The ArgusGames industry under threat (From The Argus)

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Games industry under threat

The Argus: Sci, the firm behind video game character Lara Croft, plan to slash jobs in Britain Sci, the firm behind video game character Lara Croft, plan to slash jobs in Britain

Bosses behind some of Britain's leading video games companies have backed calls for the Government to prevent a brain drain which could cripple the industry.

Sci, the owner of the Lara Croft Tomb Raider franchise, recently announced it would slash its British workforce by a quarter and increase its presence in Canada.

The company, regarded as Britain's largest games publisher, said it was making the move because it was too expensive to develop games on this side of the Atlantic.

Canadian regional governments offer games companies lucrative tax breaks.

Employees are given income tax holidays of up to five years, while in Quebec developers can receive a 30 per cent wage subsidy.

This has seen Canada overtake Britain to become the world's third biggest country for games development.

Brighton is home to a thriving games industry but it has been claimed this growth could be hampered if the Government does not offer more help through tax breaks or other subsidies.

Geoff Heath, chief executive officer of NCSoft Europe, based in Trafalgar Place, said: "The Government seem to be happy to take our taxes, however, they do very little to proactively support the games industry."

Andy Eades is co-founder of Relentless Software, based in Air Street, which is approaching ten million units sold for its Buzz quiz games developed for Sony.

He said: "I would definitely want a tax break for my payroll as most of our operating costs come from salaries. I could reinvest that money and be even more successful."

NCSoft is regarded as the world's leading developer of online multiplayer games and last September received a £950,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency to expand and create 100 new jobs.

Despite this cash injection, the company cannot guarantee it will continue to base its European operations in Brighton.

Thomas Bidaux, NCSoft product development director, said: "We have established an internal development studio within our offices and Brighton has served us well in providing a haven of experienced and talented individuals.

"Ultimately as a company, we must go where the talent is and we won't limit ourselves to the UK. If financial circumstances don't improve it might result in us developing our titles outside of England."

Both NCSoft and Relentless would like the Government to treat the games industry similarly to the heavily subsidised British film industry.

Mr Eades said: "We are not being treated as seriously as film.

The UK is not just producing art house' games either. One of the biggest games of the year, GTA4, is about to be released, which will make millions and millions of pounds and is being made in Edinburgh.

"I would say to the Government that we make some of the best games in the world and make lots of money for the economy but we could do even better and even become the world leader if you help us with investment."

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