Since 2012, Australia’s video game industry has suffered a steady decline in interest and support from the federal government. However, this year’s election could be a game changer.
When the 2019 federal budget was revealed on April 2, there was a promise of $22 million for Australia’s very own screen media industry. But if you thought this “game-changing decision” would support Aussie game developers, you would be wrong.
An April 11 media release boasted a record $718 million expenditure on Australia’s homegrown projects in 2017-18, highlighting the amount of Aussie feature films and television dramas that began production in the previous two years. Unfortunately, focusing solely on these accomplishments neglects our own booming games industry.
In the 2016-17 financial year, Australia’s games industry grossed over $118.5 million, with Australian gamers spending a whopping $3 billion on video games in 2018 (over double the amount spent on cinema viewing). This undoubtedly shows that video games hold their own in Australia’s growing entertainment industry. Despite this, no funding progress has been made.
Brisbane-based game designer Caleb Barton details how the industry has grown despite government neglect.
“It shows to me that the Australian Government (LNP government in particular) doesn’t understand the value that our industry can have for our economy in terms of jobs growth and economic input,” says Barton. “The LNP seem to think of our industry more as ‘tech’ than ‘creative tech’, which is why we saw the kind of ‘free market’ response from the government during the video games inquiry last year.
“Investing in industries allows that industry to contribute more to the economy and the workforce, and we’re the perfect kind of industry to invest in when the rhetoric of ‘tech and innovation’ comes about.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten chimed in on April 4, declaring his support for Australian industries in his federal budget response.
“We will invest in industries where Australia can be the best in the world,” Shorten continued.
Furthering this, Labor has announced they will reinstate the Australian Interactive Games Fund if elected. This fund was originally given life in 2013 under former Arts Minister Simon Crean before being axed by the Abbott government in 2014.
This $25 million investment is designed to help studios “grow as businesses” and “will enable a variety of works and the generation of original intellectual property in long form games”.
Excited to announce Labor will bring back the Australian Interactive Games Fund. This is a crucial step in supporting a thriving game development sector in Australia. #auspol #AusVotes19 @igea @gdaa_oz @Ronki https://t.co/qfVYDKyGl2
— Michelle Rowland (@MRowlandMP) May 11, 2019
Australia’s gaming culture has exploded over the past decade, and this year could see the games industry make a more pronounced break into the mainstream market. The federal election is just around the corner, so be sure to have your say and vote on May 18.