After much delay, the Australian government has finally responded to the 2016 federal inquiry into the state of the Australian gaming industry—and the industry is not pleased with the government’s response or lack thereof.
Last year, the Senate Environment and Communication References Committee released a report titled ‘Game On: More Than Just Playing Around’, which studied the current Australian video gaming landscape and made recommendation on how to grow the industry further.
Australia Not Profiting From Gaming Industry
According to Ron Curry, CEO of Australia’s leading video games group Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), there are 280 game studios in Australia and only 928 full-time employees generating a $118.7 million income for the industry. A significant percentage (80 percent) of this revenue comes from overseas players, proving how popular video games are all over the world and how the industry is steadily becoming a huge part of the bigger global digital economy.
Despite the talent and the resources available to the video gaming industry in Australia, the country lags behind countries such as Canada, who have profited from the industry which generates as much as $3.7 billion per annum from their video gaming industry. The Entertainment Software Association of Canada stated in 2017 that more than 21,700 people were employed in the country’s video games industry across 596 game studios.
Because of huge potential of the video games industry, the IGEA and the federal report called upon the Australian government to support its eight recommendations for the industry, including the reinstatement of the now-defunct Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF). After months of delay, the Australian government finally responded and disappointingly only supported one out of the eight recommendations laid out by the report.
Government Provides Lukewarm Response To Gaming
The government “noted” the recommendation to bring back the funding scheme based on the former AIGF, saying that there were already a number of funding and incentives offered by state and territory governments that support interactive games businesses.
According to Recommendation 2, the committee wants a refundable tax offset for the development of game titles but the government responded with a “does not support” answer, adding that there are already existing measures in place. The response outlined currently placed tax incentives such as the Early Stage Investor Tax Incentive, the Incubator Support element of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme and the R&D Tax Incentive.
The government also “noted” the recommendation to establish a regional innovation hub for video game development and other such technological start-ups. According to the government’s response, state governments are the ones best to answer to this demand, giving Victoria’s state-developed agency Creative Victoria as an example.
The recommendation to provide temporary tax relief for new businesses jumpstarted by crowd-sourced funding was also “not supported” by the government, saying that current measures are already in place. These measures include concessional tax treatments for investors in high-potential start-ups.
Government Places Emphasis On Gaming Operators
The only recommendation that was supported in the report was for the government to facilitate dialogue between the video game industry and the other sectors such as health and education in developing the use of “serious games.” According to the reply, the government “supports this recommendation in principle” but that the initiative to follow through on the suggestion lies not on the government but on the industries.
Ron Curry said the IGEA was disappointed but not surprised by the lack of initiative and support from the government regarding the report. Curry mentioned the growing success of the film and TV industry in Australia and how it has been generating money and employment for the economy because of government support. What the video game industry wanted was not for the government to transfer some of the funds from the TV and film industry but to recognize that there are similarities between the two industries in terms of the technical skills, production lead times, and the high overseas demand for content.
Curry noted that the government’s current nonchalance about the video game industry has led many Australian talents to seek employment in other industries and has also discouraged offshore developers from setting up shop in Australia.
In a statement, Curry said, “Why not let us sit at the table alongside these other entertainment industries, access and grow the funds available and have the opportunity to develop original intellectual property, generate export dollars and tell Australian stories? It just makes sense.”
Moving forward, Curry stated that the IGEA will continue working with the federal and state governments to create an environment for the video game industry that is able to compete locally and internationally.
 

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