Wales politics

Games firm OysterWorld in administration despite £1.4m grants

Screenshot of the Oysterworld website Image copyright Oysterworld
Image caption Garden Party is a game for 7-13 year olds made by Oysterworld

A computer games company given more than £1.4m by the Welsh Government has gone into administration with large debts.

Around 50 people have lost jobs at OysterWorld, based in Treforest, near Pontypridd, which owed more than £2m.

The firm made games based on films and TV programmes.

Ministers hailed the arrival of the company when it moved to Wales in 2013, beating off competition from Canada.

Former employees told BBC Wales there had been delays in paying wages in recent months.

Andrew Tate of administrators Kreston Reeves said the company was placed into administration on Monday this week.

He said employees were owed wages by the company for July and part of June, and that the company had debts of more than £2m.

"I think the main reason that the company went into administration was because of cashflow," he said.

He said administrators were helping employees make claims with the UK Government for statutory redundancy payments.

Image copyright Oyster World

A former senior manager said OysterWorld staff were called into a meeting and told the company was going into administration after private creditors "pulled the plug".

He said: "We got massive help and support and encouragement from the Welsh Government.

"We think they did a great job. This is nothing to do with them - this is post their financial support."

Between 2013 and 2015 the firm received grants totalling £1.41m from the Welsh Government, with a final payment of £250,000 made in August 2015.

Neil McEvoy, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central, said he would be asking the Wales Audit Office to investigate public funding of the firm.

He claimed Labour ministers were "handing out millions to companies whose only knowledge of Wales is how easy it is to take the Welsh Government for a ride".

Oysterworld was described by the Welsh Government as a "regionally important company". It is believed to have had 70 staff at its peak.

At the time of the deal, OysterWorld communications manager Tony Bailey said government support had been a deciding factor in the company choosing Wales for its first major expansion, in the event relocating from London.

Former economy minister Edwina Hart had said the Welsh Government was "fully committed to accelerating the growth of digital media businesses in Wales and the development of the games industry is an integral part of this aim".

'Working closely'

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We were sorry to learn that OysterWorld Games are being placed into administration. We can confirm the company received a Welsh Government grant under the condition of creating 60 jobs in Wales and that this target was met and exceeded.

"We are now working closely with representatives of the company to support displaced staff.

"The gaming sector in Wales is growing and we anticipate that the skills and experience gained by the staff of OysterWorld Games will be attractive to other digital companies either based in, or looking to set up in Wales.

"We would stress that latest figures show the survival rates of the companies we support are actually above the UK average."

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