Develop: Games Up

7 08 2008

There was a panel at the Develop Conference about the Games Up campaign, which rather predictably went into tax breaks and stayed there. There were a number of good points I found in it, both for and against tax breaks, none of which I’d heard being made before.

On the panel were Richard Wilson from TIGA, Sarah Chudley from Bizarre Creations, Ian Livingstone from Eidos, and David Braben of Frontier Developments.

Cutting off any comparisons to any industries such as coal mining, Ian Livingstone pointed out that subsidising dying industries is futile, but as a growth industry games would likely be reinforced and enhanced by tax breaks. There was a quick audience vote in which a great deal of those present seemed unsure about the idea, with a few even putting their hands up against.

The reasons soon became apparent, with the session quickly turning into a debate. IGDA Director Jason Della Rocca offering some particularly challenging comments. Over all, his argument was that the problems faced in developing games at the moment are so complex that a tax break would probably make little or no difference to the UK industry.

Furthermore, he said, there are many other areas which are within reach of studios, such as tool standards and talent retention. He’s right; while game development is not quite in the management wasteland of the early 00’s, there’s still a great deal of development to be done on businesses and staff.

In line with the comments at this session, Paul Wedgwood gave this quote to GI.biz this morning:

I can tell you as the owner of a studio that, at least has the perception of being successful, if I paid less tax we wouldn’t make better games

As with any debate like this, all camps tend to be a bit naive in their own favour, but it’s interesting to note such industry figures decrying tax breaks as too simple and too unlikely a target. Of course, if the government offers the industry money it would be foolish not to take it, but there’s far more to pushing the industry forward, and I can’t help but feel that through this Richard Wilson has stepped into a tricky cultural problem in terms of game development: It’s fairly straightforward for studios to unite yet act out of self interest as far as calling on the government is concerned, but other areas where studios can make improvements call for a lot more selfless effort.

(CC window tax image by akira_kev)

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