The British Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey MP, maintains that he is passionate about helping the nation's video games industry -- despite the controversial scrapping
of planned tax relief recently.
Vaizey feels there are positives to take from recent events: "I'm a huge fan of the video games industry. As far as I'm concerned, this industry ticks every political box going," he told delegates at a Gamasutra-attended lecture during the Develop Conference in Brighton, England, this morning. "Video games are becoming as central to the home as television."
Vaizey's appearance at Develop comes just weeks after the Coalition Government controversially revealed that it would not be introducing tax relief for the UK games industry -- even though the previous Labour Government had confirmed the tax breaks
, and both parties of the new Coalition Government had expressed strong support.
Conservative MP Vaizey told delegates he was aware he was stepping into "a metaphorical lion's den" by attending the conference, but explained that his love of the industry compelled him to do so.
Addressing the inevitable concerns of the industry that the Coalition Government is not working to support video game development, Vaizey assured delegates: "I don't want to shy away from the fact that we're in danger of missing out. Britain is slipping down the world rankings, and we cannot be complacent."
And he remained strong in his pro-games industry stance. "I want to make it absolutely clear that I remain a committed champion of the games industry," he said -- "and I will do everything I can to make sure we can compete with the rest of the world."
There Are Still Opportunities
Nevertheless, despite his previously vocal commitment to the introduction of tax relief, Vaizey feels that there are still opportunities for developers to receive financial help in the wake of the abandoned tax credits -- some of which have appeared as a result of the new Emergency Budget which excluded them.
"In my view, any defeat presents opportunities," he said. "The Budget is very good for business, and therefore very good for the video game industry.
"We have to be more creative, and look at other ways in which we can help games developers," he said -- "particularly since the environment is changing so rapidly."
On Monday, the UK's two leading game developer trade bodies, The Independent Games Developers Association (TIGA) and the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), announced that they would be immediately joining forces
in order to continue pushing for the tax breaks -- a move which Vaizey supports: "I absolutely welcome TIGA and ELSPA's decision to form a committee to look at the tax situation.
"But I would urge them to review the new tax regime," he continued, explaining that tax breaks in research and development would be of benefit to the games industry, and inviting those who work within video game development to speak with him in order to voice any concern about accessing schemes that are not specific to the medium.
"This is a government that believes in helping businesses across all sectors," he said. "But I want to reiterate that -- on a micro-level -- there are enormous opportunities to help the video game industry in this country."
The Abertay Project
One way to help developers in ways other than offering tax breaks is funding -- and at Develop Vaizey also revealed a new £5 million investment project to be run by the UK's Abertay University. It'll kick off with a £2 million fund to invest in new game prototypes, so that the region's developers can better develop their IP and attract more investment.
The funding, which Vaizey called "a direct response to what many developers tell us is needed," will be open to applications from any eligible UK company. "Whilst the focus is on small companies, larger companies can also benefit by joining as a commissioning partner," said Vaizey. "This will, we hope, help build new relationships and encourage cross-platform growth."
Fully working prototypes can earn grants of up to £25,000 each, and Abertay will offer project management, business and marketing support to candidates to help them develop their business. Abertay students can also be placed on project teams, helping them gain experience, and as part of the new investment project, Abertay's studio space will be "significantly" expanded.