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Happy New Year?

UKIE director general Michael Rawlinson on an important 12 months for the industry

Something for Everyone

2010 will be remembered as the year that gaming went truly mainstream. A look at the charts in the last week of December showed just how diverse the market now is: driving games, FPS's, dance games, platform games, sports games, puzzle games were all in the top ten.

Add to this, the emergence of casual gaming, the ability to use your body as a controller and the fact the 40 per cent of internet users play games online (that's 510 million people) and there is no denying that interactive entertainment really does have something for everyone.

But with all this innovation and consumer choice what will the industry look like in 2011? Games compete for people's time against TV, radio, social networking, film and music. And within the games market itself there are now competing formats, platforms and technology, as consumers who may well have spent their time playing boxed products now have competing offerings from social, casual and mobile games.

With consumers having their media-time split between ever more outlets, games need to deliver experiences that fit the needs of this time-poor consumer - leading us to a quality not quantity model.

That can be in the form of immersive and enriched, online and multi-screen experiences that consumers now get from World of Warcraft, Fable, Call of Duty, FIFA, or Football Manager. And it is also about delivering something for the millions of people that spend Saturday nights crowded around their TVs playing Wii Party or Singstar or those people that have five minutes to spare waiting for a bus.

Having such a diverse industry producing a diverse range of products means that the traditional division between publisher and developer is now truly blurred and we must stop thinking of our world in such a binary way.

There's Room for Everyone

With the fortunes of each part of the industry being more closely linked to each other than ever, the only way for the industry to truly thrive is for all parts of it to be functioning at optimal levels. Where would a publisher be without the industry's creative, programming and technical skills?

Where would a developer be without the knowledge of how best to get a game to market? We have to develop a strategy that considers how we can get the best from this symbiotic relationship.

Tax Breaks

Before looking forward to how we can achieve this I wanted to address a related issue from the past. In December, GamesIndustry.biz reported on a series of documents obtained under an FOI request by Vincent Scheurer of Sarassin LLP which included a submission that ELSPA (as UKIE then was) made to Government in September of 2009 where we once again outlined our support for tax breaks.

When making the submission, ELSPA asked government to confirm whether the designation of videogames as cultural products (which would be necessary to obtain tax breaks under European state aid rules) would have any knock-on effect on the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) trade classification of videogames as software.

As it was, our concerns were addressed (at a meeting confirmed with BIS on April 1, 2010) and Government has since confirmed that our question had no bearing on the Treasury's decision to cancel the tax breaks in the June budget. These were cancelled because the Coalition Government decided that they were 'poorly targeted', something which both UKIE and TIGA have sought clarification on since.

Rather than seek to blame UKIE for this reversal, which is both unhelpful and disingenuous, perhaps everyone involved in the industry should accept that this Government decided to cancel the hard won tax production credits for the UK videogames industry because they decided without any consultation with the industry, that these were 'poorly targeted.

To be very clear on this point and in the spirit of openness and co-operation with TIGA on this issue, UKIE facilitated a meeting in September with TIGA (represented by Vincent Scheurer), to share all of the information and discuss the detail behind the allegations.

As a result of that meeting and further follow up, we at UKIE thought that the whole timeline of events had been explained to TIGA's satisfaction. That obviously was not the case as the story ran on GamesIndustry.biz and painted UKIE in a less than favourable light.

When UKIE asked TIGA as to why this break in unity had happened, we were told in writing by Richard Wilson CEO of TIGA that a individual, (we believe that to be Vincent Scheurer) without the support of TIGA and off his own bat decided to do the interview with GamesIndustry.biz expressing a personal opinion.

We remain confused and somewhat disappointed to this day given our total support for the TIGA tax break scheme and the hard work put in by Ian Livingstone with Stephen Timms who designed the cancelled scheme for the last Government. UKIE continues to fully support the introduction of tax breaks. It is part of UKIE's agreed plan to work with TIGA to develop an industry-wide, agreed consensus on how best to get tax breaks introduced.

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