Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Joe Hockey and the Australian Liberal Party has just destroyed the Australian games industry

Opinion by Matt S.

It's no secret; in recent years the Australian games industry has been struggling. A high dollar and increases in the cost of living has lead to studio closures and as a result the number of game developers working here is a fraction of what it once was, and the output is proportionally smaller than ever. In short, our industry is now a fraction of the size and global importance that it once was.

Further, what is left is high-risk businesses; small game developers that are always one underperforming game away from bankruptcy. There's no support networks left in this country. No big publishers with money to acquire innovative startups. It's a wild west of game development where those that are left eke out a meagre existence while the rest of the global industry largely forgets about them.

For an industry that was at one stage in history one of the most innovative in the world, producing such classics as The Hobbit, it's a sad decline. As a proud Australian, it disappoints me in the extreme to see my games industry in my home nation unable to compete, artistically or commercially, with the output of places like Canada or parts of Europe, where developers enjoy generous tax breaks from their governments. It hurts that we can't even compete with Asian outsourcing for assets for other, overseas projects, because business is too expensive here to support that model.

Under the previous Labor government, our politicians realised that there was a problem, and had a strategy in place to deal with it. The government set up a fund to provide game developers critical resources to cover some basics, such as pay wages and business fees while the developer got its game finished and into the market.

But, then Australia had an election, and elected the Liberal National party; a bunch of extreme conservatives that promised to utterly destroy the country in the name of saving money.

This new government just announced its first formal budget, and in that budget? Well, all that money for the games fund is gone.

Here's the document. Have a search for "Australian Interactive Games Fund - cessation." I personally know multiple (multiple) game developers that relied on that money and absolutely needed it in order to get their games made. As an opportunity, that money is now gone. All $10 million of it. No renewals into the future. So, next year, a game developer that might have otherwise been able to get a grant to finish the game won't have that opportunity. The game won't get made - and you don't need to be an economist to figure out that is not a healthy thing for a game development business.

After you've had a quick look at the document from hell, jump back over here and we'll have a think together; if you have a struggling arts industry, and arts industries rely on government support to survive, what happens when you pull that funding away?

Joe Hockey (the treasurer responsible for the budget) has been parading around the rhetoric that Australians need to "get a job." Well, Australian game developers, and aspiring game developers, you'll need to look overseas for those jobs, because one of the very, very few oases of funding for the Australian game development industry that would allow developers to hire talent and produce quality content has just dried up. And all because this government has failed to understand that a creative arts industry needs investment in order to realise commercial viability and innovation.

Game Over.

- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
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