TIGA: We WILL get video games tax relief

UK game developers were given a swift slap by the coalition government last week, when Chancellor George Osborne axed plans for video games tax relief. However, the games industry is confident it can still get the proposals through.

Today we caught up with Richard Wilson (pictured handing in the last video games tax relief petition into Downing Street), CEO of the UK video games industry trade association TIGA. Wilson reckons the coalition government will eventually be persuaded to reintroduce the proposals. "Ultimately I'm convinced that we will win this argument," he told THINQ, "it will just take longer than we originally hoped."

Although can't predict how long it will take, Wilson says he "hopes it's going to be sooner rather than later," and says he's "going to strain every sinew to make sure it happens."

The reasons for the cancellation of video games tax relief were recently questioned when games industry site Develop revealed that international games publishers had allegedly lobbied the government against the proposals.

Wilson says he hadn't heard of any companies attempting to sabotage the the proposals himself, but he points out that, "if there were then they weren't that effective because the lobbying was supposedly against the last Labour administration. Of course TIGA managed to convince that government that games tax relief made a lot of sense, so we won out in the end."

However, he notes that it's important for the campaign to have "as much consensus as possible" in the games industry, and as a result he's particularly chuffed to have just got Activision Blizzard on board.

The mammoth games publisher, whose output includes Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft, has just become a member of TIGA and spoken up in support of games tax relief plans. George Rose, executive vice president and chief public policy officer of Activision Blizzard, described the tax relief plans as a potential "game changer."

Rose warned that if "games tax relief is not introduced, the UK will remain at a real disadvantage in comparison to other territories as a location for inward investment. Without games tax relief the UK games industry will not fulfil its potential."

Wilson says having Activision on TIGA's side will help massively in the campaign to reintroduce video games tax relief. "It'll lend weight to our arguments," says Wilson, "because I've been saying to MPs that if we lose games tax relief then you stand the chance of losing investment. Now that we've got one of the biggest, if not the biggest games company in the world onboard, it gives a huge amount of credibility to our case."

Wilson also thinks the video games industry is exactly the sort of industry the coalition government should want to promote.

"The coalition government says it wants to rebalance the UK economy away from an over-dependence on financial services, and away from an over-dependence on the public sector," he points out. "Of course the wonderful thing about the video game industry is that it is high technology, high skills, export focused - it fulfils every part of the criteria they want."

"It was a blow last week," he admits, but optimistically points out that "it's official Labour and SNP policy to introduce games tax relief, and we know there are some Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who are supportive of games tax relief."

As well as this, he also says "a lot of people in the media are supportive, and a lot of people in higher education support games tax relief, because they want their students to get jobs in the gaming industries. There are other creative industries that support us and sympathise; some of them vocally so. There's a strong coalition that wants this to happen."

Wilson is currently lobbying MPs across the country in a bid to persuade them to reintroduce video games tax relief, but he says everyone can play a part in lobbying. "I hope that all people in the UK games industry, whether they work in the industry or if they're consumers of video games, will raise this issue with their MPs," he says.

"I hope that they'll put as much polite pressure on people across the political spectrum to support the proposal, because it's good for the UK economy, good for UK consumers and it's actually good for the coalition government. Why would you not want to generate revenue and jobs?"