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UK puts over $300 million into gamedev

The British government’s creative industries tax relief schemes were extended to include game development in 2014. The British Film Institute (BFI) has just reported figures for all creative industries incentive schemes, including the first full calendar year’s numbers for the Video Games Tax Relief scheme. They show strong uptake, strong growth, and a substantial amount of new work, money and jobs in the UK gamedev industry.

The headline numbers for 2015 are that 237 games, with a combined value of c£870 million (c$1.7 billion), have been granted final or provisional approval. The UK spend (on which tax relief is granted) was almost £730 million (c1.5 billion)

Unlike some incentives that encourage inbound film and television production, the game dev scheme is based on a cultural content test, ensuring “British” is in some way an important part of the production. The test is weighted towards content rather than personnel, so it’s not possible to access the scheme simply by doing work in the UK with British staff.

Like film and TV production, game development creates the sort of well-paid jobs governments like. What the figures released don’t show is the amount of that gamedev work creating new IP that’s held by UK individuals or companies. Anecdotally, it seems that the majority of the IP is being created and held in the UK rather than being owned elsewhere and licensed to UK organisations as a way of accessing the scheme, although that may change in coming years.

The value of the gamedev work accessing the UK scheme is significant, but well below half the equivalent figures for film and TV productions accessing the schemes in 2015. Qualifying film and TV spend in the UK topped £1.8 billion ($3.7 billion).

The difference in numbers between games achieving final and provisional certification for the UK scheme demonstrated the amount of growth that’s occurring now the scheme is up and running.

In 2015 116 games (spend £181 million) were completed and granted final certification. There were 121 games with provisional certification coming down the pipe. That isn’t much evidence of growth (although it should be noted that games don’t have to seek provisional certification). What does speak to growth is that the value of that those 121 games is massively higher, at £548 million.

The 4.3% increase in the number of games is creating a 300% increase in spend on development. Further proof of the popularity of the scheme is that those projects with provisional certification intend to do a significantly higher amount of the overall project in the UK – on average over 90% compared with less than 70% on completed projects.

The full report can be found here,

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