We, alongside our members and friends in the Australian video games sector, were hoping that the Australian Government would use last night’s Budget to finally recognise the profound impact that supporting Australian game development would have on our country’s export growth, global inward investment, digitalisation of the workforce, and cultural output.
With so much talk from government around forging a path to economic recovery and supporting high growth potential sectors, we strongly believed games would finally be provided a much-deserved seat at the table. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
Despite the Government recently announcing a range of screen policy reforms, including significantly increasing its funding of film and TV production and equalising the Producer Offset for film and TV at 30%, video game developers remain locked out of all federal screen funding and tax incentives, even though we create screen content.
In fact, of the roughly $1 billion that the Australian Government will be providing Australia’s creative and cultural sector this year, pretty much none of this is available to game developers. This means that despite video games being the most valuable and fastest-growing creative industry in the world, it remains the least supported creative industry in Australia. This is why our game development industry, despite its resilience and ability to punch above its weight, is less than even a tenth of the size of the same industries in the UK or Canada, which together employ tens of thousands and generates billions in exports annually.
So where do we go from here?
While we are disappointed that there were no announcements last night, we know the Government’s policies are not just made during Budget. And we are absolutely confident that the Government will eventually see the light, because while it may not always seem like it, there are many supporters of our industry within their ranks.
They include Parliamentarians like the LNP Senator for Queensland James McGrath, who gave a speech to Parliament just last month calling for game production incentives, and all the Government members of the Coalition-chaired Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth, which in June handed down a report recommending the Government introduce a game development tax offset. There are also government agencies like Austrade who are unwavering advocates of our industry and are doing everything they can to prevent a future-focussed, high-growth export industry from slipping away.
We also believe that the economic potential of our industry – which Australia needs now more than ever – has been dawning across the Government’s senior decision-makers. Over the past year, we and our members have had many meetings with Government Ministers and senior policy advisors, and despite the lack of policies to date, we are confident of this.
They know Australian game developers are among the most talented and creative in the world.
They know our games businesses create highly skilled full-time jobs, and they were hiring, not firing, during COVID.
They know video games are a well over $200 billion export market, and it exists right here on our digital doorstep.
They know global AAA companies are ready to commit hundreds of millions of dollars, and eventually billions, to build studios here.
And they know our local game developers really need access to existing screen support or would achieve so much more with it.
We remind the Government that supporting game development is not a partisan issue, and we’ve just seen the Liberal South Australian Government double-down on our sector by introducing Australia’s first ever rebate for game development. We also remind the Government that as it has already announced changes to the Australian Screen Production Incentive, which will require amending tax legislation, there is no reason why a further change to accommodate game development cannot also be made.
Support policies weren’t created in the UK and Canada overnight, but eventually they simply could not ignore our industry. We believe that it’s just a matter of time until this happens in Australia. And until then, we will continue to fight for our industry’s equitable access to screen funding and incentives.
7 October 2020