The biggest players in the UK computer games industry have amassed wealth of £2.4bn, according to the new edition of The Sunday Times Rich List, to be published this Sunday, May 17. The 136-page special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine reveals the wealth of the 1,000 richest people in Britain in its 32nd annual edition.
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The entrepreneurs behind hugely popular titles including Candy Crush, Worms and Grand Theft Auto have all seen their wealth rise over the past year.
The gamers list is led by Mel Morris, who enjoyed a £450m payday with the sale of King Digital Entertainment— now King.com — the London-based developer of the addictive Candy Crush Saga, to a US gaming rival Activision in 2015. The deal also delivered large winnings for co-founders Riccardo Zacconi and Sebastian Knutsson ranked second and fifth on the list.
Morris previously earned at least £30m from selling internet-security and online-dating companies.
The richest gaming millionaires
Rank Name Source of Wealth 2020 Wealth Rise/Fall
1 Mel Morris King Digital Entertainment (Candy Crush) £515m Up £15m
2 Riccardo Zacconi King Digital Entertainment (Candy Crush) £410m Up £15m
3 Sam and Dan Houser Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto) £310m Up £10m
4 Neil Taylor and family GAME Digita (games retailer)l £230m No change
5 Sebastian Knutsson King Digital Entertainment (Candy Crush) £225m Up £5m
6 Debbie Bestwick Team17 (Worms) £196m New entry
7 David Braben and Wendy Irvin-Braben Frontier Developments (Zoo Tycoon) £182m Up £50m
8 Paddy Burns 4J Studios (Minecraft) £150m No change
9 Chris van der Kuyl 4J Studios (Minecraft) £150m No change
The purple-haired Debbie Bestwick is one of the most eye-catching new entries in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List. She dropped out of her A-level studies after finding work in a video games shop in Nottingham.
Bestwick later co-founded the Wakefield-based Team17, the developer and publisher behind the Worms franchise, which has topped sales charts in 140 countries. She sold half her 44% stake when the business floated two years ago, netting about £48m, and her remaining shares have had a strong run.
The wealth of Dan and Sam Houser, the brothers behind the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto franchise, is this year put at £310m - up £10m on last year, ranking them third in the Gaming Rich List.
The fifth instalment of Grand Theft Auto is the bestselling entertainment product of all time and anticipation is building for the sixth iteration of the game. The London-born siblings reportedly received the lion’s share of $583m royalties in 2018 and $383m in 2017.
The runaway success of Minecraft has propelled Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns of Dundee-based 4J Studios into the Gaming Rich List. The games developer is best known for its console versions of Minecraft, one of which (for the Xbox 360) sold one million copies in just five days at launch.
Robert Watts, the compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: “The explosion of wealth creation in the gaming world typifies the increasingly varied ways Britain’s super rich are building their fortunes. Gone are the days when the Sunday Times Rich List was dominated by money men, industrialists and property tycoons.
“Debbie Bestwick epitomises the march of these self-made men and women, who often come from modest backgrounds and amass their wealth through creating products and services many of us enjoy.
“The coronavirus pandemic has proved disastrous for many businesses. But there has been a boom in online gaming during the lockdown and as a result we expect the wealth of many of these gaming tycoons to rise further in the months and even years ahead.”
The 2020 Sunday Times Rich List – contained in a 136-page special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine – is the definitive guide to wealth in the United Kingdom, published on Sunday, May 17. It charts the wealth of the 1,000 richest people in the UK. The list is based on identifiable wealth, including land, property, other assets such as art and racehorses, or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. It excludes bank accounts, to which the paper has no access. The magazine includes several interviews and features, focused on some of the leading players and personalities among the richest 1,000, as well as a full ranking by order of wealth. The Young Rich List details the 50 individuals with the biggest fortunes aged 30 or under.
The Sunday Times Rich List is compiled by Robert Watts. The complete list will be available to the paper’s digital subscribers and will be online from Sunday at thesundaytimes.co.uk/richlist