If the government were ever to clearly define which sectors would be most strategic for them to invest in and develop for the future, the video game industry would undoubtedly be on the short-list. With a strong history in game development and distribution, a deep bench of highly-skilled technical and creative talent, a number 2 position in Europe, and market sized at 3.2 billion euros, France’s video game industry should, in theory, be a force to be reckoned with. However, recent years have been very challenging for the sector, particularly in terms of funding/financing and retaining top talent in France. The government appears to have woken up to the threats facing France’s games industry and wants to begin taking steps to more effectively address these challenges head-on.
An initial step towards this goal was taken yesterday during visit at Ubisoft by Minister Fleur Pellerin. In addition to learning a bit more about the process of game development, Pellerin also announced a new partnership called ‘Mango’ between the government, Ubisoft, CEA (the commission for atomic and alternative energy), LIRSIS (labratory for imaging technology and information systems), and the CNRS (French national research center). The focus of partnership will be R&D, more specifically, centering on the development of software and other technologies that will fuel the video games of the future. The initiative will be funded to the tune of €14 million, of which €3 million will be chipped in by the government.
As mentioned, there is recognition that this is only a small first step towards addressing some of the issues faced by the sector. Pellerin mentioned during her visit that she is acutely aware of the sector’s most pressing issues, particularly around the on-going problem of French gaming studios, developers and creatives being actively wooed to migrate to the Americas. The Canadians, in particular, are unrelenting in their desire to recruit France’s video game talent. This strategy has been extremely successful thus far, luring all kinds of talent to Montreal by offering various tax incentives and other perks. Ubisoft couldn’t even refuse Canada’s offer as they now have a big presence there with 2,100 people, or 1/3, of their workforce in Montreal.
Discussions will start at some point soon between Pellerin, SNJV and SELL to determine the types of measures that could be put in place to help reverse recent trends. Pellerin apparently seems to think France’s ecosystem is enough to keep top talent and studios in here. However having spoken with key players in the industry about the issue in recent months, it’s safe to say that many in the industry disagree and are hoping that the government can be persuaded to do more.