Tax us and we’ll quit UK, says ‘Call of Duty’ boss
Chancellor’s video games tax change gets Activision Blizzard boss fuming
The world's leading publisher of video games has warned that the British government's decision to scrap tax relief for the industry could have serious repercussions. "I think it was a terrible mistake," said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, which counts Call of Duty: Black Ops among its hit titles. "There are so many other places that are encouraging the video games industry."
Kotick, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, refused to rule out moving the American company's UK operation elsewhere.
He said the Far East, as well as the USA, might see the tax imposition as the opportunity to entice Britain's brightest video games developers to leave the country. Countries such as China and Singapore are increasingly luring video games companies east with the promise of tax incentives.
Activision has a staff of 600 at its UK outpost in Slough, where they are celebrating last week's news that Call of Duty: Black Ops grossed more than $1bn in 2010 - making it the best-selling video game of the year.
Osborne announced in June's emergency budget that the previous government's tax relief plans for the video games industry would be consigned to the dustbin even though as shadow chancellor he had promised to support the scheme.
His decision went down badly with Tiga, the trade association representing the UK's games industry, which said it might trigger a brain drain of Britain's most talented games developers. "For too long, the coalition government has acted like a one-club golfer. It has had a strategy for reducing the deficit but little to say about growth," said Richard Wilson, Tiga's chief executive. "The video game sector offers opportunities for growth and high value, high technology job creation for the UK."
Wilson believes that if the coalition government were to reintroduce the tax relief, in excess of 3,500 graduate jobs would be created in the UK, which would help reverse the recent decline in the country's games industry.
Investment has dropped from £458m to £417m over the past two years, according to Tiga, which last month went on the offensive, challenging a BBC Panorama investigation that claimed video games were harmful.
"There is absolutely no proven link between videogames and addiction," said Wilson. "The World Health Organisation has no official medical diagnosis of video games addiction. Playing games is a hobby and people can certainly become passionate about them. This is no different from a passion for a particular book, TV programme or sport." ·
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