What would happen to our games industry in the UK if we ended up leaving the EU? For starters, how would our games studios here in the UK be affected? Bear in mind that Guerrilla Cambridge is a department belonging to Guerilla in Holland and they’re creating the VR sports game, RIGS. Then there’s Square Enix Europe. They take care of marketing and distribution for Square Enix across Europe, so where would that leave us when their future titles are released? How long would it take to see them on our shelves? For now these are unfortunately questions that can only be answered with a ‘wait and see’ response but they are concerning, nonetheless.
To be a little more realistic, however, the above named companies are obviously major players and in the wider scheme of things, they’ll probably be fine and in the event of a Brexit vote they’ll have a small itch to scratch and nothing more. The real concerns lie in the indie development scene. Many ‘up and comers’ rely on funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
More importantly for us here in the UK, they play a big part in supporting Games Lab. This organisation is known for granting new games developers as much as £25,000 to realise their dream. There are of course, many programmers out there with the skill and knowledge to ace programs like the Unreal Engine or Unity but may not excel so much on the business and marketing side of things.
Thanks to Games Lab they can be helped to bring forward great games and be given the chance they deserve. Most relevant in this aspect is Hello Games, who brought us the long awaited No Man’s Sky. This game serves as a perfect example of what I’ve just explained and, without help from outside EU grant schemes, we likely wouldn’t be looking at the finished article today. It goes without saying for these small developers trying to climb the ladder to success, getting funding locally is almost a pipe dream.
Then of course, there’s the current issues in UK game development. As a business industry in the UK, it is already shrinking as the few qualified programmers in this country don’t tend to stick around long. This is due to far more attractive salaries found overseas, in the rest of Europe and America. That said, more than half of our online advertisements for jobs in the games industry end up being for work based in North America, leaving only 20% of those ads being based in the UK.
It often goes forgotten that until recently, the UK games industry makes a large contribution to the economy and without them, it looks like yet another negative point to leaving the EU. This would be down to the ease of travel currently available to us. The lack of messing about with visas and next-to-nothing border crossing costs mean that one industry across several countries can be allowed to thrive more efficiently.
Most interestingly and possibly most importantly – the European Commission introduced limited tax breaks for developers that fulfil a certain criteria in their games. For us, that means if a game is made in the UK and is then set in the UK, featuring characters from the UK, the developer in question could recoup as much as 25% of its production costs. This makes for a compelling reason for game developers to want to stay in EU and without this boon from overseas, we’ll take another hit on top of the issues already discussed. Would it be too dramatic to say the games industry in the UK would be destroyed in the event of a Brexit vote?