Australian game developers fighting for funding despite commercial successes
Aussie developers have made $118.5 million in the past financial year, the biggest return yet.
Australian developers are constantly fighting to prove their worth and find funding, but following such a successful financial year, things may be about to change.
A recent IGEA (Interactive Games and Entertainment Association) survey found a lack of government funding to be the top issue keeping developers up at night. According to the study, the Australian game development industry generated $118.5 million in the 2016-17 financial year, with over three-quarters of the studios surveyed projecting growth. Over 80% of the revenue generated by Australian studios came from overseas, with the US being the biggest market for Australian produced games, followed by Europe.
The local industry employs 982 full-time employees, of which programmers (33%), artists (25%) and management, marketing and administration (12%) make up the majority. Of these 982 employees, 18% are female. Of the companies surveyed, 53% expressed an interest in hiring additional staff during the 2017/18 financial year. Melbourne is the biggest city for developers, with 36% located in the area, attracting those interested in working in the games industry to the city.
The survey shows that Australian game developers are continuing to push themselves to grow and succeed,” said Ron Curry, CEO, IGEA. “We represent an industry that’s creative, highly innovative and export-focused. Games are not only important economically, they’re also embedded in Australian culture as a favourite pastime with 67 per cent of all Australians playing video games. Further, games are increasingly being used purposefully in areas including aged care, the workplace, health and education.
Despite these incredible results, adding serious value to the Australian economy and screen sector, Australian developers are still having difficulty gaining recognition and support from the federal government. When asked about the main challenges they are facing, the industry responded that the lack of serious government funding is extremely stressful. Only a small percentage (7%) stated that it is not an issue.
The global games market generates more than US$100 billion each year,” said Curry. “Already, 80 per cent of the income generated by Australian developers comes from overseas sources. The local industry is making gains and contributing millions to the Australian economy – imagine how much more could be achieved if the government acknowledged us.
In response to the recent successes of Australian developers, the Senate’s Environmental and Communications References Committee has taken notice. Following a formal inquiry into the local development sector back in 2015, the committee came to the decision to give the budding local developers a "hand up" in order to help them compete on a more global field. Since then, two additional government committees have recommended funding to game developers be reinstated.
Other issues for our Australian developers include attracting funding, skill shortages, visa changes and the NBN. Skill shortages are a common problem, with a number of developers hiring skilled individuals on visas. However, changes to the 457 work visa will affect their business and employees going forward. Local studios are also struggling with the availability, cost and performance of the NBN.
The independent survey was distributed online to the video game development industry through IGEA’s networks and social media marketing, a distribution list of over 280 ASIC-registered companies, of which 114 provided usable responses. The Australian video game development survey was funded via a grant from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
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