Casualties Of The Subsidy Trade War: Rockstar Vancouver

Right off the heels of the potential closing of Vancouver’s oldest gaming company, Rockstar Vancouver is closing. Looks like VFX isn’t the only industry pitched in a race to the bottom:

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.

Soldier On.

9 Responses to Casualties Of The Subsidy Trade War: Rockstar Vancouver

  1. ambertreto says:

    Reblogged this on TNG Visual Effects and commented:
    VFX industry changes may affect 3D scanning services and visual effects technology.

  2. El Zappo says:

    Uh oh. Will we see film studios start looking here in the near future?

  3. jonavark says:

    It’s a video game company. Don’t care.

    • El Zappo says:

      @Jonavark – Wow, dude. ‘Cause they’re so completely different and no one who works in vfx can or will ever work in games, right?

      • jonavark says:

        They are immensely different than Feature VFX, unless you’re talking cinematics. Actually generating game code and assets is remotely similar to VFX but nowhere near the same thing. They are vastly different.

        The reason I don’t really care much about video game companies is that they design/produce and develop a product and are responsible for its success. Most VFX companies provide a service and don’t design and take the same risks.

        Having done a few stints in video game companies over my time as an artist/developer I can say that the success or failure isn’t something I worry about. It’s the risk they take.

      • jonavark says:

        by “design” I mean write/develop/produce.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Vfx and games are totally intertwined. Many workers jump in between the two. In fact many of the subsidies are directed at both industries in one bill. So we may actually need to work together on the issue.

      Btw, I know you comment on my blog alot. Do you work in vfx? Have you actually worked for a facility that does feature film vfx work?

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