July 2008


The UK games industry has been vocal throughout the year protesting the inaction of government amid declining domestic production and developers in Canada receiving generous tax incentives.

Yet is it accurate to blame government inaction for the industry’s decline? Some industry participants survey in politics.co.uk article UK games industry ‘dead man walking’ believe it is.

Richard Wilson, Chief executive of Tiga, said: “Without real measures to turn the tide, we’ll see our best people follow the money overseas to where governments are more willing to invest in the future. A great British industry could become a dead man walking, just like the British film industry the before government gave it a tax credit.

Something that is not often mentioned in lobbying for government assistance is the difference in cost of living (and therefore labour costs) between London and several Canadian cities where major game developers have established studios. Regardless of tax concessions and wage subsidies, low living expenses make locations attractive to multinationals, and may also make it easier for employees to setup their own companies.

Tax-based incentives that are based on cultural production are also a highly inefficient instrument for industry to rely on. Assessing the cultural component of any one game to qualify for assistance could well be an arbitrary endeavour, and the stipulation for games to contain cultural content is bound to distort production decisions away from market preferences.

Production-based tax incentives and subsidies tend to appeal to small, independent developers, whereas larger studios particularly first-party studios linked to publishers are far more concerned about the supply of skilled talent.

Are appealing for tax incentives for local producers really the best way to enhance the international competitiveness of the industry?

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Japanese, Korean, and recently Chinese TV dramas have all boomed in export markets, if only for short-lived waves. But with all nations eager to increase exports of creative content, focus from within the industry has been drawn to intra-regional co-productions.

In an article in the Daily Yomiuri, Yoshikazu Suzuki outlines the prospect of a joint Japanese-South Korean TV drama production mooted at the third TV Drama Forum of East Asia held in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Such collaboration could see Japanese scriptwriters, for example, teaming up with Korean creative, technical, and acting talent.

The project emerged as momentum grew among the Japanese and South Korean participants toward jointly producing dramas. The project involves seven popular Japanese scriptwriters, including Yoshikazu Okada, Yumiko Inoue and Shizuka Oishi, who will write original scripts with settings in South Korea, as well as South Korean directors and actors. The project calls for each episode, which will last up to two hours, to be broadcast by TV stations in both countries after being shown in cinemas.

This would allow entry of Japanese co-produced drama onto Korean terrestrial broadcast, (the article indicates Japanese drama is still banned) and provide the Korean industry with an injection of writing talent.

It would be interesting seeing a similar use of scriptwriters filtering through to other sectors of the Korean content industry such as animation, where studios have often been met with great acclaim for their technical prowess but have fallen short of receiving similar praise for the stories that hold together original home-grown animation.