Speaking at yesterday's TIGA event held to announce the findings of its recent survey on the state of the UK games industry, Labour MP and co-chair of the All Party Group for Computer and Videogames, Tom Watson, insisted to us that the industry shouldn't "lose heart" when it comes to tax breaks.
"A ten per cent downturn in seriously high level jobs in the UK, when Canada’s seen a third growth during a recession, shows that there is something structurally wrong in the partnership between industry and government," he said. "I know it’s hard for the industry because they thought they’d won this argument a year ago – they have won the argument, they’ve just not signed the deal. Next year, they’ve got to redouble their efforts regarding tax credits and not back away from it."
The event, called the Shift In Shape of British Games Industry, outlined how UK trade association TIGA and the All Party Group hoped to help the industry. When we asked if, given the increasingly fast-moving sector, he thought the government would be able to keep pace, Watson reiterated the importance of developing industry skills and remaining flexible.
"The government wouldn’t be looking to regulate the industry in any way, so the decisions it makes on skills need to be put in place and be quite flexible because there will be different demands on the skills budget and skills requirements of industry – but that’s no different to any other fast moving sector," he explained. "In terms of tax credits – we have to introduce it first and see how it works. I think all political parties understand that this is an industry still in its early years, even though gamers like me feel old and haggard!"
Discussing the recently introduced UK immigration policy, Watson stressed that the UK needs to champion its high quality output, citing outsourcing as a bigger threat to the industry.
"The bigger threat to jobs in an emerging global market would be outsourcing – purchasing skills where labour costs are cheaper, in post-production in particular," he said. "I think we have to make the case for the UK having the very best post-production facilities in the world and making sure that we trade on quality because we’re never going to win a battle if it comes to low wages, but we can win the battle almost every time if it comes to quality of work."
We'll be publishing an interview with TIGA head Richard Wilson from the same event later in the week.