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.
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.