Longstanding game advocate and politician Lord Puttnam has told a packed room of game developers, enthusiasts and journalists that tax break reform is not the priority for the UK industry.
The widely-respected Labour Lord insisted that a more important step for the UK industry is to establish an all-encompassing industry structure – complete with a game council that would fight for the industry in the same way the UK Film Council has for movies.
In a Q&A session that followed his podium speech at the fourth annual GameCity festival, Lord Puttnam heard one member of the audience describe UK as “having a pedigree for generating some of the best game designers in the world”, one which faces a “critical problem” of preventing its workforce from moving abroad.
When asked how game tax breaks could be a solution to this perceived problem, Lord Puttnam described taxation reform as a “last resort that industries go to”.
Weighing in on the issue of disillusioned UK developers emigrating for better work prospects and conditions, Lord Puttnam added: “I don’t think you should think that [game developers will emigrate] and never come back. If there are some useful experiences that you can pick up in the US for two, three or four years, so be it.”
Said Lord Puttnam: “The challenge of the UK is to do in the game industry what it has managed to do in the film industry, which is create structure. And a part of that structure, but only a part of that structure, is a taxation arrangement.
“More importantly, the lobbying power of the UK Film Council has actually given the UK a structure. And it’s the structure that holds the UK film industry that I think, personally, is more important than its taxation allowances.”
Lord Puttnam was, however, confident that the UK game industry was in good hands.
“Here’s the really good thing. The games industry is a focus for every senior politician I talk to. There’s none of them out there who are not interested.”
“If the Conservatives get in next year, there’s a guy called Ed Vaizey who will be a minister, and he certainly takes the games industry seriously, and he’s made it his business to understand the game industry.”
Lord Puttnam’s confidence in Shadow Culture minister Ed Vaizey comes one day after the Conservative MP avoided committing the Tory Party to game development tax breaks.
Lord Puttnam also praised members of the Labour government for their renewed commitment towards the game industry.
“In the present government, Sian Simon, and some of the people who work for Lord Mandelson have really got a grip on this. There’s also half a dozen excellent civil servants – and I don’t usually say this about civil servants – working in this area.
“You will not be abandoned. What you may need is a more coherent push from the industry, to give shape and substance to what it is you want."