Massachusetts tax breaks tied to job creation

Massachusetts tax breaks tied to job creation
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

February 17th 2012 at 8:13PM

A bill proposing incentives for game studios has failed to gain traction with lawmakers

Massachusetts has had a bill proposing incentives for game developers in the works since last year, but nothing has come of it.

That could change if developers could make commitments to job creation.

"When you talk about tax incentives, that's less revenue that you're receiving," said Lt. Governor Timothy Murray. "I think any kind of incentive would have to be linked to hard commitments from the private sector."

This news, reported by The Improper Bostonian, comes after former Boston Red Socks player Curt Schilling moved his development team, 38 Studios, creators of Kingdoms of Amalur, to neighboring Rhode Island for a $75 million dollar credit.

Massachusetts has over 1,300 game industry jobs, but currently trails behind other states in terms of tax incentives to developers.

In addition, aside from star studios like Ken Levine's 2k Boston and Cambridge's Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine, many developers have suffered setbacks and buyouts.

Guitar Hero developer Harmonix took the collapse of the music game craze hard, and has laid off dozens of employees.

Zynga has aquired and gutted several local development studios such as Cambridge's Conduit Labs, now Zynga Boston, and shipped their talent across the country.

It's not just hard times and a lack of tax incentives that make it difficult for Massachusetts to attract new studios. State law requires that all temporary employees recieve benefits, which means taking on freelancers comes at a heavy cost to developers.

While game studios suffer, there are plenty of tax incentives for the rest of the creative industry. Gaming has yet to attain the legislative traction to get the same treatment, despite the fact that it out grosses the film industry in the state.

"It’s ironic,” said Tim Gerritsen of irrational games. “If you look at it, where do you want to put your money? We’ve got 120 permanent employees. They spend all their money here. They pay their rent here. They pay their taxes here. Do you want Dane Cook? He’s here for two weeks doing a film, and he’s gone.”

But the Massachusetts games industry does gain a great deal of new talent, thanks to the number of top colleges in the state, with over 20 schools offering courses in games development.