Play UK

I have heard it said that embassies exist only to further trade between its host country and the motherland, and that the wants and troubles of expatriates is a mere annoyance to them. It seems a little unfair to me; I have heard stories of people making unreasonable demands for assistance from their embassy, but in my own personal dealings with the British embassy in Hanzomon, Tokyo, I have had nothing but prompt and friendly service. That said, they do do a fair amount of trade relating here too, and one particular endeavour which may or may not be of interest to those of us in the game industry.

Every year the British embassy organizes a short tour in which they invite British companies to travel to Tokyo to meet up with their Japanese counterparts and hopefully do some business, called, unexcitingly, “Play UK”. They encourage and help set up meetings, have a reception and allow the British participants to make presentations, which usually end up as sales pitches. Publishers attend but so do a fair amount of middleware companies or broadband providers; it’s a real mixed bag, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As the aim is to help the British game industry, and Jehovah knows, it needs help, it is fairly obvious the aim of these missions is to provide good business opportunities for British companies. That isn’t to say Japanese companies can’t benefit, and Jehovah also knows the Japanese industry could do with some help too. It is, all in all and on paper at least, a good opportunity for interested parties.

As these affairs are entirely business oriented what does a developer want with them? Well, not much, really. Chances are if your company receives an invitation they will pass it on to you, probably the only English speaking employee, and possibly send you along to check it out. It’s a little bit useless as ideally people on the business side should attend. It’s still nice to mingle with other developers, ogle the rich environments of foreign office workers’ housing and taste some free food and drinks. The best that can be asked of you is to try and convince your boss to send someone else in your place, or along with you, who can make business contacts. I have only been once, quite early in the idea’s life cycle, but it was interesting. Useless for me, as a developer, but interesting.

I have no idea how successful the partnerships are that are forged or at least started in these missions, but the embassy seems to continue organizing them, so there may be something in it.
For more information on the Play UK scheme search for “play uk” on the UK Trade and Investment website. Sadly applications for the Play UK 2007 mission in February already ended on the first of this month.


  1. I found the British Embassy to be very helpful when I lived in Tokyo back in 2002. They took me and my boss out to a lovely French restaurant (which was my first western meal in about the first 8 weeks I had lived there!), tasted great. They also invited me to the private bar they have there, was cool to meet up with a bunch of UK ex-pats ;)