fable3page-450x655Tax changes in the UK for video-game companies finally rolled into effect as of 1 April, and no, this isn’t a trite April Fools’ joke.

The result of decades worth of campaigning from studios and developers, this generous package will allow games companies to claim back 25% of costs on the games that they make, as long as they meet the qualifying criteria.

The incentive is one of the most generous for games companies globally and has, unsurprisingly, been welcomed by those in the industry. But what does it mean for games developers really, particularly those down here in the Wild Web West?

How many companies will this videogames tax change effect?

The change in the tax laws means that it will be easier to create games and set up developers, with the end goal being an increase in British-made games; injecting some much needed cash into an ailing area (according to some reports anyway.) Despite that, the government maintains the UK games industry made more than £2bn in sales over 2013 alone; that’s a lot of revenue on offer. It may not be entirely mainstream and socially accepted (yet) but the government isn’t going to ignore something that could bring in more loot than a dungeon trawl.

As it stands, 95% of British gaming companies are small or medium enterprises (SMEs) with about 9,000 people currently working in the industry. Many of these SMEs were experiencing growth and expansion before these new changes took hold. The South West has become a home to many of these smaller companies; a combination of strong funding infrastructures, high quality of life and low ground rent helping to build a thriving community of developers.

The South West scene is close knit and passionate, so it’s fair to say this new tax status has helped to further entice more talent from mainland Europe, as well as within the UK. Gaming conventions like Explay, and events like Game Jam have brought enthusiasts and tech-heads together in a natural way. Indeed, the gaming industry in Bristol and the surrounding areas is (and we quote here) “quite incestuous at times”, with tech creators moving around and exchanging information.

British culture shock in gaming?

Of course, the tax breaks come with a few strings attached (because government). The new tax laws have to be seen to encourage promotion of British culture. That means that each game company must answer some questions before they are free to claim their rebate. These questions include:

  • Is the game set in the UK?
  • How many of the characters are from the UK?
  • How many of the developers reside in the UK?

Representing British culture? How long before we see the new platformer, ‘Scotch Egg and Cynicism?’ Anyway, under this criteria, it has been estimated that only a quarter of games currently made in the UK would be eligible.

Main characters such as Lara Croft and games that feature unmistakable British culture such as Fable (mad humour and our most popular voice actors? That’ll do it) may become more popular as companies test out these new qualifying rules.

Chuckie Egg

Of course, such a generous monetary offer might empower our writers, programmers and designers to create a more distinctive range of games that all come with British characters, locations and our own special brand of humour.

Dare we even hope for another Sinclair generation of quirky games?

Perhaps that’s hoping for too much but this tax break might cause UK companies to hover for longer over a choice between an American-style FPS and a Doctor Who-themed RPG. Over to you.

To meet some of the South West’s most talented games industry bods, pop along to our regular TechSPARK events or join the conversation on Twitter. Or both. Yes, both.

Picture Credits:

Fable: Courtesy of uncannynerdz.it

Chuckie Egg: Screengrab