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Ubisoft dev boss slams UK government on tax breaks

Lack of support has "split" community, says head of global development studios

Ubisoft's head of global development has attacked the British government's lack of support for the games industry, claiming that the current climate makes it "very difficult to develop in the UK".

Speaking to this week at the French publisher's Ubidays event in Paris, Christine Burgess-Overmard warned that the lack of financial incentives available to UK games developers had already "split" the community, and suggested jobs would continue to be lost to other territories unless the government takes action.

"It's very difficult to develop in the UK because of the strength of the currency, the pound being extremely high," she said. "And I think the government hasn't understood yet where the industry is going, the importance of the industry and how big it's going to become in the next few years.

"Because of the convergence between our industry, the TV industry, the movie industry, the CGI industry, I think this industry is going to be a real key player in terms of offering jobs to people - it's time that the government realised it needs to look at our industry and see how fit it is."

Ubisoft currently maintains a single studio in the UK, Driver developer Reflections. The firm has 20 studios in its global portfolio, the largest located in Montreal, Canada, which has become a big draw for publishers and top talent alike in recent years thanks to the government-sanctioned financial incentives on offer.

The UK games industry recently launched the Games Up? campaign, designed to highlight the challenges it faces, and to lobby the government for parity on tax breaks, which are currently available to the movie industry but denied to the games sector.

Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot has revealed aggressive plans to double the size of the publisher's development head count to around 6,000 staff in the next few years. But Ubisoft is unlikely to expand in the UK in the present climate, with Burgess-Overmard expressing her dismay at how she believes a leading creative market is being damaged by a lack of state support.

"Historically the UK was such a strong community of developers and it's a shame that now it's being split up [when set] against the costs of other countries," she said.

So far in 2008, Ubisoft has opened new studios in China, Singapore and the Ukraine, and made acquisitions in Japan and India. It employs 3,300 studio staff worldwide.

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Johnny Minkley: Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.
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