Local game developers call for government support

An organisation representing video game developers has called for the federal government to reintroduce a self-sustaining funding program to help boost the industry.

To the dismay of the local games industry, in the 2014 budget the federal government axed funding for Screen Australia's Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF).

The government saved $5 million by axing the AIGF, which was earmarked for a total of $20 million worth of funding over three years to 2014-15.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the future of the local games industry, the Game Developers' Association of Australia argued that the government should reintroduce an AIGF-style program.

Profits from successful projects backed by the fund could be reinvested in order to make it self-sustaining, the group argued.

Victoria is the only state government that provides support that directly targets games developers, GDDA said.

The reintroduction of an AIGF-style program is also backed by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA).

"Initial direct government funding through a self-sustaining model, i.e. based on soft or limited recourse loans that are repaid on the successful commercialisation of projects or enterprise growth, would also generate valuable growth in the sector, particularly at the coal-face for small-scale projects by allowing small studios to grow incrementally through their success," the IGEA argued in its submission (PDF).

The groups believe the government should also extend the Producer Offset, a rebate program administered by Screen Australia, to video games.

In addition, the groups argued that the government should:

• Back the development of innovation 'clusters' for games development, including potentially in regional areas;

• Include the games industry in an update to the government's National Digital Economy Strategy;

• Work to boost the skills base in Australia of game developers;

• Continue to support the use of online tools to deal with age classification for games; and

• Establish an export program targeting digital game developers that can assist with travel costs to major trade shows and provide assistance for developers to build their commercial skills.

The inquiry into the future of Australia's video game development industry is being conducted by the Senate's Standing Committee on Environment and Communications.

It was established in April on the initiative of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

"Five years ago, Australia had a burgeoning video game development sector employing thousands of talented people in this rapidly growing industry," Ludlam said at the time.

"Internationally, companies have experienced strong growth thanks to smart government support and favourable regulatory settings.

"In Australia, no such luck: the sector has been treated like the poor cousin of the creative industries, culminating in the Abbott government's decision to close the $20 million Australian Interactive Games Fund, just 12 months after it was established.

"This inquiry will help establish what the government should be doing to support Australia's games industry and the employment, economic and creative benefits it delivers to the nation."

The inquiry is due to report by 1 April 2016.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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