Yesterday, the Australian federal government pledged its support for the local game-development sector, announcing an A$20 million fund to be rolled out over the next three years.
According to Federal Arts Minister Simon Crean, the Australian Interactive Games Fund will assist local game developers to "reclaim their competitive advantage" in the overseas market.
The fund will be overseen by Screen Australia, which has been tasked with consulting with the local game-development sector to work out who will be eligible for the fund, and how it will be distributed.
Speaking to GameSpot, Crean addressed the fact that it has taken the federal government a long time to respond to lobbying from the local game-development industry in regards to funding, saying that he first wanted to be convinced of the "merit" of the industry before throwing his support behind it in parliament.
"The sector had made its case that they needed support, but all government processes take time and this was no exception," Crean said.
Crean said that he first became aware of the "significance" of the game-development industry in Australia while visiting George Miller's KMM studio early last year, where he witnessed developers working on the video game version of Happy Feet 2.
In December last year, Crean announced his public support for increased government funding to the sector, claiming that he would argue for an extension of the current producer offset--which allows for big-budget films like Happy Feet 2 and Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby to be made in Australia--to the games sector before the next federal budget.
"I used to think games were just things where you blow people up," Crean told GameSpot. "I didn't realise the great diversity of content that is involved. The game industry is vibrant and constantly changing, and the fact that it's already worth so much both here in Australia and overseas really surprised me. Australia can, and should, secure a bigger slice of the action."
According to Crean, Screen Australia will soon release a discussion paper on the Australian Interactive Games Fund to draw input on how the money should be divided up. Crean said he wants the guidelines for the fund to be ready by early 2013.
"There is money in the fund to be rolled out this financial year, so hopefully everything can start by early next year," he said. "The important thing to remember is that this fund is not just for start-ups; it’s for established studios as well, and anyone else who wants to make a video game in Australia. I would urge all those that are interested to come forward and help shape the guidelines."
Crean believes the fund will help raise the profile of the local game-development industry, and see a cross-pollination of skills with other industries, culminating in interactive projects in areas like education and training.
"The creative skills evident in the gaming industry are relevant elsewhere, and finding increasingly creative ways to develop things is an opportunity. In the future, it won't just be games as entertainment, but games as training, education, information: when one looks at the creative space, there's no limit to where these skills have application. In the context of a global economy, it's worthwhile for the Australian government to invest in these creative industries.
"We have the talent, and all we have to do is nurture it."