The draft bill outlining new tax breaks for the British video games industry includes a "cultural test" for software - based partly on the nationality of its characters.

The new bill proposes up to 25% tax relief for all UK games development, with no minimum budget threshold - on a par with other creative industries.

It has been "broadly welcomed" by industry bodies, who said it should encourage growth for small studios and bigger companies alike.

But on Twitter and games development forums, eyebrows were raised at the detail of the "cultural test" which will determine if games are eligible for the tax relief.

To pass the test, developers will have to accumulate 16 points out of a complex list of qualifying characteristics.

For instance, if 75% of a game is set in the UK or another European Economic Area (EEA) state, it will get four points on the scale. That falls to one point if only 25% of the game is set there.

Four points will be given if the game "depicts a British story or a story which relates to an EEA state", and four more for dialogue mostly recorded in English.

Another four points are available for games that make a "contribution of the video game to the promotion, development and enhancement of British culture".

The full list of the cultural test criteria is copied below.

On Twitter games journalists and developers took the announcement as a cue to come up with ideas for video games that might be 'British enough' to qualify for tax breaks.

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  • Hany Gohary

    Tube Raider #uktaxexemptgames

  • Zayne Black

    Paper Shop Mario. #uktaxexemptgames

  • Merry Gilkesmas!!

    Modern Warminster 3 #uktaxexemptgames

  • Dave Allanson

    Gears of Warwick #uktaxexemptgames

  • Sue Sharples

    RT @DaxHalo: Tube Raider #uktaxexemptgames

  • Plugin.IO Gary Paluk

    Coronation Streets of Rage #uktaxexemptgames


Association For UK Interactive Entertainment CEO, Dr Jo Twist said:

"We're pleased that an initial look at the draft legislation seems to be another positive step for our members and the wider industry, helping us to keep the UK as a leading creative force for games on the global stage.

"It is however vital that we properly scrutinise every detail of the legislation to make sure that the final scheme is in line with the needs of our industry. We need all games businesses to feed-back their thoughts over the next three months so that we can ensure that we have the best possible system operating for all UK games businesses."

UK Video Games Cultural Test

(1) A video game may be certified as a British video game under section 1217CB(1) of the Act only if it passes the following cultural test.

(2) A video game passes the cultural test if it is awarded at least 16 points in total under paragraphs (3) to (6).

(3) Up to 16 points shall be awarded in respect of the content of the video game as follows—
(A) Up to 4 points depending on the percentage of the video game that is set in the following locations

(i) 4 points if at least 75% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state;

(ii) 3 points if at least 66% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;

(iii) 2 points if at least 50% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;

(iv) 1 point if at least 25% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;

(B) Up to 4 points depending on the number of the characters depicted in the video game with the following characteristics

(i) if there are more than three characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if two or three of the three lead characters are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location or, if only one of the three lead characters is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if that character is the first or second lead, 1 point if that character is the third lead;

(ii) if there are only three characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if two or three of them are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location or, if only one of them is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if that character is the first or second lead, 1 point if that character is the third lead;

(iii) if there are only two characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if both of them are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location, 2 points if one of them is;

(iv) if there is only one character depicted in the video game, 4 points if that character is from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location;

(C) 4 points if the video game depicts a British story or a story which relates to an EEA state;

(D) up to 4 points depending on the percentage of the original dialogue that is recorded in the English language or in a recognised regional or minority language as follows

(i) 4 points for at least 75%; (ii) 3 points for at least 66%; (iii) 2 points for at least 50%;

(iv) 1 point for at least 25%.

(4) Up to 4 points may be awarded in respect of the contribution of the video game to the promotion, development and enhancement of British culture.

(5) Up to 3 points shall be awarded in respect of work carried out in the making of the video game as follows

(a) 2 points if at least 50% of the work carried out on any of the following is carried out in the United Kingdom

(i) conceptual development; (ii) layout and storyboarding; (iii) programming; (iv) visual design;

(b) 1 point if at least 50% of the work carried out on any of the following is carried out in the United Kingdom

(i) performing and recording the music score created for the video game;

(ii) voice recording;

(iii) audio production;

(iv) picture production.

(6) Up to 8 points shall be awarded in respect of the personnel involved in the making of the video game as follows

(a) 1 point if the project leader (or, if there is more than one, the main project leader) is a qualifying person;

(b) 1 point if at least one of the scriptwriters (or, if there are more than three, one of the three lead scriptwriters) is a qualifying person;

(c) 1 point if the composer (or, if there is more than one, the lead composer) is a qualifying person;

(d) 1 point if the artist (or, if there is more than one, the lead artist) is a qualifying person;

(e) 1 point if the programmer (or, if there is more than one, the lead programmer) is a qualifying person;

(f) 1 point if the designer (or, if there is more than one, the lead designer) is a qualifying person;

(g) 1 point if at least one of the heads of department is a qualifying person;

(h) 1 point if at least 50% of the development team are qualifying persons.