Report on Economic Impact of the Irish Screen Sectors highlights need for extending section 481 to games and improving access to finance, markets and co-working spaces. The report and action plan have been added to the Imirt website: http://www.imirt.ie/industryreports/
Imirt, the Irish Game Makers Association, welcomes the publication of the Audiovisual Action Plan. Imirt wholeheartedly endorses the recommendations made to develop the Irish games industry and looks forward to working with the department to ensure the plans come to fruition.
The Audiovisual Action Plan was published on Wednesday by Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, along with a report on Economic Analysis of the Audiovisual Sector in the Republic of Ireland. The report covers all Irish audiovisual sectors – film, TV, animation, video games, commercial advertising and radio. It analyses the economic impact of these sectors along with identifying strategic issues and making recommendations in areas such as funding, skills development, regulatory reform and marketing. Imirt supports the recommendations to extend section 481 to games, to provide funding for an “Irish Games” stand at international games events, to develop a prototype fund for games and to attract a large games studio to Ireland.
The report cautions that “previous strategic plans have lacked an agency or group responsible for implementation”. It also notes that the games industry in Ireland faces a particular challenge. As both a technological and creative industry, it falls between the two and “is accepted in the definitions of neither of these industries within the Irish public sector context”. Imirt welcomes the name change of the Irish Film Board to Screen Ireland and recommends that games are added to the remit of Screen Ireland, similar to how games are part of Northern Ireland Screen.
Section 481 is Ireland’s fiscal incentive for film and TV production. As stated in the report “In 2016, every euro of Section 481 outlays generated, on average, €2.82 in economic net benefit for the Irish economy.” Currently it does not offer tax relief to the games industry despite the fact that countries such as UK, France and Canada offer tax breaks to the games industry. Extending section 481 to games would help bring parity with Northern Ireland and capitalise on opportunities for inward investment offered by Brexit. Imirt board member Elaine Reynolds, who also runs mobile game studio Simteractive, said “In order to remain competitive, Ireland should extend section 481 to games. This could have a huge impact on international companies setting up studios in Ireland, which would create jobs, develop skills and bolster the future of the Irish games industry. Section 481 is currently being reviewed and we hope to see a positive outcome.”
The report notes “Ireland provides branded stands at film and TV events, but no equivalent is presently provided at international games markets”. In order to improve access to markets, Imirt strongly recommends that Ireland take a national presence at events such as GDC, the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. This would allow Ireland to promote its games at the highest level alongside countries like Finland and Poland who offer country-specific stands. Imirt also agree with the report’s assertion that support for exhibiting and attending events such as GDC would bring highly beneficial networking impacts, connecting Irish companies with potential collaborators abroad and helping to promote the “Irish Games” brand internationally.
The Action Plan states that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht “will be able to fund the majority of the recommendations”. However, the department have not yet committed to some of the most important recommendations. Regarding the prototype fund, the Action Plan states that the Steering Group members will “seek input from relevant Departments.”. Imirt offer to be part of the steering group to consult on these issues. Imirt board member Colm Larkin, who also runs Dublin-based game studio Gambrinous, said "I strongly back these recommendations and look forward to their implementation by government. In particular I believe setting up a games prototype fund will help create new game jobs and grow the number of games and IP created in Ireland that succeed in the global market."
Another challenge mentioned in the report is the difficulty of finding affordable business premises. Co-working spaces for game developers would allow the creation of clusters around the country. This would help alleviate the issue of finding affordable office space and also allow for game developers to collaborate together, exchange skills and resources. Imirt chairperson Brenda Romero said: “Having co-working spaces throughout Ireland would be fantastic. So many game developers are working on their own or in a small team. To have a co-working space where developers with different areas of expertise could work together would elevate skill levels, offer space for community events and provide a common destination for potential partners to meet with Irish game developers.”
Olsberg SPI is a creative industries strategy consultancy that provides high-level advice to public and private sector clients, specialising in the worlds of film, television and digital media. For the full text of the Olsberg SPI report “Economic Analysis of the Audiovisual Sector in the Republic of Ireland”, see this link: https://www.chg.gov.ie/app/uploads/2018/06/economic-analysis-of-the-audiovisual-sector-in-the-republic-of-ireland.pdf. For more information on Olsberg SPI, see this link: http://www.o-spi.co.uk.