[The French government and European Commission have agreed in principle to fund tax credits for video games, due to their cultural importance - and Gamasutra tagged along with the French cultural minister and Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot to find out why it matters.]
On December 14, 2007, something unusual happened in Paris -- odd, even. It was crucial for the French video game industry, and maybe for the perception of video games as a whole. Christine Albanel, the new French secretary of culture and communication -- not the one who gave Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature medals to Shigeru Miyamoto, Michel Ancel and Frédérick Raynal back in March 2006 -- paid an official visit to one of Ubisoft's studios in Montreuil, a couple of miles at the east of Paris gates.
"Why pay Ubisoft such a visit?" we candidly asked Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft (pictured with Albanel below). "Well, the tax credits for video game productions have just been voted in yesterday by the European Commission. We wanted to talk a little bit about it, and Ms. Albanel wanted to show that she cares about video games, and that she intends to participate and help this industry to grow".
Though the general public isn't aware, for several years now French video game developers have been lobbying to get some help from the government. Ninety French studios are represented by l'Association des Producteurs d'Oeuvres Multimédia, which translates to "The Association of Producers of Multimedia Works" and is abbreviated to l'APOM, or "Apple". The president of l'APOM, Guillaume de Fondaumière, is also General Director of studio Quantic Dream (Fahrenheit, aka Indigo Prophecy).
According to de Fondaumière, "In 1990, 3000 people were working in the video game industry in France, now only 1300 to 1500 [do]." Since its foundation in 2002, l'APOM has fought for recognition of the French video game industry.
Whether ruled by a left or right wing administration, France has a special interest in all things cultural, and regularly vouches for "the French cultural exception" to its European partners. Until recently, however, video game activity was not a part of the French cultural aura -- even though the French studios already had some financial help.
In 2003, the First Secretary of a prior administration allowed some funding for multimedia founding to go to French game studios. "Yes, the 4 million euros promised were quickly available and were indeed useful," acknowledged de Fondaumière, "but since then we had difficulty to pass the idea of the tax credits."
Yves Guillemot said, "This case is 4 years old. It's not new, but now that the European Commission did give its green light we need the French government to fully be behind it to accelerate and validate the process now." Fundamentally, this decision authorizes France to apply a 20% tax credit to support video game production (with a 3 million euro limit per studio and per year).