Jason Della Rocca, the former IGDA boss and founder of Perimeter Partners, says that the video game industry needs to start thinking globally and stop worrying about local and regional advantages such as tax breaks. The elephant in the room was Canada’s tax breaks and how various territories in the Great White North are pealing studios away from the United Kingdom.
Speaking to GameIndustry.biz at the Nordic Game Festival earlier this month, Della Rocca talked at length about tax-breaks and why they are such a small part of a larger eco-system. Della Rocca thinks that chasing tax breaks alone is a waste of energy.
"Well you know, look at California," said Della Rocca when asked about Canada’s tax breaks. "They have forty percent of the US industry’s workforce. There are no incentives there. Do we say that that pooling is cannibalizing the rest of the country? I mean, it absolutely is – people are coming from all over the world to work at the awesome companies there.
So Canada can also be ‘blamed’ for maybe recreating a bit of that through the incentives and the job creation demand, but my sense is that it’s more rhetoric. ‘Look at Canada and all they’ve done!’ Can we actually look at the people and see how many people actually left and went to Canada? I don’t get the sense that it’s planes full of UK developers.
So are they stealing those people? I don’t know. Maybe, but I don’t really know. It’d be interesting to look at those numbers and see what sort of effect it has. I’m much more thinking in a global perspective. Although I may help specific governments grow their industry in their country, I want to see the industry be healthy on a global basis. So personally I don’t care if you go from one country to another or not."
Della Rocca believes that tax breaks are not as important as an environment that establishes important necessities such as education, infrastructure and the talent that an industry requires.
"The tax-break issue… It’s not about the tax-breaks alone. When I talk about the industry I talk about an eco-system kind of metaphor. It’s very dynamic, it’s a complex system, there’s lots going on, it’s not clear that introducing a tax-break is going to be the thing that all of a sudden makes your ecosystem thrive.
In fact there are regions where there’s nothing – it’s a desert. So you say, we have this desert and we’d really like there to be a game industry there because we think it’s sexy and good jobs etc. So they look at Canada and say, well, they’re doing so well because they have these tax-breaks, let’s put a tax-break in our desert."
Della Rocca goes on to say that the UK games industry has a better chance of educating and engaging its membership than it does getting tax relief passed by politicians. He also says that you can’t put tax relief in a region that has no talent or structure and expect good results. In his view, the UK should have spent its energy on business acumen and educating developers and publishers on new digital distribution methods and platforms.
In closing he says that trade groups, such as TIGA, don’t always focus on what they should:
"Recently, I think in the last few months, TIGA announced some digital distribution training seminar. Great – but they should have done that three years ago. Had they done that three years ago, again, pure speculation, imagine they’d been talking to the UK studios and entrepreneurs and start-ups then. If they’d got started on these platforms three years ago? To me, that would have had much more impact than if they had won tax breaks."