UK Declares Trade War With Canada Over Video Game Biz

March 28, 2008 -
Life is strange.

Just yesterday, the British government drew battle lines of a sort with the video game industry. The Tanya Byron report, which enjoys consensus support among British politicians, will almost certainly result in a revamping of the U.K.'s game content rating system and a placing of additional legal regulations on video game sales.

Today, the Vancouver Sun reports that the British government is initiating a trade war with Canada... to protect its slice of the video game business pie.

It seems that Canadian tax credits are luring European game developers to the likes of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.  

In response, the U.K.'s Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport has opened a European Commission investigation of Canada's trade practices. A ministry spokesperson told the Sun:
The U.K. government is concerned that state aid offered to computer games companies by a number of federal institutions in Canada may not be compatible with World Trade Organization principles.


Oh that rich, sicking the WTO on a country because they are less idiotic when it comes to creative freedoms and lower taxes.

Hahahaha. Always nice to read a funny story when I get on. Still going to
Canada for the same reasons. UK, was sounding nice, but now not really, USA isn't much better, and Canada always looks so kick ass. "Oh Canada...."

Hilarious. Very hilarious... They bite the hand that feeds them and expect them to stick around to pump games for them HA!

Oh that's rich. Not only do they get better breaks in Canada, they have better freedom there... oh man. That's rich. Sicking the WTO to treat them like a criminal isn't going to motivate them. If you beat them that badly, they'll likely go to China and start development there.


"Don’t be too quick to claim more freedom here in Canada. The majority of provinces have altered their Theater’s Act (that’s what we have in Ontario, I don’t know if that’s what the others call theirs) to include video games in their jurisdiction."

Yeah, it's something along the lines of "Theatre Act" in most provinces. But honestly, when was the last time anyone got fined for violating anything in the Act? Most businesses are good at policing themselves, but the government doesn't do much about those that don't... ;)

And while the various Ministers in charge of those acts are usually afforded the right to "override" the ESRB when they feel the need, none have done so. I mean, look at Manhunt 2... barely a blip. The only reason Bully got noticed was because of the teachers protesting it... And even then, nothing was really done.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Videogames are one of the worls biggest growing industrys,relevant to the new generations and our culture....and i cant stop thinking that just messing with it will come back to bite ya.

Any country that understands that and wants some progress can set a good atmosphere for the industry,and im positive that it will be good for both.

Basicaly im saying,that while some countrys are being hard on videogames ,those that work with it will be the ones go forward.

Getting back to the actual topic - this is about he whole question of 'most favoured nation' status within the WTO. The main rationale is to try an avoid to protectionist spirals that hampered global trade in the past. State aids, and blatant protectionism, is key to that question. There is no reason why a sectoral aid in Canada would not be questioned under the WTO rules - that is what they are for.

Global trade works within a context - play by the rules or be shunned by the rest ...

If Canada's developer-friendly atmosphere leads to more great companies like BioWare, I'm all for it.

Wait... they say it isn't fair for Canada to offer lower tax for video game companies? Since when do they have any say over it? I don't think it goes far enough for the WTO to even sniff at. You want to keep your video game companies... then stop being arsehats to them, and make a better deal.

Sorry, but this is clearly a case of wanting to have your cake and eating it. On one hand, Gordon Brown's government want to legislate the hell out of video games and want fine those who sell said games to those under-age, and they have decided to forego the superior PEGI system and stick with the out of date and archaic BBFC system. Then, after they state this, they are surprised that developers want to ship out to greener pastures.

This is akin to me making the decision to beat my wife into a bloody pulp and then expect her to stay and cook me a steak the morning after with a complimentary pole-polishing.

Brown, you have a choice: either continue your puritanical crusade against all forms of fun or realise this is no longer the 17th century and wake up and smell the overheating RRoD XBox 360. I can't wait until 10 or 20 years time when the very people who today's governments are proclaiming are being corrupted by video games will be the people taking their jobs.

Tell you what, you guys stop treating "Saskatoon berries" as a GMO, and we'll stop telling your game developers that it's in their bests interests to not work in a country that considers them to be worse than porn...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Yeah, and bring up the WTO and we'll riot like we did last time suckers!

Heh, I kid. This is really asinine.

This is such a perfect example of the little kid on the playground shoving another kid, and then crying to the grown-ups when no-one will play with him.

We appear to be at war, Mon Ami. Yes you Quebec Bastards, war :):

That smiley failed..


I suppose it's human nature to instinctively want to bring others down to your level, rather than improve your own performance in an increasingly competitive arena, but it's still a sad state of affairs. This is pretty clearly a vinegar-and-honey situation and I don't see what the U.K. government hopes to accomplish while they continue to do nothing to change their situation at home.

I read about this a while back. I love how the UK claims that because they treat the game industry like crap, everyone else has to.

If they really want to keep the game industry in the UK, they are not doing a good job. They should try being nice for a change.


I also need to add, the UK game industry has been lobbying the government to give them competitive benefits. They don't even have to be the same or better, just closer.

The UK government has ignored them at every pass. They would rather listen to people who wish to punish the game industry.

Not only does Canada offer generous tax credits and exemptions to the video game industry, they provide a free atmosphere for creativity. Something the UK and US seem to be ardently opposed to.

I love the fact that Canada doesnt see Video Games as evil, but as an excellent source of revenue.

LOL ah what a farce. Clearly giving industries any kind of break is a madness, madness I tell you! Just look at our film industry, they're get on fine without any... erm wait a minute. LOL

Seriously, this spat to one side a minute, didn't the French announce subsidies a while back? I wonder what will happen closer to home when the government notices everyone is moving to France instead? :D


The Birtish government are a bunch of cunts - no surprise there. (btw, THIS is why the BBFC is popular - becuase they're not the givernment).

@ EZK: I put a post in the forum about the UK deveklopers petition ages ago, but nobody seemed to care very much. Check it out here:

Incidentally, Margaret Hodge is a far greater threat to the world of videogaming than Keith Vaz and Jack Thompson combined. When will Dennis wake upo and start following this mad bitch's actions? She's got her own, departmental report coming out soon that's far bigger and far scarier than Byron's, as the remit applies to both adults and kids.

The sooner we can chuck these wankers out of power, the better, even if that does mean voting Tory.

Wait, in what way are the UK government treating the game industry like crap? Do any of you have concrete examples, or is it Friday Sheeple Day?


Well, what I've seen mentioned includes the game industry attempting to get tax breaks/incentives remotely close to what the film industry does, and being ignored. You've also got the current scrutiny/criticism of games that treats them more harshly than movies. Stuff like that I'm assuming is what people are referring to.

Don't be too quick to claim more freedom here in Canada. The majority of provinces have altered their Theater's Act (that's what we have in Ontario, I don't know if that's what the others call theirs) to include video games in their jurisdiction.

Because of that small change they've made the ESRB ratings the legal standard. We just don't call them killers.

First they become a bigger Nanny State, then they become bullies?

Too bad limeys, your credibility went out the window when Gordon Brown took over.


@ Gray17

They're not being treated more harshly than movies in any way, shape or form - they're being treated exactly the same as movies now, which is what we've all wanted all along, amirite?

All these FUCKING "limey" comments - you really are a bunch of arrogant, jingoistic asswipes. How would you like it if everybody else in the world held each and every one of accountable for the actions of the Bush Administration on an individual basis? Such ignorance!


Don't they already? ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I would imagine any limey remarks would probably be coming from Canadians and not Americans. I don't think any of us would care if you tried to hold us accountable for the Bush Administration.

Canada said no to attacking Iraq remember? It was the UK who went along with it.

Anyway.. sorry to get off topic. Back on:

@Moriarty: A ratings system in no way inhibits the creative process. In fact the global gaming community is quite behind the ESRB and their hands off approach to game rating. Rate the game. (Note the punctuation. As in a period. As in the end of the sentence.)

If a game warrants an AO rating, then it gets an AO rating.. it doesnt get banned. Do you see the difference? Anyway.. this has nothing to do with Canada in particular. My point about Canada is that the government does not backseat drive the industry in anyway. Nor does it try and granny the film industry.

These are cultural outlets and a good source of revenue. We as a country (including the government) are mature enough as a society to deal with whatever themes are brought up as individuals and as families.. NOT as a whole.

@ Jabrwock

Only the dickheads. It's not fair for any side to make generalisations, or to come in swing their dicks around. No country is close to being perfect and patriotism is propaganda - I just wished people where enlightened enough to grasp that simple notion.


I'm thinking of things like the Resistance: Fall of Man, and Manhunt 2 fiascos. As well as stuff like the GP article from back on January 14th. The one about the "In Battle Against Knife Violence, British PM Takes a Stab at Video Games"

Unless ya'll make a habit of attempting to ban new gory movies over there, blame movies for real life violence and we just haven't heard about it as it's old news and par for the course. In which case you have my apologies. Though the point about the tax breaks/incentives remains.

@Keith K

"Nor does it try and granny the film industry."

Might was to look up Bill C-10 unfortunately. The Harper conservatives are getting a might testy about films made with Canadian tax dollars.

Fortunately, all these tax breaks are provincial, not federal.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@ Keith K - oh and that makes it alright, does it? I could make some equally fatuous parallel about Canada, but why bother. It seems from this thread and others most of you would prefer to snuggle up in your cozy jingoism that actually consider the state-of-play beyond your own borders. Sheesh! And I thought this was the internet.

@ Gray17 - To be fair the Resistance thing was from one lone figure in the Church of England, and nobody pays any attention to them anyway (secular culture, less religious than elsewhere, blah blah blah). In truth, this whole topic gets far more coverage on the internet than it does on UK TV or newspapers, who really don't pay that much attention (much like the parents, regrettably) and just comment on the outcomes. I;m not saying is deliberately over-sensationalising things, I'm just saying he hasn't got full visibility for the national context most of the time (which is understandable and totally acceptable, IMHO).

But yes, fundamentally this whole debate over videogame classifications is merely a repeat of the debacle over horror movies hitting home video in the 1980s. Funnily enough, the exact same decision has been reached. The only difference is that we many more uninformed commentators. It's not especially hard for us Europeans to do some basic research before entering into argument with North Americans - is the same in reverse really too much to ask?

The UK - or rather New Labour - will not be satisfied until they replace the former militaristic British Empire with the new nanny-state, "we'll decide everything for you" British Empire.

I wish the same U.S. idiots that see this as ridiculous and stupid recognized the same nanny-state nonsense at home.

I hesistate to say this as it makes me sound like a 50 year old, rascist, taxi driver but Labour has ruined this country.

I'll be voting Conservative next election (whenever Brown decides when that is) and why wont even feel guilty about it.

*I won't even feel guilty about it.


Because, as we all know, the region you hail from determines any and all of your behaviors, both on the internet and in real life.

@ Monkey thumbs

I doubt any of the "limey" comments are from the US. I doubt very many people even know such a slang word exists.

I think that every country in the world has their share of the "video games are evil" crowd. So you are right it is not fair to condemn the UK for thiers.

What I condemn the UK for in this specific case is that the UK government is complaining about game development stdios and publishers jumping ship and heading over to Canada to take advantage of their incentives.

The UK government has more than enough capability to offer similar incentives to keep these studios from leaving. Yet they don't. They just complain. Its like someone in the movie theatre complaigning that the tall guy sat in front of them when there are thirty other empty seats. You can move if you want to, but you would rather complain.

There are other things that I do not like about the state of video games in the UK that I have argued repeatedly, yet to no avail. The reason, a good majority of you are comfortable with that. I certainly don't like it, but I don't expect tou to change your views at my request.

So, not content with trying to destroy its own, local games industry, it wants to destroy other people's, as well. Nice. :D



I know the R:FoM thing was primarily generated by a small chunk of the CoE. But you still had some politicians taking some potshots over it, though to be fair I can't remember offhand if it was anyone other than the usual fringe nutjobs.

Still the general point remains that you've got political types, taking unwarranted shots at games. Couple that with the lack of tax incentives, and it's unsurprising that people would call the UK government treatment of game developers crappy. Which is what Steve was wondering.

The point I was making about the status of ESRB ratings in Canada is that we're not just a happy Utopia country of the hedonists. In fact we've become more worried about creativity since the 70's & 80's. Let's be honest, SCTV wouldn't get off the ground today. If you want to see what Canadian sketch comedy has become within our own borders, just look at the Air Farce.

@ Dark Sovereign

That's exactly the type of generalisations I'm railing against! Being 100% specific, how the FUCK are we supposed to tolerate comments like, "Too bad limeys, your credibility went out the window when Gordon Brown took over"? Especially when they're so bloody frequent? You think they come from other Europeans? Read any British thread and the same bunch of North Americans follow this same tack over and over again.

But anyway, as to your comment: my personal belief is that the geographical context in which you were born and raised has an indelible effect on your behaviour - both on the internet and in real life. However, this is likely to be localised in the extreme (country-> region-> town-> district etc etc) and can be diluted to the point of irrelevance by other factors affecting an individuals upbringing.

Monkeythumbs..Um, I was reading another British thread and some guy with _UK in his name was railing against his own country. I'm confused. Should I stone him as the bible tells me to or cut him in half, keep one and give the other to the guy next door?


You think that's bad? How would you like to be labeled as a hick, be asked where your horse is, and have people assume your IQ is in the 60's merely because of where you live? I know it isn't fun to be labeled like that, but you painted North Americans with a very broad brush. It seemed that you assumed that just because we didn't see things from your perspective meant we hadn't seen any research, or that we weren't at least TRYING to understand what you were saying. I admit, the "limeys" are uncalled for, but it's just as bad to assume that we don't care about the state of play outside of our borders merely because we share the same area as some xenophobic jackass.

@Dark Sovereign.

And that everyone using the word Limey is an American to begin with.


I can't exactly fault him for that. Americans DID use that word, way back when, but it's been replaced by Brits.

Aww, the UK's pissed at us. It's so cute!

Buy more of our high quality wood and maybe we'll consider giving a rat's behind about what they do.

@ Dark Sovereign: a sentiment I applaud and I apologise without reservation if it was unclear to whom I was directing my remarks.

The sad truth is, like the person Eville1 mentions, I am no big fan of the UK. I despise the Government and how they are slowly but surely removing all theior accountability to the popel (although that may be over-stepping the mark, I'm unsure). Either way, everybody in power seems to be a twat (with the possible exception of Vince Cable). They donlt listen to us and the certainly donlt represent us. The only way for that to change would be for them to remember that there are more of us than them and for them to do what we want, they'd need to feel in danger for their very lives should they step out of line.

However, they've gone and stopped us from bloody-well protesting outside of Parliament, so there's fat chance of that. And worst of all? They've made 90% of the country so bloody comfortable and everything so convenient that nobody bothers to complain about things like civil liberties and personal privacy anymore - they don't even notice (or care about) their rights being stripped away.

From what I understand, only the French are more critical of their leaders than the British - it's almost like a national hobby. The massive caveat is that whilst the people in power are all utter tosspots, the institutions we have in place are by and large pretty sound and do a job of keeping the Govt in check so they can't run amuck making laws however they please. Society may be fucked, but we can rely on the Courts and the BBC (state-funded television, I might add - it's not all like China) to make sure that those in power get a damn good thrashing on a daily basis. This is why we defend the courts, the NHS, the BBC, the BBFC etc etc, because it's these unelected institutions that tend to speak with our voice against the injustices of Government.

@ EZK - My friend, I am sorry if I got a bit over-excitable. As it happens, I agree with your post entirely. Please refer to my first post (@12:36 pm).


You've seen how far our government is going downhill. It's part of the reason Americans are so defensive about Constitutional violations. It's the only thing that prevents our government from taking as much power as it wants.

You're all getting riled up because of a piece from the Vancouver Sun? The Sun chain is more or less the Canadian version of USA Today, the Air Farce to the Globe & Mail's 22 Minutes. I'm not saying it's bad, but I'd take any reports on major action against perfectly legal tax incentives with a grain of salt until it hits the rest of the Canadian press.

At any rate, if the UK is really concerned about their developers, then maybe they should figure out a way to speed up PAL-region releases for their gamers. I have no sympathy for them, given that we've been suffering through the same artistic siphoning from the American film industry for decades (though I do applaud them for trying to do something about it, whereas our government doesn't seem to raise a finger to keep actors from moving to Hollywood.)
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