Sheffield's billion dollar company
Sumo sells to a Chinese corporate giant for £919m, plus the rest of our weekly briefing
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we have a look at a Sheffield computer game firm that has just been bought out by a Chinese tech giant. We also have an interesting story about a novel set in Sheffield and recommend a fantastic looking heritage event which takes place next weekend.
Lots of you enjoyed our lovely weekend story about Stannington man William Gyampoh’s efforts to recover from a stroke. You can still access that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great stories to our 537 paying members. For the first, Jason Holyhead spoke to up and coming Sheffield artist Conor Rogers, who grew up on the Manor estate and has gone on to exhibit work at prestigious galleries and win major awards. And for the second I spoke to three experts about whether the council’s hopes of building 20,000 new homes in the city centre were realistic. An extract from that second piece is below:
“The plan doesn't actually say what kind of houses will be needed — they are just 20,000 houses of whatever kind,” they told The Tribune. “It certainly isn’t easy and I won’t pretend the council has all the levers to be able to do it, but they should at least be trying to incentivise or force developers to build the right kind of houses. Developers are not going to do that out of the goodness of their heart.”
This week we’ll send two more: one about the Labour contest to be South Yorkshire Mayor and another about a disabled man in Rotherham who collects lifelike dolls to fulfil his dream of being a father.
To get both those stories and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs less than £1.40 a week when you subscribe for the year upfront.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say: “The coming week sees us continue with the high pressure dominated outlook, with small alterations in positioning allowing the occasional weather front to intrude from the north after midweek.”
Monday 🌥️ brighter spells are possible at times to kick off the week, with cloud amounts variable and a deceptively penetrating chill given the cold start. Staying dry though, with highs of 6°C.
Tuesday ☁ little change in the position of the high pressure means little change in the conditions at ground level with large cloud amounts, occasional but largely limited brightness and a retention of the chilly feel. Highs of 5°C.
Wednesday 🌥 I'll sneak in a sun symbol here, but in reality there's little change in the output. Our high will be retreating south though, eventually heading back to the Atlantic to rebuild. Turning breezier then, with increased cloud and some dampness possible overnight. Milder with highs of 8°C.
Thursday 🌦 a cold front slips down from the north as low pressure briefly becomes more influential as our high retreats, but not much in the way of rain will fall, and anyway it's likely to be a blessing in disguise with clearer and sunnier conditions following on behind. Breezy and mild with highs of 9°C.
Friday ⛅ bright and breezy with dry conditions expected as our resident high builds back across southern and western areas, keeping low pressure to the north at bay. For how long that carries on will be the question as we head towards February. Highs of 8°C.
The big story: Sheffield’s billion dollar company
Top line: A Sheffield computer game firm has been snapped up by one of the world’s biggest companies.
Background: Last year, Chinese corporate giant Tencent announced their intention to buy Sheffield developer Sumo Digital in a deal worth £919m.
Sumo’s links with an American developer Pipeworks prompted a US national security panel to investigate the deal, but this probe has now been completed.
The UK High Court earlier this month said the deal could go ahead, making Sumo officially part of Tencent’s $573.29 billion worldwide business.
What does Sumo do? Sumo is a British computer games developer which is headquartered in Sheffield and made up of 11 studios across the UK, US, India and Poland. They currently employ around 750 people and have worked on games including LittleBigPlanet 3 and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. In the first half of 2021, they reported revenues of £50.4m and profits of £3.7m.
History: Sheffield’s computer gaming heritage is well known. Many of those who set up Sumo in 2003 started off at the legendary city developer Gremlin Graphics in the 1980s. More recently, Sheffield-based Boneloaf scored a hit and won awards with their Gang Beasts game and the hugely popular National Videogame Museum opened in Castlegate in November 2018.
A growing market: As the Financial Times noted at the weekend, the computer games market is now far bigger than the movie business.
In 2021, the industry took $180bn worldwide at a time when Covid meant that global box office revenues fell to less than $20bn.
Earlier this month, the American developer Activision Blizzard was bought by Microsoft for $68.7bn, the largest acquisition in gaming history.
Why has the deal happened? For Tencent, which over the last few years has been busy buying up studios all over the world, the appeal is growing its global business. For Sumo the deal means access to the $33bn Chinese gaming market. As the Economist noted in 2020:
For foreign gaming companies that receive its cash, one of the main attractions has been to go into partnership with Tencent to bring their games into China.
Bottom line: Sheffield storied video gaming heritage means it is well-placed to take advantage of the astonishing growth of the sector. While games are never going to compete with the heavy industries of the past in terms of the number of jobs they provide, the city’s success in the increasingly lucrative business shows that life after steel exists.
Cases: The Covid case rate in Sheffield (the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days) continues to fall sharply. As of last Tuesday, it stood at 1,032.4, 27.3% or 2,279 cases down on the previous week. The England average also fell 25.6% to 925.3.
Hospitals: As of last Tuesday, 313 patients were in hospital in Sheffield being treated for Covid-19, a rise of 30 from the previous week. The number of people in critical care remained stable at 11. 16 deaths linked to the virus took place over the last seven days.
Home of the week
This brand new four-bedroomed townhouse in Waverley has a unique “sky-garden” and is handily located close to the the M1 and Sheffield Parkway. It is on the market for £294,950.
Our favourite reads
A novel set partly in Sheffield has won the prestigious £10,000 Portico Prize for Northern writing. Toto Among the Murderers is 70-year-old Sally J Morgan’s debut novel and tells the story of an art school graduate who hitchhikes around the country in the 1970s. The book is partly inspired by the author’s own experience of nearly being picked up by serial killers Fred and Rose West in Gloucester.
An incredibly moving piece of writing by former BBC Radio Sheffield journalist Dan Johnson, who grew up in Barnsley. Dan lost his father Graeme in 2017 and spent last Christmas editing a “Desert Island Discs” programme they had created together in the months before he died of lung cancer. As well as the piece on the BBC website, you can also listen to a show about the project on the BBC Sounds app.
Yet more coverage of what should happen to the former John Lewis building on Barker’s Pool comes this week from The Star business editor David Walsh. He speaks to the man who owns the Salvation Army Citadel on Cross Burgess Street, who says he wants the building to be demolished to keep disruption to a minimum. Others, however — as The Tribune has reported before — want the building reused.
In just a few days Labour will announce which of its four candidates have won the contest to be the party’s choice for South Yorkshire Mayor in May. An interesting piece in Now Then by Ben Davies from Labour for a Green New Deal looks at their environmental credentials, finding things to praise in each platform. However, in the end they say former Sheffield councillor Lewis Dagnall is their preferred choice.
An amazing story on the University of Sheffield’s website about a student doctor who travelled to Greece to care for people caught up in the migration crisis. In the summer of 2019, Dr Anna Gordon went to the island of Samos to work as a volunteer at a former military base being used as a refugee camp. At her graduation last January, she was awarded the Chancellor's medal in recognition of her outstanding work.
High Bradfield skies
Thanks to @yolasheffieldlover on Instagram for allowing us to use her wonderful picture of a sunny winter’s day in High Bradfield last week. If you have photos of Sheffield or the surrounding area that you’d like to share, email email@example.com.
Things to do
Theatre: Opening on Wednesday, January 26 at the Crucible’s Studio Theatre is Human Nurture, a new play written by Ryan Calais Cameron, the artistic director of multi-award winning London production company Nouveau Riche. The intimate hour-long show touches on themes including race, privilege and belonging and features live music, dance and “plenty of dynamite”. Tickets are £13.50 plus booking fee and the show runs until February 12.
Heritage: Local historians Ron Clayton and David Templeman will this weekend host the Sheffield Heritage Fair at the Millennium Gallery. Attendees will have the chance to speak to people from more than 40 groups who care for and promote sites such as Sheffield Castle and the Old Town Hall. There will also be a chance to find out about plans for this year’s heritage open days. The event runs from 10am-4pm on both Saturday, 29 and Sunday, 30 January.
Music: As part of the Sheffield International Concert Season 2022, Manchester’s legendary Halle orchestra comes to Sheffield City Hall on Friday, January 28 to perform two twentieth century classical works: Debussy’s La Mer and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2. The orchestra will be conducted by Sir Mark Elder and a pre-concert talk with arts broadcaster Trisha Cooper will take place before the show. Tickets are priced £18 but under 12s go free.
Food and drink: Whether you harbour dreams of becoming a sommelier or just want to learn, the monthly Sheffield Wine Festival course aims to provide participants with the “knowledge they need to appreciate fine wines, where they come from, how to store them and when and how to serve them”. Organised by experts Tavi Vasilescu and Davide Garbarino, the next event takes place at the Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria on Saturday, January 29 from 10am-6pm.
Art: Since it opened in 2020, the Fronteer Gallery in Castlegate has provided an important platform for new artists in Sheffield. Now, two new exhibitions have opened which will run until February 5. “Re-emegrence” features the work of Jan Sargeant and Ted Kennedy and “Celestial Bodies” is an exhibition about space which features more than 60 works. The gallery is free and opens from 10am-3pm Wednesday to Friday, and 2pm-7pm Saturdays.
“This is a wonderful story. Quirky — in a good way. Great journalism. Thanks Dan.” (Walking back to happiness), Tony Stacey
“A wonderful human story, thank you. I hope you don’t mind if I share it with my lovely health and social care students.” (Walking back to happiness), Sarah
“Great article about Conor Rogers — I will hunt out his work! Sorry I missed him at Site Gallery,” (‘I’m not just trying to display poverty porn’), Caroline Mitchell
“An excellent, balanced article. We need more robust debate on cities and urbanism in general,” (20,000 new homes in Sheffield city centre?), Perry Ismangil
This week Labour chooses its candidate for South Yorkshire mayor. To get our members-only analysis in your inbox, join up today.