Now UK gamers are asked to petition Brown for tax break

Now UK gamers are asked to petition Brown for tax break
Michael French

By Michael French

March 13th 2008 at 10:00AM

Concerned consumers urged to lobby Prime Minister via campaign to drive awareness over commercial pressures on UK games industry

The campaign for a UK games production tax credit has spilt over the boundary of the industry – with one concerned consumer starting a petition aimed at Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanding he look into the possibility of implementing tax breaks for games.

Started by 20 year-old 3D animator Dan Spence, the petition was spurred in part by the recent restructuring of SCi, which has seen the studio move part of its production and QA team to Montreal and also downsize part of its operation.

"We are looking on in horror as flagship UK company Eidos, who created the iconic Lara Croft, is facing problems of competing in a global environment. The UK games industry requires tax incentives or some other assistance to maintain a competitive market for global publishers," says the official documentation filed with the petition.

The news comes just a day after UK games publisher trade association ELSPA expressed disappointment at the Government Budget's lack of games industry support.

Spence contacted trade association Tiga, asking both outgoing CEO Fred Hasson and his newly-appointed replacement Richard Wilson to help get the word out to studios in the UK that consumers care about the industry, too.

“I found it disheartening that SCi was moving a significant chunk of their operations outside the UK. And at the same time in the rest of the world I see so much growth,” the fan of British-made IPs such as WipEout, Tomb Raider, Croc and Broken Sword told Develop.

Although Spence, like many developers in the UK, isn’t sure whether the future of UK development is under such serious threat that a tax break would be necessary to keep it alive, he does think it would be a great step towards encourage it to prosper further.

“I’m in two minds,” he said. “On one hand I see new studios like Media Molecule – who formed out of Lionhead – and Splash Damage – who broke in through the mod scene – manage to thrive on great ideas. There are still clearly financial risks being taken and I hardly think the UK is any serious danger of losing its identity as the third largest producer of games in the world. However I think it will have a phenomenal effect in the long term by helping independents get started, creating more original intellectual properties and attracting the larger publishers to fund their triple-A games in the UK.”

Either way, Spence hopes the petition can gather enough support and momentum to help raise awareness of the industry’s commercial power, if nothing else: “I see the government is offering tax relief for UK movies but for some reason the games industry has been set aside. I find this so hard to believe considering the strength in output from UK studios.

“I’m hoping word of mouth between private developer networks will work in my favour. That’s under the assumption they support the idea. I’ll also be canvasing relevant press outlets to get the gamers behind the idea. I hope to explain to people out there that this industry has grown up, that it is a strong creative and technical industry that should be brought in line with other entertainment industries.”

View the petition online at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ukgames/