SPECIAL FEATURE: Australia presses pause on support for video games development

Jonny Roses
SPECIAL FEATURE: Australia presses pause on support for video games development

In a special feature for MCV Pacific Weekly, Jonny Roses looks at the response, or lack there of by the Federal Government to the 2016 Senate enquiry. 

Let’s take a trip back to the 29th of April 2016, a day where the Aussie video games industry was buzzing. The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications released its final report into the future of Australia’s video game development industry, which was cleverly titled: “Game on: more than playing around”.

This was it, we all thought. This was the long-awaited recognition from government that the industry needed. Film, television and music have all long benefited from various levels of government support, from tax concessions to direct funding. Games development, on the other hand, was (and is) always treated poorly. But not this time! We now have a Senate report saying otherwise, with unanimous agreement from Labor, Liberal and the Greens (which is rare). Things will change soon! Well, at least that’s what we first believed.

The Committee praised the Australian games development industry. It recognised that Australia had a “proud record of successful video game development”. It believed that an industry as innovative, skilful, technology-focused and creative as ours needed to be embraced. This was followed by eight recommendations, all around getting the Australian Government to support the local industry. From the recommendation to reinstate a funding scheme based on the axed Australian Interactive Games Fund, to the one to introduce a refundable tax offset for expenditure in games development, things were looking promising.

But now, here we are in February 2017. It’s been almost 300 days since the Committee released its report and the government has yet to respond. 300 days!

This is significant. Due to a Senate resolution in 1973, the Australian Government has been required to respond to Senate committee reports within three months of tabling. This means we should have seen a response to the games development report by 29 July 2016, or 91 days after its release. This did not happen. In October 2016, we were told that a “whole-of-Government response” was being developed, but we have not heard anything else since then.

Surely we are due to see something soon, right? Well, not exactly. There are over 150 other committee reports that also have not received a final response from government, some reaching as far back as 2002 (no, I’m not kidding), so we cannot be sure that this report will be treated any differently. I mean, judging by the long history of our Government failing to support games development, it is hard to believe that anything will change.

So, where do we go from here? What more can the Aussie games industry do to get the government to support developers? Believe it or not, there is still a lot. Gamers are some of the most passionate and determined people out there. We just need to keep doing what we do best – talk about the awesome industry that is video games. Keep pushing the government in any way possible (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to help the development industry. Lobby Members of Parliament, at both State and Federal levels. Remind them that games development is a significant export opportunity for Australia, since over 80% of sales revenue comes from overseas (as indicated by IGEA’s survey of 63 Australian development studios, which generated over $114 million in revenue in 2015-16).

A big part of my job at the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) is doing just this. We represent the Australian games industry on issues such as these and we constantly engage with government to ensure they treat us fairly. IGEA played a big role in the Senate’s inquiry and to this day we are taking every opportunity to get the committee report back onto the government’s radar. Hopefully all our efforts will lead to something in 2017. And with the help of Aussie gamers, I am sure we can do it.

This article first appeared in MCV Pacific Weekly, MCV Pacific's new weekly industry communication. You can subscribe here.


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