The UK’s loss of talented developers in the sports genre has been ‘utterly huge’ according to Miles Jacobson, the studio head of London-based Football Manager developer Sports Interactive.
In an exclusive interview with Develop, Jacobson explained that Canada’s exemplary tax break rates – which peak at 40% of dev costs – was the reason why a number of British-born developers now work in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto.
“Professionally, my interests are focused on sports games,” said Jacobson, “and the talent that we’ve lost from the UK in that field has been huge. Utterly huge. “We’re very specialist in what we do, and a lot of specialist football game designers have moved to EA Canada.”
EA’s Vancouver studio – today the publisher’s biggest development house – has in recent years won widespread acclaim for restoring the FIFA football series as the kingpin of a fiercely-contested genre.
The man at the centre of FIFA’s return to form is British-born David Rutter, who today resides in Vancouver as producer for the upcoming FIFA10.
Though displeased, Jacobson said it was understandable why the likes of Rutter have moved to Canada.
“FIFA’s a big deal,” he said, “and EA want UK staff, but the UK’s not attractive enough a place to set up a studio in.”
The UK department for culture is still deliberating whether it should introduce UK tax breaks to help the sector become more globally competitive.
“Achieving that milestone is massively important,” said Jacobson. “If we had tax breaks, we would utilize that spare revenue to try and get back some of those hugely talented people who’ve moved out of the UK to work on Football games in Canada.”
Jacobson stated his belief that a game tax relief bill will eventually materialise in Westminster, but perhaps not right now, and perhaps not strictly because of the game industry’s recent campaign on this issue.
“Regardless of what’s going on right now, I think that within the next two decades the games industry will actually be recognized in a culturally similar way as film and music,” he said.
“What I hope will happen in that time is that the games industry will learn how to PR itself better than they are right now, where the industry can be treated respectfully on a mass-market scale.
“The film industry is treated in different ways and it’s purely from a PR perspective. If we want to be taken seriously, we’ve got to start PR-ing ourselves properly.