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THQ: We'd build a UK super-studio with Govt support

Publisher admits "it's all about the money" but would welcome subsidies in a region with "phenomenal talent"

Resurgent publisher THQ has said that it would seriously consider opening a super-studio in the UK if the government went someway to entice companies with tax breaks or other subsidies.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz following the announcement of a new 400-man studio in Montreal, Danny Bilson, executive VP for core games, said he would be happy to set up a new business - especially considering the world-leading talent in the region - but the final decision comes down to economics.

"Well, it's all about money," he said. "The talent in the UK is extraordinary - I actually spent a couple of years of my career when I was helping out with the early days of the Harry Potter franchise with EA, I worked closely with the team there on the first three games. I got to know a lot of teams in the UK - it's one of the greatest talent centres in the world.

"So there's no issue with talent; it's just economics - and if the government finds subsidies there, absolutely we would build out. We have a studio up in Warrington that's an excellent studio, working on our Xbox Live/PSN digital games, so we do have a studio in the UK... but I'm sorry, it's all about money at the end of the day. And talent - but the UK has always been, and still is, one of the greatest talent pools in the industry... there's phenomenal talent out there."

The local government in Montreal is currently offering THQ 37.5 cents in every dollar of labour "which is a huge win in the world of blockbuster games," said Bilson, considering the costs of developing a core title - which Bilson puts at more than $35 million.

"We want to deliver a great experience for our gamers in really huge, immersive worlds - and it's starting to cost upwards of $35 million and more, so to be able to get a [tax] break, it enables us to put more on the screen."

Bilson added that other regions should be offering similar subsidies if they hope to retain and grow talent, whether in Europe or the US. And no matter how hard the emotional decision to remain loyal to a location or country, a financial incentive will always allow a company to create bigger, better games.

"It's a hard one - I've dealt with this in the film and television business in my past. As an American it was a little bit hard to pack my bags and go to Canada in a sense, and leave a crew behind that I'd made film and television with to go and start with a new crew.

"But the way I dealt with it was, my job and what inspires me is to put the most value on the screen for the consumer, whether that's a film-goer or a gamer. That really is our mission - to make the best games, and I have to put that before some of the other emotional feelings around a homeland, so to speak.

"People can judge it any way they choose, but that is why we're going to Canada - to give, ultimately, everyone in America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the best gaming experience. That's our responsibility and that's what our business is about.

He added: "I wish that Los Angeles or California would give us 37.5 per cent on the labour; then we'd be building out here. If it was in Manchester we'd be building out there. If it was in Lyon, we'd be building out there. We're a global company with a global audience, so some of that stuff has to take a back seat, unfortunately.

The full interview with Danny Bilson can be read here.

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Latest comments (11)

Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts6 years ago
Dear THQ,

Please work on developing games that sell well enough to keep your company afloat before you consider expansion into another country. Expansion is absurdly expensive and no amount of tax breaks would save you from bankruptcy if you don't manage to make some sales.

Sincerely,

Andrew
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I'm sure part of producing better games that sell well is having almost 40% of their budget coming back for marketing, support or production.
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Jacqueline Urick Co-founder and CEO, SieEnt, LLC6 years ago
Canada has been really aggressive about reaching out with their tax incentives. To have that 37.5% cash back on labor at the end of the year to reinvest in the business is huge. Canada has also been investing heavily in tech education and their immigration laws are more business friendly than the US. They can move over that awesome UK talent to Canada.

I can't say I blame THQ.
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Show all comments (11)
Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive6 years ago
So which THQ studio(s) will get closed as a result?
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Hmmmm. Pacific?
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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix6 years ago
This, from the interview: "But to be clear, we're not closing any studios in the rest of the world to move there - we're building out and expanding with Montreal."
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
Yep, what Jacqueline said.

Phil, look back on this story in a year's time, see if they've closed down elsewhere.
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Steven Pick Lead Graphic Designer, Atomhawk Design6 years ago
I really don't think the Government is going to change its mind any time soon about the games industry. There is an amazing amount of talent here, though there's very little support for it to be nurtured and to grow.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago
Unfortunately the Government is going to do nothing, can't really blame them.
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Kim Soares Lead Designer, Nitro Games6 years ago
I must say, that I'm worried about how Canada is just hoarding talent and studios from all over the world. They have clear agenda of building "Hollywood of games". As a european, I find it really frustrating that goverments over here do not have a clue about game business.

We educate the talent, then they move to Canada and pay their taxes there, as do the companies that migrate there. Wake up, Europe!
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Only certain countries in Europe are really betting on helping companies expand and in helping entrepreneurs create. Talent is global and people are willing to move wherever there are better opportunities to grow and learn.
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