Culture Minister Ed Vaizey this morning told the UK games industry it would "need to make the case again" if it wanted tax breaks for development.
But the Tory MP, delivering the keynote address at the Develop Conference, insisted the sector wouldn't "fall over" without them, and announced Government-backed initiatives he said would help aid small developers and tackle the skills crisis.
In his first speech to the games industry since joining Government - and since Chancellor George Osborne scrapped Labour's plans for tax relief in his Budget - Vaizey insisted he remained "a committed champion of this industry" and would do "all I can to ensure you remain in an environment where you can compete".
On the heated issue of tax breaks, Vaizey said: "I can't emphasise enough that I'm not the Chancellor - but the Treasury is always open to rational argument and debate." Vaizey had, prior to the election, come out strongly in support of tax breaks alongside coalition partner, LibDem MP Don Foster - but Osborne had never publicly offered support.
On the issue of whether the industry should continue to pursue the issue, Vaizey said: "To put it bluntly, you haven't made the case because the Chancellor didn't accept it. You need to make the case again. But don't think just because we don't have tax break the industry is going to fall over - that's so wide of the mark."
Despite the setback on tax breaks, Vaizey defended the Budget as good for business overall. "I don't feel downhearted or defeated; I'm incredibly optimistic," he said, adding that he supported Osborne's "vision" for a low-tax regime that would help UK businesses.
Elsewhere, Vaizey revealed a £2m fund in association with Scotland's Abertay University, to help start-ups to develop new IP. And he also announced an independent review into the skills sector, "to see what school leavers and graduates need", fronted by Eidos life president Ian Livingstone and Revolution's Charles Cecil.
Vaizey also addressed the issue of the new PEGI age ratings, currently in limbo and waiting for statutory approval. He acknowledged there were still "a number of processes and parliamentary hurdles" to navigate, but insisted: "It's better to spend time to make sure these are right than have a system that doesn't work when comes into force."
In conclusion, he added: "I would counsel against a council of despair - I personally think this industry has a fantastic future. Is my door open to talk to you, to work with you? Absolutely."
Asked, finally, which games he played, Vaizey quipped: "Super Mario Wii - that's all I'm capable of."