SPECIAL FEATURE: State of Play, Martin Foley MP

Joel Van Daal
SPECIAL FEATURE: State of Play, Martin Foley MP

On our recent trip to GDC 2017 we sat down with Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries in Victoria about his journey to the conference and his passion for the sector.

MCV: Minister Foley, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. You’re over in San Francisco for GDC 2017, what are your primary goals for the trip?

MF: It’s a pleasure. I came to GDC because as a global hub on games we have to be where the action is. So I came to support a trade mission of 38 Victorian games companies and the GDAA to demonstrate the strength of our local games sector and the important role government sees the sector having

GDC is a global marketplace, attracting game developers and investors from around the globe -it’s where deals are made. I wanted Victoria’s presence to be felt and to promote our state as an attractive place to do business and invest - especially in the Asia Pacific region.

Our games industry is 98% export and the objective of this trade mission is to create further export opportunities for local companies. But we are also here to promote Melbourne International Games Week, an event that is quickly growing in size and international stature, and encourage as many people as possible to make the trip to Melbourne come October.

MCV: At the Creative Victoria Networking Event you spoke passionately about Victorian development and its bright future. How important are these nights and meeting with Victorian developers at GDC to you and your department?

MF: It’s a sector that I am passionate about and one that’s an important and growing part of Victoria’s creative economy. There is also a strong, and I would say unique, games development community in Victoria, and that’s something we want to nurture through events like this as well as through Melbourne International Games Week. It's a sector that is brilliantly collaborative but fiercely competitive when it's needed

Whilst our companies largely export to the rest of the world, we work together on developing Victoria's international impact rather than against each other. This is being noticed at GDC by people from other parts of the world. It gives us a real advantage

Victoria has been supporting trade missions to GDC in some shape or form for 21 years, and we have a long history of investment in game development through Film Victoria. While sadly, other jurisdictions around the country - especially at the Federal level - are neglecting the sector, our focus is increasing.

I think this recognition and vote of confidence is appreciated by the sector as is our commitment to the future through our Creative State strategy, and initiatives like Melbourne International Games Week.

MCV: I’ve stated recently that Victoria continues to set the standard for support of its developers, as a long term investment what value do you see these weightless exports bringing to the state?

MF: Games industry revenue is $100-billion worldwide, about double film box office and more than six times the music industry. And, globally its year on year growth is 8.5%, so it’s a very fast growing industry. In Australia, games revenue is $2.5-billion and our growth is closer to 17%.

As home to half of Australia's game companies as well as major international studios such as FireMonkeys EA and GREE, Victoria is well placed to be a major regional player.

The phenomenal global success of locally made games like Crossy Road, Armello and Real Racing show that we punch well above our weight.

MCV: There has been much talk this year about the lack of an Australian industry booth at GDC. Whilst these booths arguably don’t measure up when it comes to ROI, do you place value in the industry being seen at events like this and could you see a Victorian Games showcase booth in years to come?

MF: Aussies are great networkers and they tend to be very focussed on which publishers and platform holders they want to meet and make these meetings beforehand. Booths are expensive and they can anchor a developer rather than free them up to take the meetings necessary for business outcomes. In the past we have taken meeting rooms on site and this has been effective. Rest assured the Victorian government will continue to partnership with Games developer groups

This year, for the first time, we have divided our effort between PAX and GDC - PAX provides direct consumer access, which is different from GDC and is increasingly important to our companies. We have 12 games being exhibited at PAX East in Boston. This is a new market for us; exploring the value of marketing directly to the consumer with major publishers, platform holders also in attendance. I’m keen to hear how it goes.

MCV: What learnings have you taken away from your trip to GDC?

MF: I’ve learnt how important it is for companies to be on the ground, talking to people face to face. The products might be ‘weightless’ but we shouldn't underestimate the importance of making personal connections and having a presence. This is critical to finalising business deals and being known in a competitive global marketplace.

It’s also been gratifying to see the high regard in which our local developers are held, and the growing interest in Melbourne International Games Week, which is just approaching its third year.

And I guess I have learnt that with direct support from government we can achieve even more than we can individually.

MCV: I know that you also visited a Diversity Centre in your time here as a part of your role as Minister for Equality, given that games is a diverse sector, how do you think initiatives like this can translate to Victoria and is there a chance of utilising the aspects of the games industry such as Diversity Lounges at exhibitions in creating safe spaces?

MF: The games industry is a leader in equality and diversity. I saw the GDC code of conduct and reflected that Game Connect Asia Pacific also has a similar, inclusive and safe code of conduct respectful to everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

PAX AUS, which has been in Melbourne for five years now also has a safe room, diversity lounge and a respectful code of conduct.

We are working with Film Victoria to redress gender imbalance in the games industry, including introducing the Women in Games leadership development program last year. I expect the participants in this program, extraordinary women from across the industry, will be game changers.

Women in the industry are celebrated during Melbourne International Games Week at the Women in Games lunch, which grows each year.

It confirms what we know. Games are a way everyone can be safe , included and supported - no matter who or where they are.

MCV: Thank you again Mr Foley.

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