When the UK departs the EU, the games industry must be ready. Here, TIGA CEO Richard Wilson presents its new report on what must be done to ensure a smooth transition.
Video games as a medium offer creators a fascinating tool to explore politics. From Positech’s Democracy series to Surprise Attack’s Orwell, numerous titles have done a fascinating job of proving that games and politics make compelling bedfellows.
The games industry itself, meanwhile, must court a more careful relationship with governments, parliaments and policy makers. It is through engaging with policy makers that we have secured boons to our industry such as Video Game Tax Relief (VGTR). And when perennial issues like games and violence make it to parliament, we in the industry must reach out to inform Whitehall, giving perspective from our side of the fence.
Which brings us to Brexit. Many of those involved in making and distributing games will have voted differently in the referendum over UK’s departure from the EU, but now is not the time – at least in our professional lives – to focus on the decision itself. It very much looks like Brexit will go ahead, and as such it’s a time to come together and focus on how we can make the best of the move away from the EU.
We must all work together to make an opportunity of the future.
Richard Wilson, TIGA
Some in games will be fearful of what Brexit itself will mean, and others will look forward to its completion. Regardless, we must all work together to make an opportunity of the future.
And that opportunity is immense. We all know that the global games industry is on track to become a $100 billion sector by 2018, and the UK has been one of the leading innovators in the sector.
As we leave the EU, a favourable tax environment and enhancements to the existing VGTR available to developers will prove important. Equally, ensuring that developers can access finance and talent is critical. Fortunately, all of those things are entirely possible.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
At TIGA, we believe that it starts with maintaining, and potentially increasing, the Video Games Tax Relief rate from the current 25 per cent to at least 27.5 per cent, and potentially, up to 30 per cent. This will give UK developers in a post-Brexit world the opportunity to excel at the forefront of the global stage.
Where funding and investment is concerned, not only should we work to assure that the start-up-orientated UK Games Fund is maintained, but Government should also introduce a Video Games Investment Fund. This would be structured to provide pound-for-pound match funding. If that fund could offer such support up to a maximum of £200,000, we would undoubtedly see a wide variety of studios continue to flourish and grow.
Presently, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme funding in the UK has worked tremendously for many teams, but the current maximum a company can raise – £150,000 – should be increased to £200,000 in the wake of our departure from the EU.
Games themselves also need to be free to cross borders.
Richard Wilson, TIGA
Making games is about more than just money, of course. While financial robustness is essential, so are the skills and experience needed to craft quality games. As such, it is essential that EU workers currently living and working in the United Kingdom stay in our industry and our country.
Beyond those core issues of tax relief, funding and talent, there is much else to be considered as the UK games industry prepares for Brexit. That is particularly the case as the sector and its markets are globe-spanning.
Adjustments to intellectual property law, for example, may be necessary. We may need to extend or convert EU trademark or registered community design, with a view to covering the UK.
Furthermore, where fiscal policy is concerned, UK Government must move quickly to strengthen infrastructure across the region, especially where fibre optic broadband and transport are concerned. This move will, of course, benefit numerous businesses and communities within the UK, and not only those employed in games.
There is also swift action needed to foster skills and talent more broadly, through increased support for apprenticeships, more appropriately qualified graduates from universities, fostering diversity, and initiatives such as the Skills Investment Fund. Additionally, assisting the future workforce with better financial literacy around the likes of tax relief will provide a stable foundation for a booming games industry post-Brexit. Part of that effort could fall under the remit of higher education; a realm which itself must have access to employing the best staff – and students – from around the globe. On that latter point, an effective and efficient visa system is equally essential.
Games themselves also need to be free to cross borders. The EU does not currently impose tariffs on computer games produced outside of the EU and the UK should aim to ensure that this remains the case. If the UK leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, then we will want to secure a trade deal with the EU that avoids tariffs and other non-tariff barriers to trade to the greatest possible extent.
There also are less obvious areas that merit attention, that some may not immediately associate with the Brexit process. Data protection and its associated laws, of course, are vital to both games companies and their customers. For the UK games industry to maintain its global games industry presence, TIGA believes that UK Government must adopt the General Data Protection Regulation, which will allow UK studios and publishers to continue to do business across the EU after a deal with the Union is finalised.
BREXIT AND BEYOND
The list of priorities and actions outlined here may be intimidating. Brexit is an extremely complex business, as is the EU itself. That fact demands a nuanced and multifaceted response from our industry, as detailed above. The UK games space, however, has proved itself highly capable of guiding and influencing high-level governmental decisions before, as seen with Video Games Tax Relief, and its role in securing a prototype fund.
Here at TIGA, one key element of implementing some of the agenda above would be through the establishment of a new British Games Institute – to increase industry productivity, promote the superb culture of British games, and to manage our longstanding proposal for a Games Investment Fund.
For those keen to learn about the finer details of the above proposals, and an outline of what the British Games Institute can be, TIGA’s new report, Brexit and Beyond: Priorities for the UK Video Games Industry, offers a deep dive into the opportunities, options and challenges.
Those interested in obtaining a copy of the report should contact firstname.lastname@example.org