Aussie industry body calls for government support for local game developers

Screen Australia has released a discussion paper to find supporting frameworks for Australia's gaming industry; it proposes a new tax offset and direct government funding.

Industry body Screen Australia has increased its push to help support the Australian video game development industry. Today, it announced the release of a new discussion paper that calls for more government support for local game developers.

The discussion paper--titled "Playing for Keeps: Enhancing Sustainability in Australia's Interactive Entertainment Industry"--argues that the challenges facing the game development industry are linked to those of the broader screen sector, and that because of this, the Australian film, television, and interactive industries should work together.

"Screen Australia believes that targeted support will stimulate production activity to achieve future growth, both economic and cultural, maximizing the industry's strong export potential, as well as the distinctive creative expression that can only be achieved through interactivity," the body argues in the report.

The discussion paper works as a supplementary document to Screen Australia's submission to the Australian government's Convergence Review and National Cultural Policy in October this year, which addresses issues surrounding the local game development industry and provides recommendations for the development of public policy.

MacGuffin's Curse is an upcoming game from Aussie developer Brawsome, funded by Screen Australia.

According to the paper, the sustainability of the local game development industry is under threat from falling foreign investment and talent being driven offshore as a result of recent game development studio closures in Australia. Screen Australia argues that the former is due to current hardware cycles and a tough economic climate.

"Many international publishers have focused their development strategies on blockbuster franchises, trimming medium-budget games and licensed titles from their portfolios," the body argues. "Coupled with tax incentives in other territories and an unfavorable exchange rate, this has limited growth among Australian companies.

"Like other forms of screen content, games produced for the Australian market tend to be riskier investments for publishers, given the population size."

The discussion paper proposes two new incentives to help the local development industry: the introduction of a new tax offset to assist with the production of games in Australia, including the expansion of the existing tax offsets, which could lead to an additional investment of A$146 million over the next five years, and a 50 percent increase in the number of jobs; and, secondly, direct government funding through an Online Production Fund, which would support the production of original intellectual property for online delivery.

"Achieving a healthy balance of fee-for-service work and the creation of original content is critical to a more sustainable industry," the body stated in the report. "Australian interactive entertainment developers have the talent, skills, and desire to create original content, including for the local market, but there has been some reluctance to invest in such content because of the relatively high financial risk involved.

"Enhanced government support would mitigate this risk and assist developers to retain intellectual property at the same time as attracting private investment."

Earlier this year, Screen Australia announced the introduction of a new A$3-5 million fund to help Australian developers create innovative interactive projects with a strong storytelling component.

The discussion paper can be viewed and downloaded in full via the Screen Australia website.

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This is a tricky thing. Having a government model is good as it can aide the industry but what they need to make sure they keep a close eye on is who is allocating the money and what make them decide one game over another. We have seen in the past with the previous government bodies that 70% of the money they were getting was going to only a select few people and those people were the ones on the board allocating the money. So it has the potential to help, but that choice of money allocation has to be right. Not to mention, who should get the money, a company that is trying to push a $10 million AAA title or another Little Ponies for the 3DS, or iPhone developers, at the expense of growing the market further in all platforms. This makes it difficult and we will see spats over who gets it who doesn't and no one will be truely happy.


The problem with the film industry is that creators insist on only making things ABOUT Australia, set IN Australia, making it less accessible on a world scale. Considering Australia's stance on games at the moment, the games industry won't rise until the film industry drops its balls as well. Just look at Happy Feet and Moulin Rouge. Worldwide accessible, huge successes; however, these are very limited. In contrast, check out Animal Kingdom. Great movie, yep, and I'm not saying we should stop making them, but it only made 7 million dollars. That's a joke compared to mainstream box office hits. We need more films that can be appreciated by more than an Aussie audience. Games will then follow, and we can stop making awful Wii and iPhone games.