Anger Over Tax Relief for Rockstar; Calls for Industry to Counter ‘Skin Betting’ Sites

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TheGamingEconomy’s Daily Digest brings you the trending stories in gaming. In today’s news: Anger over tax relief for Rockstar North; calls for industry to counter ‘skin betting’ sites; Valve disables TFS inventories due to item-drop bug.

Anger over tax relief for Rockstar

Rockstar North is facing criticism after it was revealed that the Grand Theft Auto developer has not paid tax in the UK since 2009 despite receiving £42m in subsidies aimed at ‘culturally British’ games in the last three years, according to an investigation by TaxWatch. The tax credits relief figure equates to approximately 19% of the total amount paid to the entire UK games industry under this scheme. Rockstar is estimated to have made an operating profit of USD$5bn (£4.04bn) from 2013-2019.

While tax relief for small- and medium-sized companies within the UK gaming industry has been a hard-fought process, bolstering the nation’s presence in the market, the fact that such a substantial amount has been allocated to a title set in America which grosses billions of dollars is bound to raise questions over how these subsidies are allocated.

“The video games tax relief was designed to help developers of games with a cultural content that would struggle to sell in the international market. That such a large amount of that relief is going to the developers of Grand Theft Auto clearly shows that it is not working as intended.” said TaxWatch director George Turner in an interview with The Scotsman.

Calls for industry to counter ‘skin betting’ sites

House of Commons Govt

As the Department for Media and Sport’s inquiry into immersive and addictive technology continues, there has been a call for the UK games industry to do more to counter ‘skin betting’ sites. That is to say, third-party websites that let players offer up their lootboxes for money – with other people effectively gambling on the contents.

However, as previously covered in TheGamingEconomy, the UK Gambling Commission has deemed that video games that provide paid-for loot boxes that contain items of random value are not offering gambling, because users that invest in such loot boxes cannot make real money from official sources after investing in the random contents of a loot box. But unofficial skin betting sites do enable that ability.

“By not taking significant action as an industry and global game developer community to self-regulate how loot boxes are used, we run the very real risk that governments around the world will take that action for us, and perhaps create significantly restrictive laws that could impact any random reward elements in games” warned Jen MacLean, executive director of the IGDA.

Valve disables TF2 inventories due to item-drop bug

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Valve has disabled access to inventories on Team Fortress 2 due to an item-drop bug which is causing ‘Unusual’ items, which typically have drop rates of 1%, to spawn at rates of up to 100%. This has in turn had a dramatic effect on the value of said items on the team-based shooter’s marketplace, with prices for affected items dropping from USD$17-USD$35 (£13.72-£28.25) to just USD$5 (£4.04).

Despite ostensibly being a small technical error, it is unclear at this stage whether the complex virtual TF2 economy will ever ‘recover’, at least not without affecting players who obtained unusual items prior to the affected update.

At the time of publication, the only update from Valve has been on the title’s Twitter feed: “All Unusuals from the bugged crates have been marked as non-tradable for the time being. We are evaluating what steps to take with these items and will have another update for you after the weekend.”