Rockstar Vancouver is being dismantled, Take-Two Interactive announced today. The 35-person team, best known for its work on Bully, is being offered new positions at Rockstar Games, specifically the expanded Rockstar Toronto studio.
and the reason?
“Rockstar Games’ decision to expand its Toronto studio demonstrates the confidence in Ontario’s leading-edge digital gaming industry. By providing financial support and tax incentives to help companies grow, we maximize Ontario’s competitiveness in the global economy and support job creation,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation.
This is an example of the problems exacerbated by the ongoing subsidy war in the VFX and Games industries which I touched upon in my letter to the European Commission:
For many others the prospect of maintaining a career in this industry is nullified. No matter how talented we are, no matter how efficient we are, we are at the mercy of the next government to come along that offers millions of dollars to producers looking to take advantage of free money.
Vancouver offers a very generous amount of free money for games and VFX. You would think US games producer Take Two Interactive would be content but it seems the province of Ontario was offering more free money. So now the workers at Rockstar are coerced to move to Toronto or lose their jobs.
This narrative has been playing out on an almost quarterly basis. In March we saw the closure of Imageworks New Mexico as Vancouver offered a more generous rebate. Many of the Culver City employees are facing layoffs unless they are willing to move up there.
In May we saw the closure of 38 Studios, which was a games company heavily subsidized by the state of Rhode Island. In each case the idea of permanence is sold to professionals in the industry and then the rug gets pulled from underneath them.
Its a nasty situation I’ve been all too familiar with. In the 38 Studios situation some families were surprised to hear the company pass second mortgages on them. A spouse of a 38 Studios employee wrote a letter about her personal challenges.
That’s why I’ve been compelled in asking for support to help combat these subsidies. As you know a few months ago I made a proposal to readers. I can say I have met with law firms that specialize in international trade law. We’ll be putting together a crowd-funded campaign to challenge these subsidies and hopefully if we garner enough support, we can end them.