Games leaders herald Vancouver tax break

Games leaders herald Vancouver tax break
Michael French

By Michael French

June 4th 2010 at 6:26PM

EA, Disney and Activison toast new law to encourage resurgance in Canadian city; Your move, Con-Dem Nation

UK games developers may still be waiting to hear of the current Government will make good on Labour's promise for a tax break - but Canadian studios have been given another financial boost.

British Columbia's Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit program legislation was passed by the B.C. Legislature yesterday, ushering in what the likes of Disney, EA and Activision are helading as  a new chapter in potential growth and investment' of games studios in the area.

Vancouver has been a popular destination for games publishers to open studios thanks to a lower cost of living, workforce of talented technicians, and its Pacific timezone.

But while rival Canadian city Montreal's games industry continues to grow and prosper thanks to generous state aid, Vancouver has floundered amidst the global recession.

According to the local government at its peak in the autumn of 2008, 'there were more than 60 video game studios in B.C., employing more than 4,000 people and contributing more than a half a billion dollars annually to the province's GDP'.

But 'over the past two years, local employment in the industry has fallen dramatically'.

A BC Interactive Task Force was established in 2009 to find out how it could reignite job growth and investment. The Task Force includes over 30 B.C. companies, ranging from large international publishers to small entrepreneurial developers, including a number of key publishers with interests in the region.

In looking how it could maintain the province's position as one of the world's best game development hubs, tax breaks were the answer. These proposed measures have since become law.

"B.C.'s new Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit responds to industry's needs and supports the growth and development of the increasingly important video game and animation sectors in B.C.'s economy," explained Finance Minister Colin Hansen.

"The tax credit, coupled with B.C.'s other unique advantages, including an attractive location and highly-skilled and well-trained workforce, will continue to foster B.C.'s competitiveness worldwide."

Now publishers are popping the corks from the champagne, if a press release put out by EA is anything to go by. (It's a press release EA is actually absent from otherwise, although the firm does own the largest studio in the city, EA Sports' palatial campus which employs over 1,000 staff.)

"The new tax credit is already generating significant attention, both here in B.C. from the current studios, as well as from other global publishers who are looking to locate new operations or make new investments," commented Howard Donaldson, chair of the BC Interactive Task Force and VP of studio operations for Disney Interactive Studios.

"We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the B.C. government to spread the word of the new competitive advantages of game development in B.C. and reinvigorating job growth in the province."

Brian Ward, SVP of studios for Activision added: "The enactment of this program has already resulted in an increase in our investment in B.C. and will continue to raise B.C.'s profile as the international digital media centre."