Report: ESLPA Expressed Concern During Tax Break Talk with UK Government

December 8, 2010 -

A four-page expose put together by GameIndustry.biz reveals that ELSPA -- the trade group representing the interactive entertainment industry in the UK -- may have quietly been working against tax breaks. While it sounds like a nefarious, under-handed scenario - and one that may have inadvertently sent a mixed signal to the government at the time - the group had its reasons.

While the industry continually lobbied the government last year to provide tax breaks and other business support, ELSPA aired a number of concerns it had with the government over "cultural tax breaks." ELSPA apparently warned the government against such tax breaks, instead urging them to offer the industry 'software' tax breaks.

The difference between the two is vast:

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UK Videogame Counterfeiter Gets Two Additional Years in Prison

July 22, 2010 -

UK trade group ELSPA announced that a Videogame counterfeiter has been re-imprisoned for failure to pay back restitution for his crime. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Investigation, videogames counterfeiter Steve Adams was required to pay a court ordered £109,000 by December 25, 2009; failure to pay would result in a further 2 years imprisonment.

Adams was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for more than 50 trademark offences in 2008, after a total seizure of 32,000 discs at his home. Adams, his girlfriend Julie Frendo and accomplice Greg Gartside ran a counterfeiting operation from 2004 to 2008 in Midlands and North West England, earning them approximately £200,000 and costing the videogame, music and film industries an estimated £1million - according to ELSPA. Adams was jailed for three years following a major investigation by Wolverhampton Trading Standards, West Midlands Police and investigators from ELSPA.

Having failed to pay back the money, Adams was sentenced to a two year sentence a breach hearing in the Birmingham Magistrates Court.

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ELSPA Names New Commercial Manager

July 21, 2010 -

Sam Collins is the new "commercial manager" at UK-based trade group ELSPA. Collins is a 17 year veteran of the video game industry who has worked in sales and executive positions at Virgin, Domus and Midas. Most recently, Collins handled European sales for Midas Interactive Entertainment and Ghostlight Ltd.

In his new role as "Commercial Manager" Collins will help the trade industry that represents the video game industry in the UK and handles the ChartTrack retail sales research business rebrand itself as the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment. ELSPA hopes to complete its transition to UKIE by the end of this Summer.

"This is a crucial time for ELSPA as it supports its members and broadens its appeal to a wider audience, in line with changes in the interactive entertainment industry, said Collins."

Source: GI.biz

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ELSPA's Rawlinson Promoted to IP Theft Coalition Vice Chair

July 14, 2010 -

Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) Director General Michael Rawlinson will also now serve as Vice Chairman of the Alliance Against IP Theft.

Rawlinson previously served as Treasurer for the organization for two years. The Alliance Against IP Theft was founded in 1998 in order to make certain that “intellectual property rights receive the protection they need and deserve. Members include ELSPA, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the British Video Association (BVA), the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Video Standards Council (VSC).

The appointment, it was said, would “ensure the continuing representation of the interactive entertainment industry in the field of intellectual property.”

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EGTV Examines State of UK Gaming

May 5, 2010 -

The latest episode of Eurogamer’s EGTV show is entitled The Videogames Election and scrutinizes just how important—and necessary, perhaps—government support is to the UK games industry.

The piece features interviews with pro-game MP Tom Watson, ELSPA’s Michael Rawlinson, Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studios, EA Sports President Peter Moore and TIGA’s Richard Wilson, among others.

Rawlinson took time in the piece to note a toning down in the anti-game rhetoric from MP Keith Vaz, who reacted some years ago to the UK’s Manhunt tragedy with a call to ban all violent videogames. When responding to the violent scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Vaz wanted to ensure that the game could not fall into the hands of children, to which Rawlinson replied, “That’s our message.”

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ELSPA Wondering Where UK Conservatives Stand on Tax Breaks

May 4, 2010 -

In advance of polling (election) day on May 6 in the UK, the Entertainment and Leisure Publishers Association (ELSPA) trade organization has issued a call to the Conservative Party for it to clarify its stance on videogame tax breaks.

The Conservatives had promised to release a “mini manifesto” on the subject last month, but with just a couple of days to go before the election no official word had been issued as of yet.

ELSPA Director General Michael Rawlinson stated, “We urge the Conservatives to publish their mini manifesto on creative industries before May 6th. The Conservative Party has spoken on numerous occasions of their commitment towards the videogames industry and creative industries in general, and our importance in helping to provide a more balanced UK economy.”

He continued:

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Has MP Vaz Mended His Anti-Game Ways?

March 31, 2010 -

According to a handful of his associates in Parliament, anti-game MP Keith Vaz has softened his often bristling views on the videogame industry.

In his role as MP, Vaz has called for cigarette-style warnings to be affixed to videogames, condemned the violence in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, called for a ban of RapeLay, expressed outrage over the home-made game Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game and even alienated other anti-violent game crusaders.

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ELSPA to Host Political Q&A

March 17, 2010 -

In advance of the looming general elections, UK Trade organization ELSPA has organized a videogame-related question and answer session with three MPs.

Scheduled for March 29, the talk will include pro-gaming Labour MP Tom Watson, Conservative MP Ed Vaizey and Liberal Democratic MP Don Foster. Sadly, anti-game MP Keith Vaz will not be a part of the proceedings. Along with presenting each group’s vision for the game industry, the Q&A will put forth issues such as tax incentives; investment in skilled graduates; Intellectual Property theft; and the impact of the Digital Economy Bill.

Daily Telegraph Consumer Technology Editor Matt Warman will moderate the session.

Watson commented, “Videogames have become an intrinsic part of the UK economy and culture, I’m delighted to be participating in this debate, to put forward my ideas on how government can best influence the future direction of the industry.”

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Vaizey: Conservatives in Power Would Delay Game Tax Breaks

January 22, 2010 -

While Keith Vaz being mocked in absentia at this week’s eForum roundtable on the state of the UK games industry was a humorous aspect of the proceedings, there were also some deep insights to emerge from the meeting as well.

Jas Purewal attended the forum and wrote up a couple of the more interesting notes on his website. Among them, a comment from Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey (pictured) that if the Conservative party comes into power this year, there would most likely be no movement on creating tax incentives for game developers for two to three years. Vaizey reasoned that a focus on correcting the current recession would take top priority and push any talk on incentives to the back burner.

Vaizey also disclosed his hope that TIGA and ELSPA could work together more closely in the future, or even merge.

More coverage from the forum on the topics of tax breaks, digital distribution and education can be found on this page of Purewal’s site.

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UK R4 Card Importer Sentenced

January 15, 2010 -

UK Resident Yun Can Meng has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of illegally importing R4 game copier cards into the country.

Meng was arrested for importing over 26,500 of the R4 cards, which allows a user to use pirated content on a Nintendo DS, and was busted as a result of the combined work of The Entertainment and Leisure Software Association’s (ELSPA) Crime Unit, Hull City Council Trading Standards Department and the Humberside Police force.

Meng was sentenced in Hull Crown Criminal Court.

ELSPA Director General Michael Ralinson on the sentencing:

Our crime unit is pleased with the outcome of this trial and pleased to see the Court of Appeal’s copyright judgement is being robustly enforced. Intellectual property (IP) theft is an important issue for the country’s videogames industry - as is protecting it.

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ELSPA: 2009 a Good Year for Game Industry Sales

January 6, 2010 -

Based on Gfk Chart-Track sales data, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishing Association (ELSPA) has proclaimed 2009 as the second best year ever for UK videogame sales.

Total 2009 sales, lumping in software, accessories and hardware together, totaled 114.2 million units or £3.311 billion (approximately $5.3 billion U.S.). Broken out, software sales were £1.621 billion (approximately $2.6 million U.S.), while console hardware totaled £1.06 billion (approximately $1.7 billion U.S.). The latter figure decreased in year-over-year results due to lower average prices.

Wii games sold the most units in the UK last year, with a figure of 18.0 million, with PlayStation 3 software sales totaling 11.9 million units. The Xbox 360 was number one for 2009 in terms of revenue, gaining four percent over 2008 to total £459 million (approximately $734.0 million U.S.). No unit figure for 360 software titles sold was provided.

6.7 million hardware units were bought in the UK last year, with the Wii selling the most.

The accessory market contributed 2009 sales of £630 million (approximately $1.0 billion U.S.).

ELSPA Director General Mike Rawlinson commented, “The UK videogames market is maturing – we are not seeing such explosive growth as in 2008, a sure sign that the market is coming of age. Consumers are shopping smarter and gaming is becoming more widespread across all demographics.”

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ELSPA Thrilled With UK Board Endorsement

October 27, 2009 -

After a promotional campaign earlier this year that turned a disdainful eye on playing video games, a health board in the United Kingdom seems ton have modified it's stance.

The National Health Service runs a campaign called Change4Life, and after extensive consultation with ELSPA, the board has agreed to allow Wii Fit Plus to run its Change4Life logo in its advertising.

ELSPA's Director General Mike Rawlinson said the organization said that it was thrilled that that active video games were being recognized by the government:

"Since the negative portrayal of videogames in a Change4Life advertisement earlier this year, ELSPA worked with the Department of Health to gain proper recognition of the many benefits which active gaming can bring to an energetic lifestyle. Children and adults across the UK already know that dancing, jumping or even boxing within an active videogame have real exercise benefits. We are encouraged by this positive step to gain wider recognition of the health benefits that videogames can offer to individuals, families and communities alike.”

The health board had run and advertising campaign in March showing a child playing a video game with the words "Risk and Early Death, Just Do Nothing" as the headline. It caused a significant uproar in the games industry, but despite numerous protests, the health service allowed the campaign to continue.

ELSPA also said that Wii Fit Plus may be able to run the Change4Life logo on its game box next year.

According to the ELSPA press release, a spokesman for the Department of Health seemed to stress that they were not endorsing a video game, per se, but "an exercise regime":

“Active video games, where kids need to jump up and down or dance about as part of the game, are a great way to get kids moving.”

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Oops! UK Game Ratings Haven't Been Enforceable Since 1984

August 25, 2009 -

In the UK, 25 years worth of government enforcement of content ratings for video games and films has been found to lack the required legal basis.

As reported by politics.co.uk, the Maggie Thatcher regime failed to notify the European Commission regarding the 1984 Video Recordings Act, thus invalidating the law.

In the UK, unlike the United States, content ratings have the force of law and those who sell adult-rated games or movies to minors can be charged with an offense. The oversight was discovered recently by the British government's Department for Culture Media and Sport.

A representative of the UK's Entertainment Retailers Association expressed amazement at the news:

This is extraordinary. For 25 years retailers have been faithfully administering the system and now this happens.

Meanhwile, Liberal Democrat Don Foster seized the opportunity to criticize Conservative Party leader David Cameron:

This must be a massive embarrassment to the Tories, especially as David Cameron was the special advisor to the Home Secretary in 1993 when the law was amended.

However, Conservative Jeremy Hunt pointed the finger of blame back at the Labor Government:

Much of the problem would have been avoided if they had sorted out the classification of video games earlier, as we and many others in the industry have been urging them to do.

Game publishers lobbying group ELSPA has counseled its members to proceed normally and offered to help the government fix the mistake. As reported by gamesindustry.biz, ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson said:

The discovery that the Video Recordings Act is not enforceable is obviously very surprising. In the interest of child safety it is essential that this loophole is closed as soon as possible.

In this respect the videogames industry will do all it can to support and assist the government to that effect. ELSPA will therefore advise our members to continue to forward games to be rated as per the current agreement while the legal issues are being resolved.

Theoretically, at least, unscrupulous sellers have a 90-day window to peddle adult content to children. It will take the government at least that long to push through a revision to the VRA.

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Game Critic Keith Vaz Supports PEGI Ratings, Says ELSPA Head

July 24, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz (left), a longstanding critic of the video game industry, is apparently lending his support to the use of PEGI as the UK's sole rating system.

At least, that's the word from ELSPA. A press release issued today by the UK game publishers group reports on a "quick meeting" between ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson and Vaz:

London, United Kingdom – 24 July, 2009: ELSPA’s Director General, Michael Rawlinson, met with Keith Vaz MP this week. During the meeting the Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman made it clear he supports the single rating system being introduced for videogames and also commended the improvements to PEGI.
 
“We had a quick meeting with Mr Vaz and he made it apparent that he believes it is important to have a single, rather than a confusing dual, rating system in the UK,” said Michael Rawlinson. “Mr Vaz added that he was keen to see the changes being made to the PEGI system and acknowledged the UK games industry’s commitment to an advertising and education campaign around the new age symbols and content descriptors when they are introduced to further protect players.”

"Quick meeting" leaves a lot to the imagination: Hallway? Elevator? Men's room? We've asked ELSPA for clarification and whether we can expect any type of announcement in which Vaz states his position for himself.

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British Government Forms Video Game Committee

July 23, 2009 -

The British government will establish a "video games committee," reports MCVUK.

The concept for the new group came out of a meeting last week between representatives of UK game publishers' group ELSPA and Siôn Simon (left), the government's new Minister for Creative Industries. The committee will have representatives from a number of British Cabinet offices, including the Departments of Culture, Media and Sport, Business Innovation and Skills, Health, the Home Office and Children, Schools and Families.

ELSPA head Michael Rawlinson told MCVUK that he was encouraged by the decision to create a video game-specific government committee:

The news was indeed upbeat. The Minister assured us that the Government is confident of being able to introduce pro-PEGI legislation before the next election.

We also covered the other hot topic of the moment: tax breaks for the industry. Siôn Simon confirmed that the Treasury is now open in principle to the idea of tax breaks for the country’s video games industry.

But endlessly calling for tax breaks is not enough. What is obvious is that hard evidence has so far been very lacking so the Minister has now asked ELSPA to help further the debate by furnishing that evidence. This, of course, we are happy to do.

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ELSPA Head Details New Strategy For Lobbying UK Government

July 13, 2009 -

Michael Rawlinson (left), who heads British game publishers group ELSPA, details his organization's new - and apparently successful - approach to dealing with the U.K.'s government bureaucracy in a guest column for MCVUK.

Despite some difficult recent years in which most of the political dialogue on video games in the U.K. involved criticism of game violence, the British game biz has scored some big wins of late. Most notable among these was the government's recent adoption of the PEGI content rating system favored by the industry.

At its core, ELSPA's strategy seems to involve working both harder and smarter. Rawlinson writes:

PEGI’s ascent to becoming the sole ratings system for games was a momentous achievement for the industry – and just goes to show how we can really get the Government’s attention when we get our approach right.

 

We’ve deliberately become more professional in terms of our dealings with Government. We’re strategically planning what we do – we don’t just bowl up to meetings, answer questions then leave.

We not only had to convince Government... we also took our arguments much wider, taking in the whole of Westminster, as well as the devolved parliament in Scotland and the regional assembly in Wales as well as the European parliament. Retailers, children’s charities and more were also covered. All of these groups had different needs we had to meet...

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It's PEGI Over BBFC in British Video Game Rating Battle

June 16, 2009 -

After more than a year of consideration, the British Government has selected the Pan-European Game Information system, better known as PEGI, will handle video game content rating chores in the U.K.

The announcement was made a short time ago and is contained in Lord Stephen Carter's Digital Britain report.

The U.K. video game industry is sure to be pleased with the news. British game publishers association ELSPA lobbied hard for PEGI during the 15 months since Dr. Tanya Byron's review recommended that there be a single content rating system for the U.K. ELSPA boss Mike Rawlinson was ebullient over the announcement:

The Government has made absolutely the right decision for child safety. By choosing PEGI as the single classification system in the UK, British children will now get the best possible protection when playing videogames either on a console or on the internet.

Parents can be assured that they will have access to clear, uniform ratings on games and an accurate understanding of game content.

On the other hand - as in the United States where the ESRB handles ratings - some will question whether the video game industry can be relied up to effectively self-regulate.

For its part, the BBFC issued a statement reflecting its disappointment but vowing to support the Government's decision:

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

Among the video game community the BBFC is best known for the controversial nationwide ban it imposed on Manhunt 2 in 2007. That edict was later overturned by Britain's High Court.

Via: TechRadar

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British MP: ELSPA and Tiga Should Merge

May 13, 2009 -

ESA, EMA, ESRB, IGDA, ELSPA, Tiga: On both sides of the Atlantic the alphabet soup is bubbling when it comes to video game industry trade groups.

But one member of Parliament thinks that the British video game industry would be better served with a single organization whose name people could remember.

Conservative MP Edward Vaizey (left), who has been a vocal supporter of the game biz, told IncGamers:

[ELSPA and Tiga should] merge and have a name everyone can understand. Two trade bodies for one industry, why?

 

The videogame industry has to up its game and tell people what they're about. There are all these great stories about videogames which never get into the press. [The two trade bodies - ELSPA and Tiga] [s]hould get together and talk to each other, and get the good press stories out there...

Vaizey also criticized the Labour Government's recent Change4Life campaign which suggested that playing video games would lead to an early death. The campaign was later revised.

GP: Vaizey may be a bit off the mark here. ELSPA represents game publishers, while Tiga represents game developers. While there are areas of mutual concern, the interests of the two groups are not always in synch.

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Is UK Game Biz Over-reacting to "Early Death" Ad Campaign?

March 11, 2009 -

Outrage would be a mild way to describe the British video game industry's reaction to that now-infamous print ad which appears to suggest that playing video games may lead to an early death.

The gaming press has also been largely critical of the ads. But Rob Hearn at UK site PocketGamer takes a much different view:

To begin with, the ad does not call video game publishers 'child killers', or anything like it, and the suggestion that it does is bordering on neurotic...


The ad implies... that playing a lot of video games instead of running around in fields can reduce life expectancy, but that's true...

Of course, video games are no more responsible for obesity than they are for violent episodes. That responsibility falls firmly in the lap of the individual and his guardians...

 

[Given all of the unfair criticism of games, it's] no wonder the video game community feels embattled and defensive. But that's no excuse for fuzzy logic or myopia. Just because the public is neurotic, there's no reason why we should be.

It's not a contradiction to love video games and to believe they can be played to the detriment of the player. To discourage a group of impartial charitable institutions from making this point does no favours to the industry's hard won credibility.

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UK Health Ad Sparks Video Game Biz Backlash

March 7, 2009 -

Earlier this year, the UK government’s Change4Life initiative irked some game industry types with a commercial that linked video game play with obesity and other health problems. This month, the campaign has launched print ads suggesting that video games lead to premature death.

The ads, which depict a young boy holding a Playstation controller under the headline RISK AN EARLY DEATH, JUST DO NOTHING, seems to be lighting a fire under the UK game industry.

MCV Associate Editor Tim Ingham has penned an impassioned editorial calling on the industry to speak out against the government’s ad:

Change4Life’s heart-in-mouth scapegoating of the video games industry is a troubling indictment of a hypocritical Government which flashes us grins when we generate £4 billion a year for its depleted coffers; but which then turns its back and explicitly tells parents that we’re KILLING THEIR CHILDREN.  …surely it’s the time for us to stand up as an industry and say: “That’s not fair”?

Let’s be very clear, because this gets sensitive: Sticking up for video games’ achievements in the face of shrieking propaganda does not show us up as a negligent supporter of obesity in kids.

It shows we’ve remembered where our bollocks are – at a time when the Government’s foot is wedged firmly between them.

For its part, MCV has submitted an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority saying the ad is “unrepresentative of the positive effect video games have on the UK’s youth.”

Meanwhile, Michael Rawlinson, director of ELSPA, told MCV that the UK game publishers' trade association took an urgent meeting with the Department of Health regarding the ad.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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ELSPA: Meet The New Boss

February 19, 2009 -

U.K. game publishers' group ELSPA, the British equivalent of the ESA, has a new top dog.

Edge Online reports that longtime ELSPA exec Michael Rawlinson will succeed the departing Paul Jackson as director general.

ELSPA chairman Andy Payne commented on the move:

We greatly thank Paul for his dedication and commitment over the past two and a half years,‭ ‬establishing ELSPA as a key conduit between the video games industry and the UK Government.

Whilst we are losing Paul on an operational basis,‭ ‬we are fortunate that he will continue to support ELSPA in his new role.‭ ‬Michael has excelled under Paul's leadership and is now absolutely ready to take the role as director general and lead ELSPA into the future.‭

In recent times Rawlinson has been a very public supporter of the PEGI rating system whilst bashing the competing BBFC.

In October Rawlinson asserted that Labour MP Keith Vaz, a longtime critic of the video game industry, actually gave helpful publicity to the violent games he was criticizing in Parliament:

Keith Vaz has done more to sell Rockstar's games than Rockstar has. The original Manhunt was released, did diddly squat and fell right off the radar until the Stefan Pakeerah [murder] came and Vaz started shouting from the rooftops and then everyone went and bought the stuff...

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ESA Slams Western European Nations for P2P Piracy

February 17, 2009 -

Western Europe is a hotbed of P2P piracy, said the Entertainment Software Association in a press release earlier today.

The trade group, which represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers, included its findings as part of a report to the U.S. Trade Representative by the International Intellectual Property Alliance.

The ESA says that it studied P2P sharing of 13 popular game titles in December, and logged nearly 6.5 million illegal downloads. Italy was the leading offender, followed by Spain, France, Germany and Poland.

The ESA also indicated that it found "high demand" for console and handheld titles, which it says translates to "widespread availability of circumvention devices and game copiers in many leading markets."

Here's what the ESA had to say about Italy:

For a popular AAA racing title alone, Italy had close to 590,000 downloads... Telecom Italia’s networks were implicated in 11.6% of the completed downloads observed globally, making it the world’s most heavily utilized ISP in the course of the industry’s study... It was also found that with greater incidence of video game piracy through P2P networks, there appeared to be a corresponding and dramatic decrease in legitimate sales of entertainment software. Individual member company online monitoring confirms these trends.

 

The industry is also plagued by the easy availability online of circumvention devices, such as mod chips. This situation was exacerbated by a court decision in Bolzano, Italy, holding that mod chips were not illegal under Italian legislation implementing the EU Copyright Directive. Fortunately, the Supreme Court in 2006 reversed this court decision and found that circumvention devices are illegal under Italian law, but the damage was done and continues.

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In Parliament, Lively Debate on Video Game Ratings & Green Cross Man

November 14, 2008 -

The House of Commons had a lengthy and entertaining debate on video game issues yesterday. Also under discussion was the issue of Internet safety for children. Both topics, of course, were the focus of the well-known Byron Review.

MPs, including Labour Party game critic Keith Vaz argued about game ratings, game violence and whether the government does enough to support the British game biz.

The session had to be gaveled to order at a couple of points and Vaz made reference to a "secret tea" attended by Conservative MP Edward Vaizey and game industry execs. And, as if the ongoing turf war between PEGI and BBFC for U.K. ratings dominance wasn't complex enough, yesterday's debate also featured the light-hearted suggestion that British road safety icon the Green Cross Man (left) somehow be tied into the game rating system.

In this report, we've omitted the Internet bits to focus on the video game debate. Here's our abridged transcript:

John Whittingdale (Conservative): ...If one looks for empirical, hard, factual evidence that viewing a particular video or playing a video game has led someone to go out and commit a crime such as a rape or an act of violence, there is very little. Our view was therefore... that we should act on the probability of risk. Where there is a probable risk that someone would be influenced by exposure to such material, that is sufficient cause for intervention...

Tanya Byron did a great deal of work on that. Her other conclusion, which was shared strongly by the Committee, was that we cannot completely insulate children from material that might pose a risk. Part of educating children involves teaching them how to deal with risks. If we insulate them to the extent that they never encounter risks, they will not know how to deal with them...

Providers such as Microsoft told us about the parental controls that they have installed into products such as the Xbox... We were impressed by the commitment that almost every major industry body, including internet service providers, social networking sites and hardware manufacturers, has shown regarding the protection of young people, but there is no commonality...

I want to talk about video games in the final part of my remarks. I know that Keith Vaz... has several concerns about this issue, so he has arrived [late] at just the right moment.

Part of the problem with video games... is that there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that view. The Video Recordings Act 1984 provided that games should be classified, that it is necessary to restrict certain games to people over a certain age... and that there would be games that should be banned entirely. That system has been generally successful since then, although there is often controversy about individual games...

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): I invite my hon. Friend, in the tone of his remarks, to make the point that when we talk about harmful video games and films, we are talking about a small minority. Does he agree that it is incumbent on hon. Members to remind the House as often as possible, when they talk about video games, that we have a most successful video games industry in this country, which employs thousands of people?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): My hon. Friend is entirely right. The video games industry is increasingly important and generates more money than the film industry. It is something that we are very good at. We are a creative nation, and many of the most successful games were developed here. We strongly support the games industry's efforts to ensure that it remains strong in this country and is not poached by other countries such as Canada, which is attempting to attract it there.

Keith Vaz (Labour): ...The fact remains that some of those games, even though they are a minority, are very violent. The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game "Kaboom" in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): This is a very difficult area and "Kaboom", which has been around for a little while, is an interesting example. It is a remarkably crude, cartoon-type game and is not in the least realistic, as many games now are. It is undoubtedly tasteless and might be offensive to a large number of people. I suspect that it is probably distressing to anyone who has suffered a bereavement as the result of a suicide bombing. Does that mean that it should be banned? I am not convinced that it should, because it is so crude, and other games pose greater concerns.

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that "Kaboom" is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban "Kaboom" is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point."Kaboom" is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream... It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry. (more after the jump)

ELSPA Green Lights New Color-coded Ratings

October 28, 2008 -

ELSPA, the trade group which lobbies for game publishers in the U.K., plans to introduce a color-coded rating scheme.

The move comes in the midst of ELSPA's bitter struggle with the British Board of Film Classification for control of game content ratings in the U.K.

According to Gamasutra, ELSPA's new system is based on something that's familiar to everyone - traffic lights.

The new color codes would be layered on to the existing PEGI rating categories. Games with 16 and 18 ratings would get a red light, a yellow for 12s and green for games suitable for young children.

Of course, with three colors and five ratings, not all of the kinks have been worked out.

Gamasutra writes:

The new rating system is in response to the UK government's upcoming consultation into video game ratings on November 20 and to child psychologist Dr. Tanya Byron's recommendations in her recently published report on the effects of video games on children.

Not surprisingly, BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark criticized the ELSPA plan:

There is a system in place already which people know and understand and which in fact uses the traffic light colours, and it's called the BBFC system.

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Church of England Dropping Resistance to Video Games?

October 11, 2008 -

It wasn't that long ago that the Church of England was all over the video game industry - and Sony, in particular - for depicting a Resistance: Fall of Man combat mission inside a virtual representation of Manchester Cathedral (pic at left).

But the U.K. game biz, it would seem, is trying to woo the CoE, along with other religious and charity leaders. As reported by Yet Another Review Site, lobbying group ELSPA held a Faith & Gaming event this week in London. From YARS:

Mike Royal, national director of the Lighthouse Group, which helps to educate children who have been excluded from school, discussed the use of playing computer and video games to talk about 'boundaries' with young people and what behaviour is good and acceptable, not only in gaming but other aspects of life.

He also said that gaming helps to build a dialogue with parents as well as children, especially with regard to the types of games children are playing...


While the panel agreed that computer and video games can have a positive impact, they also explained that games must be utilised in the right way to yield the best results. Parental engagement and encouragement, as well as safe and social gaming, can help children develop and protect them in an increasingly online environment.

A podcast of the event is available from ELSPA.

Via: Kotaku

8 comments

Does Nintendo DS Mod Chip Pose a Threat?

October 8, 2008 -

How much of a threat are mod chips to game publishers?

Quite a big one, according to U.K. newspaper The Independent. A lengthy article from today's edition deals primarily with a Nintendo DS mod chip known as the R4:

The R4 is a tiny Chinese-made device – costing around £14 – that for more than seven million owners of Nintendo's hand-held console, the DS, has blown wide open its capabilities. Combined with a small memory card and plugged into the back of the DS, it enables the console to play MP3s and videos, as well as store copies of games you already own.

 

Crucially, however, it also enables the user to play pirated games from the internet [which] can be downloaded for free. Add to this that it's simple to use, and available through retailers such as Amazon, and you can see why the R4 and devices similar to it are bringing video game console piracy to the mainstream.

Enabling a DS to play digital music and video is a wonderful thing. Obviously, playing pirated games is not.

In mentioning Amazon, the article is believed to be refering to Amazon UK. Mod chips are illegal in the United States under the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). An English appeals court, however, held recently that the devices do not infringe on copyrights in and of themselves.

On the other side of the coin, British parent Nick Welsh explains why the R4 is attractive:

The trouble with kids is you pay £20 or £30 for a game, and they could only play it once. Let's say I sit down and download 10 new games, the way it ends up is they'll only really play one or two or those, and the others get replaced. I wouldn't be able to afford that number of games.

 

You can have 70 or 80 games on a 2GB card, and they're all on the back of the machine. There's no fiddling around with cartridges – it's all there to hand... If there was some sort of iTunes equivalent where it was relatively easy and you could try a game for a week for a quid, and pay another four quid to keep it, then I think it's likely I would use it.

In addition to publishers, some game retailers are concerned about the popularity of the R4, which they link to declining sales of DS game cartridges.

25 comments

BBFC Head: Spat with PEGI? What Spat with PEGI?

October 8, 2008 -

Unless you've been hibernating for the last few months, it would have been difficult to miss the simmering feud between the BBFC and PEGI.

Both are in contention for the job of rating video games in the U.K., where PEGI enjoys the support of ELSPA, the U.K. game publishing lobby, while the BBFC appears to be favored by the government.

In a guest column for Edge Online, BBFC head David Cooke plays down the rivalry, which has gotten fairly nasty at times:

I have been reading recently that there’s a spat between the BBFC and ESLPA or the BBFC and PEGI. I don’t recognize this so-called spat. I have great respect for ELSPA and for PEGI and for the games industry...

Cooke also discussed the U.K.'s bifurcated game rating system, which currently uses both PEGI and the BBFC:

The conclusion that [Tonya Byron] reached was that we should still have a system in which both the BBFC and PEGI were involved for the UK but the BBFC should have a rather bigger role covering everything from age 12 and older.

 

In parallel, the House of Commons Select Committee on culture media and sports looked at the same kinds of questions as Tanya Byron, and they took a lot of evidence from many experts, including ELSPA.  They reached a similar conclusion to Byron.

Cooke also points out the difference between BBFC's mandate and that of ELSPA:

BBFC isn’t a lobbying organization, like ELSPA. It’s a statutory regulator. Our position is we’ll do what the government wants us to do... The key difference between us and PEGI is that we classify in accordance with guidelines that the British public has been consulted about. PEGI doesn’t do that and can’t really because it involves 27 different countries.

17 comments

ELSPA Exec: Game Critic Keith Vaz Helped Sell Manhunt

October 3, 2008 -

An executive with U.K. game publisher association ELSPA has credited violent game critic Keith Vaz (left) with helping to make the original Manhunt successful.

As reported by VideoGamer.com, ELSPA's Michael Rawlinson said:

Keith Vaz has done more to sell Rockstar's games than Rockstar has. The original Manhunt was released, did diddly squat and fell right off the radar until the Stefan Pakeerah incident came and Vaz started shouting from the rooftops and then everyone went and bought the stuff...

 

GamePolitics readers may recall that Vaz, a Labour Party member of Parliament, linked - and continues to link - Manhunt to the 2004 Pakeerah murder, despite Scotland Yard's finding to the contrary.

14 comments

ELSPA Not Giving Up the Fight over U.K. Game Ratings

October 1, 2008 -

ELSPA, which represents U.K. game publishers, has vowed to fight on in its bid to have content rating chores assigned to PEGI rather than the British Board of Film Classification, gamesindustry.biz reports.

The PEGI-BBFC debate has become rather a long-running sideshow in the U.K., where government officials seem to prefer the BBFC, the industry wants PEGI and no one seems in the mood to compromise. ELSPA boss Paul Jackson spoke to gi.biz of his organization's determination:

Nobody is saying for a second that if government brings in a regulation for a videogames act of parliament that our members won't fight it. Of course they will. At the end of the day we're a very law-abiding industry and we'll fight our corner right the way through. If there's a legislative process we'll fight that as well.

 

I think [government officials are] listening now. I have a real sense that the arguments we're making are so well-founded in fact that they're impossible to not listen to...

 

Fifteen years ago when we set up our own age ratings without anybody asking us to, we did it entirely off our own backs to make sure there was child protection. I don't think there is the slightest doubt that this industry isn't serious, coherent and of one mind of where we're going.

 

125 comments

ELSPA Exec Bashes BBFC

September 4, 2008 -

The political battle over who will handle video game rating chores in the U.K. continues.

In the latest development, Spong cites comments from ELSPA general manager Michael Rawlison concerning the relative merits of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system.

GamePolitics readers may recall that the industry strongly favors PEGI, while Gordon Brown's government seems to be leaning toward the BBFC. Here's what Rawlinson had to say:

The PEGI people are available to go and talk to developers through the development process and look at things in pre-production. [By way of contrast] you can only get a ruling on a BBFC rating once you've finished the product.

 

If we listen to what the BBFC said in print around Dark Knight - 'We analysed this film and we felt that it was borderline around 12 and 15 but in the end we decided to give it a 12', now whether they gave it a 12 of their own free will and volition or whether it was through heavy arm-twisting and pressure, who knows? I certainly have no evidence one way or the other. However, clearly there is no way to pre-determine what the rating of that is going to be until you send them the product.

81 comments

 
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Will Code Avarice's Paranautical Activity make its way back onto Steam?:

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Andrew EisenMaybe the fact that TWC throttles my upload speed to 1 Mbps is why I've been having so much difficulty live streaming. Then again, the podcast works fine.10/23/2014 - 3:52pm
PHX Corp@Neo_DrKefka @quiknkold agreed, I think everyone needs to just STFU and play Video Games. If the behavior(between #GG and #SGG2014) continues, it's going to eventually affect the Videogame industry negatively(Lost Sales, etc.)10/23/2014 - 3:50pm
Neo_DrKefkaIn a #GamerGate Stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd-BahVyFYQ they are too busy talking about Brianna's Wu appearance rather than her actions. Oh god our movement has become less and less about solutions and how can we can resolve these problems.10/23/2014 - 3:28pm
quiknkoldThese people are Arms Dealers selling weapons to both sides of this war, and I feel the only way anything will change is if everybody just stops. CTFO and play games.10/23/2014 - 3:28pm
quiknkoldI'm not specifically Targeting the Gamergate people on this. But There is one or two sick Freaks out there who get their jollys on this, and they are fueled by the war they are making worse.10/23/2014 - 3:27pm
prh99How much longer can the charade continue, the extremists have driven out the majority of people that thought it was about ethics. All that's left are the hooligans.10/23/2014 - 3:25pm
quiknkoldneeds to never happen again10/23/2014 - 3:20pm
quiknkoldand really I just stoped giving a damn about those articles, because the opinions of 7+ Articles does not change the fact that I am a Gamer, That I love Games, and that I am a decent hard working Human Being. And what happened to Felicia Day, who I adore,10/23/2014 - 3:20pm
quiknkold2 reasons why I originally joined gamergate. 1: I didnt like the 7+ anti gamer articles. 2 : I thought there was real newsworthy stuff pouring out of it like the stuff involving Phil Fish. As time went by, I saw no real fruiit10/23/2014 - 3:19pm
quiknkoldcalling for a #ceasefire. cause seriously, people on both sides need to just stop, step back to their corners, and relax for a little and just not deal with this. if something happens, fine, break out the bs again. But I will not stand idle by anymore.10/23/2014 - 3:18pm
james_fudgeQuiknkold: I was sad to see that happened.10/23/2014 - 3:13pm
quiknkoldthis arguement has become utter BS and I will not stand by when somebody who posts her own fears has those fears become true10/23/2014 - 3:10pm
quiknkoldWith Felicia Day's Doxxing, I am officially against Gamergate now. Calling for a #Ceasefire on twitter. This 'crap' needs to end now. Its BS that this happened.10/23/2014 - 3:09pm
Matthew Wilsoncrt's ran over 60 fps. its just publisher choosing graphics over gameplay10/23/2014 - 3:03pm
prh99MW: I'd tend to agree. When most tv's these days are 60Hz+ LCDs, a 30fps lock seems like a relic from the CRT TV days.10/23/2014 - 2:59pm
Matthew Wilsoncall me a pc elitist if you want, but I prefer 60 fps. that being said, Nintendo is one of the few developers that makes all their games at 60 fps. Platum does that too.10/23/2014 - 2:52pm
james_fudgeNeo_DrKefka agreed.10/23/2014 - 2:42pm
prh99Saddly Ubi has locked AC:Unity to 900p on consoles at least and 30fps for everything in the name of parity, and in the case of latter issue for a "more cinematic" feel.10/23/2014 - 2:36pm
PHX Corpa little PSA, Tonight is SSB4WiiU's turn at the nintendo direct at 6pm edt http://www.twitch.tv/nintendo I will be also hosting the Stream on my Twitch.tv page http://www.twitch.tv/trustygemtwitch10/23/2014 - 2:27pm
Andrew EisenBayonetta 2 allegedly banned in Saudi Arabi (but not Bayonetta 1). http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=91759010/23/2014 - 2:26pm
 

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