R&D Tax Credit Claim for Computer Games Example

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Case Study

This case study provides an example of a successful R&D Tax Credit Claim for a computer games developer. For further details on the R&D eligibility criteria applied to Computer Game development projects, there is a dedicated page about the general concepts for claiming R&D Tax Relief in this field.

The Computer Games Company

This case study presents the details of the R&D claim for an international computer games developer, that was developing a new RPG (Role Playing Game) within the UK. The company employed thousands of staff worldwide and so was defined as a large company for R&D Tax Purposes.

Game Details

The new RPG was the first of its type (not a sequel) and targetted at the mobile device market. As with many other titles from this game's developer, the new RPG would leverage the Unity engine. Unity provides many capabilities that computer games generally harness (from workflows to graphics and AI), but the game's studio aspired to make the game more immersive than similar games available on the market at the time.

Complexity Mapping to The BEIS Guidelines

The 'generalised' description of the game was similar to many other types of video game developments, in that it is the functionality of that game that stands out rather than the actual technology being developed to support the feature.
Much of the effort that went into the game was for the design of maps and textures. Whether the design of these elements was required to overcome technological uncertainty and thus adhered to the R&D guidelines was an area of complexity.

What Made This Project Qualify?

Significant time was invested in R&D (of a technical rather than design/graphical nature) to develop new code to enhance how the user could interact with items in the game world. Developing this functionality involved creating new algorithms, above and beyond what was available in the unity engine (nor any reference that was available publically - such as Opensource code) to support players on low-end devices (with minimal processing power), to have a rich experience where characters in the game would have a genuine belief in the physics (on a mobile device).
Although there were other games (and game engines) that attempt to achieve similar aspirations, the technology here was developed in a fundamentally different way, which meant that the advance criteria was satisfied. Because of the technical complexity in developing these algorithms - more explicitly owing to the performance uncertainty of creating the rich-experience on low-end devices, this meant that the project was one that was eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

Eligible Costs

The architectural design, development, testing and project management of the new game were mostly qualifying research and development for tax purposes. A significant portion of the game's 'studio' costs was for the graphical design of textures and characters. The majority of these did not contribute to the resolution of Technological Uncertainty and so were excluded from the claim. In some cases, the team needed specific graphics for performance and integration testing. Where this was the case, we included the creation of the required graphics, but this represented a relatively small portion of the overall claim.

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