GDC: Tax relief 'loophole' for UK studios

GDC: Tax relief 'loophole' for UK studios
Michael French

By Michael French

March 8th 2010 at 3:09PM

Special outsourcing-style talent hub, supported by Prince Edward Island, targets indie firms

UK developers will soon be able to take advantage of a subsidy-supported workforce – but not thanks to local Government efforts.

Instead, a new scheme has emerged that will allow independent developers the chance to tap into the Canadian games development workforce through a talent centre opening in Prince Edward Island on the country’s East Coast.
 
The initiative, spearheaded by Quickstart Global, aims to both redefine what the industry expects of outsourcing – and satisfy calls for access to a cheaper staff.

Quickstart already supports a number of games and IT clients with its ‘in-house anywhere’ offer. Growing from just three staff to 800 in four years, the firm has built resources in India, Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Taiwan, and Cape Town, with a China office in the works, too.

The group has been responsible for UK studios like Sumo Digital and Monumental building up their Indian outsourcing operation.

But in conjunction with Prince Edward Island’s authorities, Quickstart will build a hub of games developers in North America for the first time, the firm revealed to Develop ahead of a formal announcement at GDC this month.

“Prince Edward Island is very keen to grow its share of the games market. We’ve been working with them to develop a proposition for independent games studios that we feel can really help those developers. What we can do, in simple terms, is enable them to take advantage of the subsidies,” explained Elspeth Levi, marketing manager.

“Where we differ from outsourcing is that although the workforce is employed by us, the client selects their own staff and goes through the CVs and then they direct the work they do day-to-day. Quickstart Global take care of all the things that a company needs to succeed: HR, recruitment, IT needs and infrastructure.

The client works with the staff that they have selected, and makes sure they have a real engagement with their culture and brand.  That’s really important for games – the reason outsourcing hasn’t worked for some people is that they feel it’s just farming out work, not taking ownership of it, and then being disappointed when it comes back wrong.”

Sales director Prem Gyani added that the deal is a good compromise given UK developers’ lobbying for tax breaks: “We’ve spent the last few years watching the games industry sit around and complain about the lack of subsidies – but anyone would have realised that when Lehman Brothers collapsed 18 months ago that priorities for the world changed.”

He also added that access to Canadian staff will be attractive to those unconvinced by a work-for-hire culture clash: “India is right for some companies and wrong for others – it’s perfect for pure brain power, from animation, physics and mathematical thinking.

But when it comes to things like needing artists who have a cultural affinity with the target market, Canada is ideal. A UK studio can now go and find a few people in another country that matches their needs, but at half the cost.

“This will also be naturally attractive to developers in Canada as well, because not all of them want to waste their career being Programmer No. 732 forever at one of the big studios over there. Working in a creative game managed by a dynamic British studio looks great on their CV.”