Sefton Hill: 'So many of my friends have moved abroad'
The co-founder of a leading UK games studio has called on the government to intervene as hundreds of British developers relocate to Canada.
Sefton Hill, game director at Batman studio Rocksteady, said it was “definitely” time for the UK to support its games studios to match the benefits offered overseas.
“A lot of my friends have moved abroad to get work; there's a real talent drain,” Hill said in an interview with CVG.
“Montreal is a central place for development and it's mainly because the tax breaks they give are so phenomenal.
“It's a real shame, because home computers were so popular and the bedroom programming scene was so big we have some of the best talent in the world in this country.
“That situation is rapidly changing and it's such a shame. We have great developers here but those numbers are dwindling.”
Recent data published by trade association Tiga suggests that the UK’s game developer workforce has contracted by about ten per cent since 2008. Two-fifths of jobs lost between 2009 and 2011 have been relocated overseas, the study found.
In the past three years some of Britain’s most revered studios have closed down while the global publishing industry pours resources into various Canada regions, such as Quebec, which offer a world-leading 40 per cent tax break on production costs.
“You just think about quality developers like Bizarre Creations, Black Rock - people who are making really good games and going out of business,” Hill said.
“Those guys were so talented so how can that happen? I just think that we could have been in Montreal's position with that backing from the government. It's such a big industry now and we could be world leaders. Britain's home computing history is just incredible.”
The UK’s campaign for games tax breaks faces significant hurdles. The coalition government had previously claimed it will not back the scheme at least throughout the remainder of its first term. However the party has frequently changed its policy on tax breaks and could feasibly do so again.
Meanwhile, it is now technically illegal for any EU member state to provide game tax breaks unless a European Commission exemption is extended.