We’re in the final week of the Australian Federal Election campaign, and perhaps unsurprisingly little-to-no mention of the video games industry in Australia has come up as part of the discourse. Why should it? As the Greens reminds us it only makes up nearly $3 billion (AUD) of the annual retail economy, and represents a cornerstone of the new digital economy that has become little more than a 3 word slogan for the major parties. Despite this, the Greens are pushing ahead with their support of the industry with the launch on Tuesday of the Australian Greens’ videogames initiative.
“It’s time government recognised the value of the Australian video games industry and gave it the same level of support as other creative industries enjoy” says Australian Greens Communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam in a Press Release on Tuesday. “The Australian videogames industry is a perfect example of the sort of innovative 21st century industry that the current Prime Minister gushes about. We’d prefer that enthusiasm translated into real action, so that’s why we’re announcing this $158 million package to assist the industry”.
The plan, which is detailed on the Greens website, includes extending the 40% producer tax offset to video game developers, as well as reintroducing the Australian Interactive Games Fund, a previous Labor government initiative.
“The Abbott-Turnbull government did a huge disservice to the industry when it axed the Australian Interactive Games Fund. That initiative was a great success” says Senator Scott Ludlam. “but it was cut before half of the funds were even disbursed. We’d like to see that fund reinstated and developed into a stable revolving fund.”. The AIGF, a $20M fund initially introduced by Labor in 2013, only to be scrapped by the incoming Liberal government in their 2014 budget, served to help new and upcoming games developers to find their feet, and allowed popular games like Fruit Ninja to get off the ground .
“The consensus report from our senate inquiry into the future of the industry made it clear that government can galvanise the local industry, in the form of grants, low-interest loans and tax offsets to foster growth, and to ensure that Australian talent stays in Australia.” Another finding of the Senate inquiry that was brought by Senate Scott Ludlum and forms the basis of the Green’s initiative was the importance in diversity of game development and industry pathways, to better represent the diversity of gaming audiences.
“Co-working spaces such as the Arcade in Melbourne foster creativity and innovation. That model should be expanded into other cities. Government can set standards for these funding programs to encourage diversity, which the industry in turn will benefit greatly from, and audiences will too,” Senator Ludlam continues. “It genuinely is an exciting time in videogame development. The massive success of mobile gaming, and the emerging technology of VR, are rich opportunities for the industry. With just a few key measures, we can switch videogame development difficulty in Australia from ‘Veteran’ to ‘Regular’.”
The Australian Greens are currently polling at between 9% – 14% ahead of the Australian Federal Election of July 2. Hopefully this influence will help sway the two major parties to take more notice of the video game industry within Australia in the coming electoral term.