Labour Govt. Can't Say How Much Money It's Given to Game Biz

April 3, 2009 -

The Labour Government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given financial assistance to the video game industry, but it doesn't know how much, according to gamesindustry.biz.

Conservative MP Philip Davies (left) addressed the question to the government's Department of Culture, Media and Sports earlier this week. Parliamentary under-secretary Barbara Follett provided the response:

The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. We do not have the specific figures broken down by sector or year.

Richard Wilson, CEO of U.K. game developers group Tiga, criticized the government's confusion:

The government needs good quality information if it is to implement plans that benefit economic sectors. However, the government's admission today that it supports the videogames sector but doesn't record the amount of financial support means that it cannot effectively measure its impact.

This is a great shame - the government needs to record and assess its financial assessments in order to make better policy in the future.

Game Developers Lobby Scottish Parliament for Tax Breaks

March 19, 2009 -

The Scottish Parliament heard from game developers yesterday as trade group Tiga lobbied for tax breaks.

As reported by the Aberdeen Press and Journal, Tiga head Richard Wilson complained that developers were working on an “uneven playing field” in comparison to their global competitors.

If we want the Scottish games industry in particular, and the UK games industry in general, to stay ahead of the pack, then we must introduce a tax break for games production similar to the EU-approved French tax credit.

Industry research indicates that if a 20% production tax credit was introduced, investment would increase by £220million over five years, generating a further 1,600 graduate jobs over the same period.

MSP Joe Fitzpatrick, who represents Dundee, where much of Scotland's game development community is based, backed Tiga's request:

Abolishing [Value-added Tax] for research and development would give Scottish [video game] firms the same benefits as those in France and keep us at the forefront of the industry.

 

I want to see Chancellor Alistair Darling take action in the upcoming budget.

Not everyone agreed, however. Some MSPs felt that sufficient incentives were already available to the video game industry.

UPDATE: Edge Online has debate highlights, or, for true political junkies, the full text of yesterday's debate.

5 comments

ESA Lobbies for Bigger Tax Breaks in Texas

March 13, 2009 -

As legislators in Texas consider expanding financial incentives for game developers and other producers of entertainment media, ESA boss Michael Gallagher weighs in with an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman:

With over 90 development companies in Texas, the video game industry accounted for more than one-third of the moving media industry's $345 million investment in the state in 2007. In addition to the more than 7,500 jobs that the industry currently supports in Texas, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts found in a recent report that video games "have a ripple-effect and spread technological innovations to other industries..."

The opportunity now falls on the Texas state legislature, however, to pass the bills that will keep the industry's momentum in the Lone Star State going. Texas currently risks falling behind several states in economic incentive programs for the entertainment industry. This year alone, thirteen states are actively considering legislation that will either create or significantly expand their existing incentive program for digital interactive media development and production...

While economic incentives for the video game industry are a sound investment for Texas' cultural legacy, they are an even better investment for the people of Texas.

Savannah Woos Game Developers with Free Office Space

March 3, 2009 -

An increasing number of states are offering tax breaks to game developers, but Savannah, Georgia is offering something extra - free office space for a year.

Non-profit group The Creative Coast Alliance and the Savannah Economic Development Authority have teamed up on the incentive program in order to attract game developers to the Georgia city.

The free space is located in the Game Development and Digital Media Center which is presently being constructed in an upscale, riverfront office building. Officials are also touting Savannah's lower cost of living as compared to other game development hubs, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and Montreal.

Game designer Brenda Brathwaite, who chairs the Interactive Design and Game Development department at the Savannah College of Art and Design, commented on the city's advantages:

Savannah has what game development companies need in talent, tech and quality of life. In
today's economy when so many developers are laid off and looking for that silver lining, the Savannah offer is incredibly welcome and offers developers a chance to start a studio on more stable footing.

On a related note, game developers may also qualify for Georgia state tax incentives of up to 30%.

5 comments

British Conservative Party Charges Govt. with Failing UK Game Biz

February 11, 2009 -

A Conservative member of the British Parliament has accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour government of failing the UK's video game industry.

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, Ed Vaizey (left) said:

The Government's strategy for videogames has been shown to be nothing more than a sham. For months, whenever we have pressed the Government for action, they have used the excuse that the issue had been referred to the WTO. Now they no longer have this excuse.

As the games industry itself says, the Government now 'stands naked, bereft of a credible fiscal policy with which to support the sector.

 

The Government must act now to support an industry that is world-beating, job-creating and at the heart of our creative industries. After nine reviews of the creative industries, and eight more in the pipeline, the Government's dithering has now been exposed as causing real damage.

Vaizey's mention of the WTO refers to a trade complaint which the UK filed against Canada in March, 2008. As Gamers Daily News reports, that bid has failed.

Richard Wilson, head of British game developers' trade group Tiga, echoed Vaizey's criticism of the government's handling of the video game sector:

Last year the Government said that the UK via the European Union would take legal action against Canada if its support for its video games industry violated WTO rules. We now know that there are no legal grounds on which to lodge a complaint.

We cannot stop our competitors from benefiting from tax breaks but there is a simple solution: copy them. Just as Australia, Canada, China, France, Singapore, South Korea and some American states help their games industries to grow through extensive tax breaks, so the UK Government should back our games industry with a tax break for games production. If you can’t beat them, join them.

The Government stands naked before the games industry, bereft of a credible fiscal policy with which to support the sector...

22 comments

Michigan Guv Gives Stardock a Shout-out in State of State

February 4, 2009 -

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave PC game publisher Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) some Guv-love in her State of the State address yesterday.

Speaking at the State Capitol in Lansing, Granholm acknowledged that Michigan has been hit hard by the economic downturn. But the Guv looked for a silver lining in the film and video game sectors:

There’s real pain in the auto world. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost... Those losses have fueled our determination to bring new industries to Michigan...

 

Since enacting the nation’s most aggressive film [and video game production] incentives in April, we have seen more than 70 film and TV projects slated for production in Michigan, bringing some $430 million in economic activity here...

 

Tonight, I’m pleased to make three major announcements... Stardock Systems, a digital gaming manufacturer, will build its production facilities in Plymouth...

 

The fact that these jobs exist in Michigan today is no accident. These jobs are here because we put a strategy in place to bring them here – often by beating out other states and other countries to get them...

As GamePolitics reported in 2008, Gov. Granholm's administration aggressively pursued a financial incentive package for film, TV and video game production.

Stardock is known as a gamer-friendly publisher which eschews DRM on its PC titles. The company and its CEO, Brad Wardell, garnered major attention at PAX 2008 with the release of the controversial Gamers' Bill of Rights.

GP: Big thanks to reader Chris Bray for the heads-up!

Proposed Oklahoma Tax Break Excludes M-Rated Games

January 23, 2009 -

From the good news/bad news department:

An Oklahoma state senator has proposed tax incentives for game developers - but only if their project is eligible for a T (13+) or lesser rating from the ESRB.

It was longtime GamePolitics comment moderator E. Zachary Knight who alerted us to the measure, SB644. The proposal by Sen. Anthony Sykes (R), would make game projects eligible for tax breaks which already apply to films, commercials and TV productions in the state.

The video game rating requirement is spelled out in the language of the bill:

“Video games” mean products that are intended for commercial use or are produced for distribution on electronic media and which include an appreciable quantity of at least three (3) of the following types of data: text, sound, fixed images, animated images and 3D geometry and which are rated or will be rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board with the ratings of Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone 10+ and Teen.

While games are restricted to projects appropriate for those under 17, the only eligibility requirement placed on film content is that it be neither child pornography nor obscene. By that standard, R-rated films and MA-17 television programs would easily qualify for the tax break.

EZK spoke to Sen. Sykes yesterday about the rating requirement and filed this report with GamePolitics:

[Sen. Sykes]... would rather not include the ratings restriction. Unfortunately, as he went around to his fellow senators asking for their support, the first question out of their mouths was whether there would be ratings restrictions.

He is well aware of the [failed] game legislation of [2006] and many of the people who voted for that bill are still in office and were some of the people who demanded the restriction...

He also raised some concerns about [possible] lobbying against the bill... His final concern was whether he could get enough support during such economic turmoil. Oklahoma is facing a budget shortfall this year and that may not make such a tax break very appealing to many people.

GamePolitics readers will recall that Oklahoma's 2006 video game content law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in September, 2007.

If the measure is passed, Oklahoma will join neighboring Texas as the only states tying game developer incentives to content restrictions.

52 comments

Texas Guv Wants More Incentives for Game Developers

January 23, 2009 -

Austin's KeyeTV-42 has a video report on Texas's burgeoning video game industry, including news of a renewed push by Gov. Rick Perry (R) for additional incentives for game developers:

Last year the governor's office estimated there were nearly 100 game and software development companies in Texas. Many companies are based in the Austin area.

Governor Perry has said he wants to make the state the leader in the industry. He has vowed to push lawmakers this session to increase incentives to lure more game makers here.

GamePolitics readers will recall that Perry delivered the keynote address at E3 2008.

2 comments

ESA Boss Lauds Texas Game Dev Incentives, Dings Content Restrictions

October 28, 2008 -

Love the incentives, hate the content restrictions.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, that pretty much sums up what ESA CEO Michael Gallagher told the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce during a recent visit to Texas. While praising a grant package for film makers and game developers passed in 2007, Gallagher rightly criticized:

...a content requirement about not disparaging Texas. Those types of speech restrictions in general are not viewed in favor by the courts. They tend to lead to a lot of problems down the road.

The ESA boss reminded the Chamber crowd that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) gave the keynote at this year's E3 (although he probably avoided mentioning how few E3 attendees showed up for the Guv).

The newspaper also mentions a concern that some Texas politicos have about providing grants to developers:

Legislators are warming to the idea of providing state funds to video game companies, but there is still some reluctance. Some fear that a political opponent could accuse them of voting to spend state funds on games like the violent "Grand Theft Auto."

 
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