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EA urges pragmatism on UK tax breaks debate

Industry must be realistic about economic situation and consider the long term plan, says Ramsdale

Electronic Arts' VP and GM for Northern Europe, Keith Ramsdale, has told that he believes the videogames business community should take a more pragmatic view on the hotly-debated issue of tax breaks in the UK.

He was speaking after rival publishing boss, Activision Blizzard's CEO Bobby Kotick, labelled the Coalition government's rejection of the measures promised by the previous administration as "a terrible mistake," earlier in the week - comments which made headlines in mainstream, as well as specialist, press.

But that shouldn't be the focus for ongoing discussions with government, said Ramsdale, urging a more realistic acceptance of the wider economic situation in light of the cuts that have, or will be, made.

"I think that this industry, and the companies within the industry, need to be pragmatic on the issues that the government faces today," he said. "We're not going to suddenly be handed a great big tax relief bill when the government's facing the economic issues it is - I think that cuts to the chase on this.

"The conversations we've had with government are pretty clear on this. That doesn't mean to say that we're not arguing the need for tax credits.

"But consumers are being faced with austerity measures, and I don't think it looks great on a company to be bleating loudly that we want our P&L to look better by having tax credits given to us by the very government that's having to pass these austerity measures onto consumers."

Instead, he explained, it was important to have a long term conversation with the government, firstly to ensure that existing business measures were accessible for games companies, secondly to look at ways of improving skills, and thirdly to make sure that the industry would be considered for support as and when the economy does improve.

"While R&D tax credits remain a criterion that in the longer term we'd very much like to see played out, we're also talking to them about other financial options that could run. Some of them are schemes that are currently available, and actually the conversation is how we can make access to them easier.

"So it's about a little sense check - EA does have a different, much less aggressive view than our big competitor there, who doesn't speak on behalf of all of us," he added.

Ramsdale, a UKIE board member, also issued a plea for unity with TIGA, so that conversations with government would be consistent - and also outlined his belief that while the film industry continues to enjoy tax breaks, policy therefore assigned less value to videogames jobs as a result.

"What applies to other entertainment sectors needs to apply to the videogames industry," he said. "It would be wrong for me to call out that the film one should go - it should be equal among all of them. You picked the right example, though.

"Are jobs in the games industry less valuable than those in the film industry? Maybe that's a question - and why would policy continue to have that view, given the contribution that the games industry makes?

"If you look at what's happening with the film industry, and you look at the growth of HD gaming, and users on new devices such as the iPad, iPhone and online - if you look at the touch points for videogames compared to film, it's vastly...

"It's interesting actually, because people are looking at the growth of the videogames industry and declines based on year-on-year revenues in the market - but what they're not looking at is the overall picture to include all forms of gaming. Mobile, digital, new devices - it's still very much an industry that's on the rise."

The full interview with Keith Ramsdale, in which he also discusses in more detail the UK's business environment, is now available.

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