This is a guest post by Kevin Ball. Infographic supplied by The Accountancy Partnership
The video games industry is the most profitable entertainment industry that exists, outstripping cinema, DVD and music in terms of profit accumulated and units sold, and this has been the case for a while, particularly in Britain. So why is the British games industry constantly overlooked by the mainstream press? When a British film makes a few hundred million at the box office or wins an Oscar then it is front page news but when a British games company, Rockstar, makes a game that generates more than $1 billion, GTA IV, this news is given a few inches in the technology columns of a Sunday supplement. Why is this?
The argument that people aren’t as interested in games as they are in films or music doesn’t hold much water because the sales figures say different. I would suggest that it might be the case that the games themselves are not particularly British and, therefore, people assume they aren’t. Think about it; ask a non-gaming friend where they think the company that made Max Payne 3 is based. What will their answer be? America? Japan maybe? I doubt they’ll say Edinburgh. The games companies could do themselves and the British industry a favour by announcing their whereabouts in their press releases.
The British government has helped the British games industry by providing tax breaks for the entertainment industry as a whole. These tax breaks are similar to those found in countries like Canada and France. Incidentally, it was the absence of such a tax system that saw Electronic Arts, among others, close their UK offices in recent years; so hopefully these tax breaks may entice a few of the big hitters back Britain. That said, did anyone from the government actually say “Hey, come and make more games in Britain”? No they didn’t – our Prime Minister simply requested that British film makers take advantage of these tax breaks by making more mainstream films. Does David Cameron even know that Batman: Arkham City, which was made in Kentish Town, generated more money than the last James Bond film? Probably not.
The most recent example of clueless government attitudes towards the British games industry came in the form of a Creative Scotland report by the Scottish government that valued the games industry in Scotland at £0. By focusing the criteria of the report on areas that ignored the intricacies of video games development, the report managed to completely side-line not only Rockstar but a number of independent games companies in Scotland. Considering Scotland’s prolific nature within the industry, as well as the industry renowned university courses available at Dundee’s Abertay University, this is frankly ridiculous.
The reason I think it is important for the British press, government and games companies to publicly back the industry in this country is a simple one: the future. Don’t we want to see a Britain that celebrates its game industry the same way Japan does? Don’t we want the future of triple-A games to come from the mind of a kid from a British tower block, suburb, town or village? A kid who is sitting playing a game right now and thinking “I want to do this”? The only way to achieve this is to celebrate what we already have and strive to make it even more successful and accessible.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.