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A developer speaks on why he emigrated to Canada. Hint: Not for tax reasons

By on September 9, 2010
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I was reading a GamaSutra article on how the UK is losing out to Canada due to tax breaks.

This comment from developer Rob Bridgett leaped out at me:

I just don’t buy that the migration of developers to Canada, and indeed elsewhere, is linked solely to tax breaks.

Speaking from my own experience, as someone who left the UK to live and work in Vancouver seven years ago (not the recipient of provincial tax breaks for games until very recently this year) my reasons for moving to Canada were based almost entirely around quality of life (cost of living / housing / lower crime rates / family friendly culture etc) and the sheer concentration of developers in Vancouver.

If the UK could compete on quality of life, then it might be able to offer some allure to developers wishing to make a positive move. UK tax incentives might give the developers a little more breathing room in their operating margins, but (I’m being cynical here) I doubt these savings will trickle down to the salary levels of the devs themselves.

It’s only anecdotal, sure, but it’s another piece of evidence that suggests that tax breaks are only a small part of the overall picture

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • John

    If companies are saying tax breaks are the biggest cause of a brain drain – I’d say bullshit; it’s more likely people moved into better paying industries in the UK or moved to better paying countries like the US or Canada. The UK has historically been known as a fine place to get your start in games, but after that you upgrade or ship out if you want to have a good life.

  • But Rob said he moved to Vancouver seven years ago, half a decade or more before they got tax breaks.

    The UK already has a concentration of strong developers. I don’t believe that tax breaks are that important.

  • Patrick

    I agree with Giordano – Rob talks about the ‘sheer concentration of developers’ in Vancouver, but that number of studios are likely to have been significantly smaller without the tax breaks.
    It would be interesting to see the number and size of Vancouver developers before tax breaks were introduced compared with now. Back in 2007, there were around 5000 games staff in Vancouver, presumable many of these at companies attracted by the existing 30% tax credit up to $60,000 for startups which existed then. Since then, they’ve implemented huge labour tax credits like Quebec and Ontario and I imagine that the number of people employed in Vancouver is much much higher now.
    According to Gamasutra, Canada’s total number of game developers rose from 9,500 in 2008 to 12,480 in 2009, and I’d bet the total in 2010 is closer to 14,000…

  • Sure, but tax breaks were key in getting the companies that hire those developers to set up shop there initially, and more keep coming. Then this creates a rich development ecosystem, and that attracts more people / companies. So, tax breaks are a very important element in putting all of this in motion