It has not been a great time for the UK games industry, losing the likes of Blitz Games in 2013 and, more recently, Ghost Games UK being hit by a number of layoffs. Activision has also revealed it is considering closing its Leeds-based games studio Blast Furnace.
Now, the trade association known as TIGA (The Independent Game Developer Association) has firmly pointed the finger at a European Commission investigation into planned tax breaks for the industry. The new legislation was introduced to move the UK more in line with other countries where the games industry is flourishing, such as France and Canada. However, Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner, thwarted the plans introduced in 2013, which would have offered 25% tax relief on up to 80% of a game’s budget if the money was spent in the UK. Almunia argued that there was no need for aid to be given to the industry as there was, according to an EU report, “no obvious market failure.” The competition commissioner conceded he was also worried that if the UK plans were pushed through, it could start a chain reaction across Europe.
TIGA shot down Almunia’s comments, and TIGA’s chairman, Dr. Richard Wilson, said, “We have strong anecdotal evidence that this is now harming our industry.” He also lambasted the European Commission for dawdling on the matter, with no definitive deadline or time schedule for a decision to be made on tax relief. “They could reply tomorrow, next month, in six months or 12 months,” he added. “This has really gone on for a long time now.”
For the sake of Blast Furnace and other UK studios, it had best be sooner rather than later.