also offer
opportunities to access wider
markets. Most notably, CA has taken
advantage of this with a partnership
with Games Workshop, bringing
tabletop gamers to the Total War
franchise, and the free-to-play Total
War: ARENA utilises the experience
of the international, Cyprus-based to access a wider
online audience.
Tomorrow’s talent –
commitment to the future
through the Legacy Project
With multiple projects always under
development, the studio is united
through our shared values, the
nurturing approach we take to the
development of our people and the
strong ties to education we have
formed with the wider industry.
CA is home to many industry
mentors and educators and this work
culminated in the creation of the CA
Legacy Project.
From playground to industry,
the Legacy Project works to give
people the skills needed to become
the games development talent of
tomorrow and promote games as
a power for good. Through this
project we have formed a number
of partnerships to drive forward the
quality of games education in the
UK. These include BAFTA, Digital
Schoolhouse and the East London
Arts and Music Academy, which
reaches students from BAME and
disadvantaged backgrounds.
CA has amassed a
wealth of awards
including BAFTAs and an
Ivor Novello
One of our
key strengths
as a business
is our stability,
provides a
platform to
continue to
unique and
creative ideas
Highlighting best practice
The digital skills gap means the UK is
short of over 20,000 skilled graduates
per year. The problem is twofold – not
enough students are taking up science,
technology, engineering, art or maths
(STEAM), starting with their GCSE
choices, and much of the education
system is not producing students who
are industry-ready.
Our Legacy Project works across Key
Stages 1 to 5 – ages 5 to 16 – on
building young people’s confidence
in algorithmic thinking and giving
them the tools to pursue computer
science or digital art careers. More
must be done, however, to standardise
education in the UK and to further
bridge the gap between education and
careers. Currently the support from the
government for apprenticeships in the
games industry is limited, and the help
that is available is inaccessible for most
of the industry.
Cultural legacy
This is part of a wider problem.
The industry still faces challenges in
gaining cultural recognition within
the UK, which impacts the financial
and policy support it receives from the
government. Games developers do not
benefit from the same apprenticeship
schemes that currently support the
music and film industries. It wasn’t
until 2014 that the government
introduced the video games tax relief,
of which CA is one of many annual
beneficiaries, being a panacea that
rewards British-made games.
Talent of global proportions
The diversity of our team is something
we are incredibly proud of. Around
30 per cent of our people are
originally from outside of the UK,
with 34 nationalities currently
represented within the studio. Our
inclusive studio culture and passion
for creating authentic experiences
brings us together and we recognise
that diversity means new ideas and
perspectives; that’s a crucial talent
to draw on in a creative industry.
We hope to see the ability to access
global talent safeguarded, and made
even more accessible, under future
government policies.
As a studio we focus very carefully,
whether it’s on the day’s demands or
the long-term goals, but we are also
incredibly ambitious with the games
we create. We have some incredibly
exciting projects in development for
the future, and we’ll continue to
gather the greatest talent out there to
keep us at the top of our game.
We recognise
that diversity
means new ideas
and perspectives;
that’s a crucial
talent to draw on
in a creative
Despite rapid expansion,
the studio works hard
to keep its team-centred
CA take industry
education seriously and
encourage the team to
be ambassadors and

This article was sponsored by Creative Assembly. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy