Multiplayer games: tax, copyright, consumers and the video game industries
The successes of the games industry requires an analysis of the way in which the state is influencing, or attempting to influence, the development of the sector. Drawing from a research project on games, transmedia and the law, including a roundtable with developers and others from the industry, a critical perspective is provided on the impact of three types of law (tax, consumer and intellectual property) on the UK industry. The negotiation and eventual approval of a tax credit for video game development expenditure is reviewed. This is an example of the games industry lobbying for and welcoming the creation of a specific (but film-influenced) legal status for the ‘video game’ – but the passage of the scheme raises troubling questions about the cultural status of games. A significant commercial issue, that of consumer protection, is then discussed. Consumer legislation may prove to constrain certain developments in relation to games; it is argued that there is a special impact on new platforms, because of the (deserved) official attention now being paid to in-app purchases. In relation to intellectual property, the alignment (or misalignment) of copyright law with concepts of value in the sector is considered, with particular reference to ‘cloning’. In conclusion, the particular impact of the three fields on new platforms, and the different degrees to which legislation is contributing to the development of the games sector, is considered. It is argued that the emerging business model of F2P non-console games is not handled as well as it should be, particularly as compared with other business models in the sector.