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.


@ Dark Sovereign

I understand that much, What I fail to understand are cocks who come swinging into these threads on the whole "you're repressive and my country is better than your country" or "free speech, baby! Woo!" bandwagons that do nothing to further an intellectual discussion. It's mental masturbation - all you do is jack yourself off on how good you perceive yourself to be in comparison with others. Often, with no effort made to understand why a diffrent culture is like that in the first place. All I want is for poiple to think before they post, especially in threads that might not initially make sense to them.

But that's mostly it. I didn't see anybody barge into the the recent Boston threads and say "OMG you yanks are fucked, but I could care less cos you're all so dumb - woo, roast beef!". And yet, every single European thread sees a bunch of people from across the Atlantic feel they have the right to sit in judgement on a country they have nmost likel;y never even visited.

What the FUCK is up with that? It's tiring and I'm pissed off. This Byron report was supposed to bring us all togther - to UNITE us globally, Instead, so people are so myopic they get caught up in irrelevancies like the First Amendment (which has no bearing in the UK, obvs) to realise that for once, the industry was applauded and the parents took the rap - how it bloody-well should be.

I can see a few reasons:
The first is that Americans are, by nature, an opinionated and usually loud bunch, and feel, at least unconsciously that America is the world's police force.
The second is that they honestly think they've got a good point, and their just trying to discuss it.
The third, and the one that I think would come into play the most here, is that whenever a lawmaker in the US jumps on an issue, in this case video games, they have to fight a war of information. If a country in Europe enacted, is enacting, or has enacted a law similar to the one being proposed, or has put out a study that supports the law, then it will be used as fodder. So the fear is that the Byron Report will be used to convince people that censorship of the type being recommended (censorship meaning anything that could repress any legal form of expression here) is a good idea. The posters act on this fear by letting their opinions known on European topics and in European threads.


For what it's worth, the Canadians will butt in on American topics, typically immigration and trade policies, just like the Americans butt into European topics.
As for the report itself, I've found a few problems with it, but I'll give line and verse later.

@ Dark Sovereign

A charming and well reasoned response to my over-emotional rant - many thanks.

However, why people wish to exert their frustrations with what their own political systems might do in response to decision made by foreign ones by resorting to the equivalent of playground name-calling - is totally and utterly beyond me.



Oh no, not a trade war with Britain!

Whatever will we do without our Earl Grey?

Drink Red Rose, you uncanadian traitor!

Earl Grey's from India, not from the UK. Just the flavoring concept came from a brit :p

Hmmm. Funny how Brown does not have a go at our neighbours across the channel. After all the French have also recently offered tax breaks for video game companies (And rightly so too). He had ample time to do so during the French President's state visit this week?

Or is it a case of not wanting to piss the French off as he wants something off them later?

Hypocrisy and political gainsmanship strikes in the Labour Government again!

*sigh* We have to wait another 2 years for a chance to vote them out!

Question is, who else is there to vote for?


@ Dr Jodis Welch

Actually, Hodge (who runs this govt dept, not Brown) was hoping the French would back up their argument at the WTO, but instead the French decided to be proactive and positive about the situation instead (i am, as it happens, a massive Francophile). Since then, they've moaned about how "the same situation doesn't apply" in the UK (when it clearly does, they could apply to the EU for the very same concessions as France), and it seems they'd rather behave like a bunch of misers than do anything helpful.

Dang Canadians ehh??

Just kidding I am actually starting to love Canada based on some very good laws and policies... might even move a little north and find a job at one of their game companies...

Just a thought... but just what do we export to Canada anyway? I'm not sure the UK exports anything much to anywhere any more, so just what would we have a trade war with I wonder?

Regardless, it'll be a cold day in hell before I let the stupid actions of governments colour my opinion of other nationalities. And honestly what gives with laughing at a country because their politicians are capable of incredible feats of idiocy? It's the political equivalent of correcting other people's spelling and grammar, it will come back and bite you; with politicians it's just a matter of time before they balls something up. ;)


@GusTavToo "The main rationale is to try an avoid to protectionist spirals that hampered global trade in the past."

And avoid trade wars, right? Technically, this is an official gripe not an actual war yet.


As a canadian im not too happy with our tax credit policy, not because i think it does a bad job...simply because we are funding these amazing companies only to have them bought out by foreigners we're basically setting ourselves up to be owned by americans....poor bioware the last of canada's glorious indie dev roots.

Message to the UK: There are more guarantees games done by Canadian developers won't be banned for months because you idiots deem them too violent. We all know what you did when it came to Manhunt 2.

Don't start shit with Canada because your censorship loses you money. If you're companies aren't happy with your practices as a government, then they move out and the work somewhere where they aren't limited in stupid ways.

@Dark Sovereign

Not that it's any of your business, but as far as the limey thing goes - both my grandmothers are from England and my mother is the only one of four children *not* born in England. So when I use limey, it is half a joke and half with affection.

If you limeys developed a thicker skin, there wouldn't be a trade war.

Seems like old Britania is not happy about another countries practices...

well my advice is, TRY LIVING IN AUSTRALIA!!!!!

Here the Game Developers have to survive on their own most of the time, but our PM has no conplaints about it.

You guys do realise this has nothing to do with censorship? Censorship where it does cost money affects native and foreign companies alike. Talk about one track minds, the BBFC is not the root of all evil. In your rush to wave the flag you've failed to even discover what the real issues are.

This spat is about tax breaks/subsidies nothing more than that. Also, it's not a trade war yet, a complaint to the WTO is != to a trade war. Until the UK government reacts and takes action to prevent Canadian goods being sold here it's not a trade war.


Yes we know its not about censorship. We're just commenting on the fact that its not just tax reasons for developers to stay in Canada. If the UK wants to attract devs back to their island, they're going to have to do more than just let them keep more of their money. They're going to have to tell the BBFC to put their nanny hands back in their pocket and let the devs do what they want to do.

Why would developers want to publish from the UK when they stand a better chance of having their game banned in their own backyard than anywhere else in the world? (Save Germany, Australia and Singapore)

It's funny. They restrict the hell out of their game developers and then whine and try to stop them from leaving when they get a better deal.

And if they prevent Canadian goods from being shipped, it's only going to hurt them. A large portion of their own products are based off of the raw materials from Canada.


Umm, Bioware was bought by EA. So far, it seems like a good thing though, but time will tell.

Sorry but censorship really doesn't have anything to do with devs moving. If devs intend to make a game for the UK market they cannot avoid the BBFC by moving abroad. Furthermore, large companies won’t stay working a country if it is cheaper to get the work done elsewhere. No business will stay in a place based on their political opinion of a country’s regulatory system. If permissiveness rather than profit factored into location then every one would be based in Amsterdam.

In short you’re conflating issues. You might have a valid point if the BBFC intervened early in a game’s development thus preventing certain games from being made (rather than just sold here). However, that’s not the case, much like the ESRB the BBFC looks at near complete, or finished, products and advises on content changes/provides ratings at that point. The BBFC does not, and cannot, prevent games it dislikes from being developed in the UK so if it was cheaper to make a game here then that is what could and would happen.

I'm no fan of the BBFC, but given the immense costs of developing a game it seems ludicrous to suggest they are a major influence on where software houses set up shop.


@ lordlundar and Keith K

FFS, where do you think, GTA IV and MH2 were developed in the first place? There's no restrictions on developer's content in Britland. Jericho and Kane & Lynch were brought out by British publishers as well (although that's not a comment on quality - neither game was exactly stellar).

However, I do agree there's not much incentives for both comapnies and people to develop games in the UK - everything's too expensive and we've got shit weather as it is.


"However, I do agree there’s not much incentives for both comapnies and people to develop games in the UK - everything’s too expensive and we’ve got shit weather as it is."



Last time I checked Canada wasn't part of the EU? Or the Brithish government may have a different views on this? Since it wants the EU-commission to take action ?

The EU is a "single market" trading block, free trade operates between its members. However, the fact pertinent to this topic is that it can act as a single entity when representing the interests of an individual member to the WTO.

In serious cases the EU can lock down imports to protect the interests of individual members if a trade war does occur. I believe China recently had its clothing exports curtailed for that very reason.


does this trade war affect those who import games from each other {stupid but worthy of concern}? This trade war will not make Brittian look good in the eyes of other EU countries. Could the EU get involved in this?

Too bloody right, SCI/Eidos dumped their QA staff for a move to Canada. Of course it took them around two years to finalise all the details.

Wonder who'll be next to move their QA / development out there? SCEE?

you know i think Canada is a wonderful country. So more power to them.

Yesterday, I bought myself am block of Candian Cheddar cheese in protest of my Government's unhelpful and short-sighted actions. Vive la Revolution!

It's when I read news as stupid as this one that I find myself proud to be canadian and especially québécois. The québec government don't care about video games. We don't have psychotics idiots like Jack Thompson here. Those kinds of whackos get slapped in humour tv shows, in the newspapersand in the news so bad they don't show up in public ever after. The main problem when it come to games is the law 101, it force games compagnies to translate theirs games in french. Sometime the translation is good but not always. Halo 3 in french is totaly horrible. ( I know I made some spelling mistakes, please be nice with me, :) )
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