Britain triumphs at Oscars - but UK games industry is Enslaved by unfair treatment

Opinion: Tim Ingham would like to thank the Academy...

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The Conservative Party promised the UK games industry exactly such a boost last year. Tory Shadow Cabinet Minister Ed Vaizey told respected industry site Develop in no uncertain terms in April 2010: "It is our policy to introduce game development tax breaks. I would like you to make that clear."


The fact that post-election, the Coalition Government went back on this promise - with Chancellor George Osborne quipping that lobbying for the incentives had been "poorly targeted" - is a matter of national disgrace. No doubt Rare, Frontier and the rest could have sorely done with the help.

The images of British-won Oscars delicately twinkling on yesterday's front pages showed just what can be achieved when Government judiciously supports its brightest creative talent.

No matter whether TIGA's optimistic figures ring true - nor if misguided over-zealousness was to blame - politicians such as Ed Vaizey cannot rewrite history. For whatever reason, they misled a UK industry on its knees for their own gain - and that market is now suffering their actions.

Colin Firth and co.'s heroic night in Hollywood should be widely celebrated - but it should also act as a guilty reminder to all those at Coalition level who pledged to help a similarly treasured UK creative industry, and did not deliver.

Furthermore, it should shame any publisher or platform holder who clandestinely and cowardly sabotaged TIGA and UK developers' crusade for Government funding.

Some suggest that a tax break for UK developers would have likely meant a reclassification of their games in export terms - pushing up the cost foreign publishers would have had to pay to ship them abroad.

Rumours persist that a breakaway sect of these companies lobbied the UK Government against giving desperate UK developers a film industry-style credit - at a time when pen was inches above paper in response to TIGA's iron-strong case. "Poorly targeted", indeed.

At the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco this week, a dwindling number of UK developers will listen intently to masters of their profession; hankering for pearls of wisdom that may help widen the terrifyingly thin tolerance for failure back home.

There will be repeated, bittersweet jokes about moving UK businesses to the comparative tax haven of Canada - spun by stressed out, tired professionals working their nuts off to keep game development alive in a country they love.


Whether wicked whispers or something more solid, many of them are looking wistfully towards mutterings that George Osborne has had a change of heart; that he has finally been convinced of the GDP-warping potential of a video games tax break.

Until that heart-fluttering hope becomes a reality, however, British video games development will remain, for many, an increasingly precarious place to work - one made all the more gloomy when UK games that deserve UK recognition at UK awards shows inexplicably don't make the cut.

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