Following on from a recent post, the Game Developers’ Association of Australia believe that the industry could triple in size if the government introduces two key policies, according to an article in the Brisbane Times.
The first is offering the industry the 40 percent tax offsets/rebate and other funding schemes that is currently available to the film industry.
The second is the introduction of an R18+ rating for games (as movies have) that legalise the sale of games that do not make the MA15+ grade.
GDAA president Tom Crago says local games studios are flourishing but the industry is being driven by overseas funds and in turn the profits from Australian developed titles ultimately end up overseas:
“A better investment and regulatory environment here would see more Australian-owned intellectual property, more jobs in the local industry and increased exports of Australian games.”
– Tom Crago, GDAA President
Crago believes that it is “somewhat incongruous that this ‘cultural value’ argument should result in the film industry receiving maybe 1000 times the funding and support that the video-game industry receives.”
This comes despite games employing many of the same skilled workforce in areas such as animation and special effects that are used in the production of film and TV. “It’s a sign of a government behind the times in terms of how Australians are spending their leisure hours and dollars,” says Crago.
Many within the development community believe the Australian industry is at the crossroads and will soon lose most “work for hire” contracts to cheaper countries such as India and China, or countries with more government assistance, such as Canada and France. It needs to cement its future with original franchises such as the recent global hits, Heroes of the Pacific.
So does the government’s rejection of the industry’s request come down to a cultural argument? Is the government unwilling to support a healthy, growing industry (which could be a fair call)? Do they not see the ‘danger’ of this industry being lost to low-cost offshore production locations? Are they too short-sighted in the euphoric rise of the minerals boom being fuelled by China to care about supporting new and innovative industries? Or does support for games industry not secure the same number of jobs and more importantly, votes, than supporting the film industry will garner?
The fact that many games are not recognisable as “Australian” makes it more difficult to attract policymakers attention. There is nothing visibly and uniquely “Australian” that will be lost in the domestic market if existing games development shifts offshore. Despite this being a sticking point for their lobbying of conservative politicians, it is no doubt a big positive for the games they develop and possibly a reason why their work is well received by American and other overseas investors/publishers.
Some data on industry size (sales) in Australia:
GfK data showed Australians spent more than $1 billion at retail on video games and console hardware in the 2006-07 financial year – $200 million more than cinema box-office takings.
Sales for the first half of 2007 were up 30 per cent, with more than 5.5 million games and half a million gaming consoles bought in six months.
Last month, Halo 3 enjoyed the biggest opening-day sales of any entertainment product in the world, easily eclipsing the likes of Spider-Man 3 and the final Harry Potter novel.