LNP, Labor, Greens agree: Govt should support video game devs

8


news Australia’s three major sides of political have achieved a rare unified agreement that the Federal Government should take a wide range of measures to directly support the growth of Australia’s video gaming development industry, in a move which would dovetail with Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation agenda.

Australia’s video game development industry is known globally as being able to develop quality and popular titles, with a number of hits on both traditional console and PC systems under its belt, as well as in the fast-growing mobile gaming scene.

However, the industry has been decimated over the past half-decade, with a number of major local studios closing. Much of the issue appears to be related to the fact that other countries such as Canada and Eastern European countries have set up more favourable local conditions to attract developers, as well as the changed value of the Australian dollar.

The industry suffered a further body blow in May 2014, when the then-Abbott Federal Government announced it would would cut $10 million of remaining funding to the Australian Interactive Games Fund. The fund was was announced in November 2012 by then-Federal Arts Minister Simon Crean to support the industry.

Late last week, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Committee delivered its report into the future of the industry after nine months of deliberations and hearings on the issue. You can download the report here.

In a rare display of public unity, Coalition, Labor and Greens Senators all called for a range of measures to support the industry, including the reversal of the AIGF cuts in 2014.

The committee’s first recommendation states: “The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a funding scheme based on the former Australian Interactive Games Fund.”

The committee also recommended that:

  • A refundable tax offset be set up to support the industry
  • The Government support shared working spaces for video game developers
  • The Government consider establishing an innovation hub for video game development and other tech startups in a regional centre
  • The Government encourage the development of ‘serious’ games in healthcare, education and other sectors by facilitating dialogue between relevant organisations
  • The Government consider the tax implications of crowdsourced funding, often used to fund video game development
  • The Government develop a discussion paper on the utility of the Export Market Development Grants scheme for businesses that operate in the digital economy

The Committee also made recommendations regarding improving the diversity of the video game development industry’s workforce and employment conditions, as well as with regard to the Government’s commitment to deploying “21st century broadband infrastructure”.

The Committee’s unified report is relatively unusual in that all sides of politics supported the report. The inquiry was initiated by Greens deputy leader, Senator Scott Ludlam, but the committee is chaired and deputy chaired by LNP and Labor Senators such as Anne Urquhart, Linda Reynolds, Anne McEwen and Chris Back.

Ludlam said in a separate statement that the return of the AIGF fund was one of the most important steps the Government could take to support the industry.

“Establishing a replacement for the AIGF will assist small independent studios to grow into flourishing ongoing enterprises,” the Greens Senator said. “This is just one of the recommendations the report makes, but it’s the most immediate step the government can take for this industry.”

“There is not a Turnbull buzzword box that the games industry does not tick. These are some of the creative industry jobs of the 21st Century. The Liberal party should overturn the short-sighted decision to axe the original AIGF.”

“Government should do all it can to give the industry a jump start, in the form of grants, low-interest loans and tax offsets to foster the growth of a local industry, and to ensure that local talent stays local.”

“In this partisan and politically charged environment, and in an election year, the fact that this is a consensus report says a great deal about the quality of evidence presented, the good faith that both witnesses and senators brought to the proceedings, and the clarity of the conclusions the process reached.”

“We’ll be taking these recommendations forward after the election, and we hope the Labor and Liberal parties do as well. The opportunity for Australia to establish itself as a global leader in this industry is not going to last forever,” Ludlam concluded.

opinion/analysis
Very happy to see this report come out, and I personally support all of the recommendations contained therein.

Blind Freddy can see that the video game industry is one of the fastest growing globally, and that the Federal Government has not done enough to support it locally. Australia’s cinema industry — which does not offer anywhere near the same potential in terms of financial rewards, jobs and growth — already receives much more support from the Government.

The multi-partisan nature of this report is a very good sign for the industry as a whole, and I think the inquiry has also done a lot to educate all sides of politics about this fast-growing sector.

Image credit: Nintendo

8 COMMENTS

  1. Good to see. With the dollar now falling relative to the US things to be picking up for the Australian games developers. The rise in the Australian dollar to parity with the US and the GFC all but killed off the industry here, with only a few small mobile developers surviving. Many of those small developers have since merged and grown.

    Lets home they give it to start ups who want to make a go of it. Seen too many instances on the bigger boys going after these incentives with the aim to just do the minimum needed to satisfy the terms, and not really looking to produce a successful product.

  2. Tax incentives in particular have led to some companies setting up studios in those countries when they would have preferred to setup in another. A good example is the game Star Citizen by CIG, which setup a studio in the UK instead of the US due to tax incentives from the UK government. The UK studio is now their biggest (somewhere around 140 people employed) and they are continuing to hire.

    With the weaker AUD giving good exchange rates for USD etc, and tax incentives, some companies just might decide to setup a studio here and bring some jobs, encouraging growth.

  3. I’m just waiting for this to somehow become politicised and then ruined. Perhaps a Labor backbencher will try to tie it into criticism the NBN, annoying the Coalition so much that they scrap their support. Perhaps some SJWs will protest that games are just promoting grape culture. Perhaps some coalition Neanderthal will say that games are unchristian and the ACL will have conniptions. I don’t know. I’m just sure that someone, somewhere will be able to ruin it.

  4. It’d be great if we could have a high speed internet connection to go with it instead of this horse-shit Malcolm Turnbull’s Mess.

  5. I would love to see this as a somewhat positive sign… but here’s the thing.

    It’s only a “report” which means at the end of the days it’s all just pie in the sky recommendations which any party can very easily say “they support” but w/o actually following up on said support (Gonski report anyone?).

    Second it’s also close to an election and it’s a great way to try and brush under the rug all the same issues from opposition the current government had and sound like “they care” and not as “aggressive” anymore. It makes for a happy feel good government image… something easily shed when support for the report becomes “inconvenient” or “against our core principles”

    Sorry but in this topic I only ever think the Greens are the one that’s closest to ever truly supporting/understanding of what to do w/ the gaming industry problem over here due to Ludlam’s efforts. Both Labor and Coalition have just basically been toe dipping to catch the odd vote or two and run away the moment the pool gets too hot.

    • I don’t think we should forget that it was a Labor politician (state level) who halted the R-rating for video games based on his personal Luddite ideology.
      Yeah, I don’t trust the Coalition or Labor one iota on this kind of thing.

      • Exactly my point. Or the whole flip-flops of both Labor and Liberal for and against Data Retention when the situation called for it.

        Greens so far have only been the only party that has been consistent on what their policies and support for technology.

  6. Building Rent Costs + Lack of affordable Fibre internet outside of metro CBD areas = No Game Dev industry in Australia!
    Maybe Chairmen Mal can offer them free MTM “superfast” copper?

Comments are closed.