No Tax Breaks for UK Games Industry… Yet

2 11 2007

Margaret Hodge

Margaret Hodge spoke at the ELSPA AGM during the London Games Festival last week, and ruled out any tax breaks for UK developers. There’s been quite a bit said about it of course, and the most comprehensive piece is this Develop one.

It’s not an out and out veto, and she makes some fair points:

“From my perspective, the one word that I hear the most from the industry is ‘Canada’, but as you all know the issues are bigger than one country. While Canada may be the current challenge to the UK industry, it could just as easily move to somewhere else in the next couple of months,” she said.

She then rebuffed the notion that the UK could adopt its own tax breaks, adding that the industry itself is split over the matter – ELSPA has reportedly signed up to a rejection of the approach to tax breaks which vets eligible projects based on their cultural relevance.

It remains a hot issue though:

And the Government’s now seemingly unsure (and, as some attending the seminar said later on, uninformed) stance on the development tax credits topic grated with the many development bosses in attendance, especially when she argued that in the short-term Quebec’s own generous tax environment will disappear. Famously, Quebecois authorities have guaranteed such credits, including highly-publicised deals cut with Ubisoft, for the coming years.

The stance didn’t convince those in attendance yet Hodge remained adamant it was a short-term threat, eventually telling fellow panelist David Braben, who admitted that two Canadian organisations had pitched the idea of him setting up a studio in the country, to “take your studio to Canada, then – because you’ll be back in a few years” during a heated panel discussion.

This MCV piece also quotes her offering some advice to the industry on PR:

“To deal with other negative MPs, I suggest you set up an all-party group. Find some MPs who understand your business. Get them on board and working for you within Westminster.

“And to ensure a sensible discussion about social responsibilities, I would also encourage you to get closer to the children’s charities.

“But as for criticism from the media, well don’t be so surprised. You’re a competitor of theirs aren’t you?”

It also links to full video of the AGM.

Overall the signals Hodge has given seemed mixed and have displeased a lot of developers, but as this article points out at the end:

A spokesperson contacted us to let us know that “Margaret Hodge hasn’t ruled out the idea of a tax break for the computer games industry in the U.K. She is looking at what else can be done to help to industry but hasn’t ruled out tax breaks.”

Overall, she was emphatically pointing out that putting tax breaks in place isn’t going to be easy. It seems the industry has a lot to do before making an kind of tax breaks a reality, and not least of all that will involve better organisation within the games industry in order to present a united public front.

Play/Time Lab

2 10 2007

Frank Boyd is running the Play/Time Lab at the London Games Festival Next month. It has a very broad remit, but the most precise way of referring to it would be “ARG workshop”. Here’s more on what it’s about, with a link to the application form at the end. The deadline for applications is 9:00am on October 8th:

Over four days between October 22nd and 26th, twenty creative professionals artists, writers, developers and producers from backgrounds in theatre, video-games, animation, web design, tv and radio – will collaborate and compete to develop original ideas for new games across a range of platforms.

The Play/Time Lab will comprise a blend of masterclass, presentations, workshop, screenings and of course, play. Participants will have a unique opportunity to explore and experiment with game forms and digitally mediated play; working as individuals and in teams they will also brainstorm, develop and prototype ideas for new ones.

Play/Time will focus on new forms of interactive narrative, location based games, social and casual games, games that involve live events and performance, augmented or alternate reality games, games with emotional depth, games that appeal to non-gamers.

Specifc themes for the Lab are the relationship between gameplay and narrative, formats which permit user contributions of narrative and character, the design of games with mobile and location based elements which exist alongside a broadcast component.

The Lab will feature presentations from from commissioners and developers from broadcasters, developers and publishers including the BBC, Channel 4, Electronic Arts, and 02, as well as games designers, writers and artists like Blast Theory, The Mustard Corporation and XPT.

Participants in Play/Time will also take part in and contribute to a specially commissioned augmented reality game, The Soho Project, being developed by for the London Games Festival by the Fictional Media Company.

There are still places available; if you would like to be considered for one, please complete the online application from at by 9:00am on October 8th.