French videogame tax break criteria causing some complaints

Did you know that France grants tax breaks to videogame developers? Yeah, it passed in late 2007, actually. Neat, huh? There’s just one thing: Not everyone making a game gets a tax break. The product has to meet three criteria: the game must show “quality, originality and contribute to cultural diversity.” Sounds fair, I mean why should a government support multiple iterations of Imagine titles? Of the initial wave of 120 proposed projects, only 45 were approved for tax breaks.

Seems not everyone’s too crazy about that cultural part. Guillaume de Fondaumiere, chair of the European Game Developers Federation, and co-CEO of Quantic Dream, the makers of upcoming PS3 quicktime-a-thon Heavy Rain (I’m just calling it now), says the cultural test “is a problem.” Compared to other mediums like film, criteria for tax breaks isn’t as heavy as for our beloved videogames. “You have to be a French company, but [you can say] that Warner Bros. France could make a movie called A Very Long Engagement and receive funds.” But if Valve made a studio in France and tried to pull this stunt with Half-Life Episode 4, things wouldn’t go as smoothly.

“When you look at EU rules, you have to ask: ‘Actually, what is culture?’ It’s a national decision, so it’s kind of weird that we, as the videogame industry, have to work with standards that other cultural areas don’t have to follow. To me, all games are cultural. Videogames aren’t just a form of entertainment, but a true form of cultural expression, and I think that in twenty years’ time this will be a given. No one will dispute that any more.”

Fondaumiere also cites Quebec’s more liberal funding of games, and the $200 CDN in revenue it gained from its investment. His organization has been working hard to create a more reasonable criteria for what he believes is indeed a young and growing form of cultural expression, and while they’re fighting that good fight, he does hope things move quickly in light of the development industry in Europe slowly dwindling.

Here’s one hoping for a win. Always nice to see people try and give our industry a little more regard.

And in case you’re curious, looks like Heavy Rain was one of the 45 approved projects.