You would think that an industry that is worth over $140 Million a year, that directly employs some 8500 people and that has an annual growth rate of 12.3 per cent would be deemed important by the government of the day. But then again, that would also assume that most governments know what they are actually doing.
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Consider these stats from the Game Developers Association of Australian (GDAA): the Australian games industry is worth an estimated $140 million per year and:
· Australians spend over $2 million per day on interactive computer games
· Total sales in financial year 2006-07 for the industry was $1 billion
· Annual compound growth of the industry is 12.3 per cent
· 12.5 million games were sold in 2006
· 6.1 million video game consoles have been sold since 2000
· 3.6 million Australian households have a video game console
· 4.8 million Australian households have an internet enabled PC which is capable of playing games
· 8,500 Australians are directly employed in the video game industry in 2007
So, one would expect with a healthy growth rate and a massive turnover, that any industry would be the darling of the contemporary government of the day – but not if we are talking about the computer gaming industry.
Last year, in the twilight of the Howard regime, The Games Developers’ Association of Australia (GDAA) asked the Government for the same 40 per cent investment rebate that was announced for the Australian film industry in the 2007 Budget to be extended to the interactive entertainment sector. The GDAA specifically asked for the “immediate formation of a working committee to examine the introduction of the rebate”, as well as support for payroll tax incentives.
However, responding to the GDAA then communications minister, Senator Coonan reiterated that games producers would “not be seeing the 40 per cent rebate extended to their industry”.
GDAA CEO Greg Bondar said the introduction of a rebate would have led to an additional AU$25 million in new investment into Australian-developed titles. “We have been trying to bring our situation to the attention of Federal Government for a long time now and this sort of response is disheartening to say the least. The Minister is not offering anything tangible to our industry,” he said.
Having said that, some game developers have become quite creative in obtaining alternative income streams.
Research by University of Queensland (UQ) Business School shows marketers were following consumers as they migrate away from mainstream television.
The UQ report found that the explosive growth in computer gaming in recent years had led marketers to experiment with brand placement as a way of reaching consumers.
With top quality games now costing as much as US$5 million, game producers are also interested in alternative funding sources, the UQ report found.
Fast forward to 2008, and there is a brand new government and brand new communications minister, this time in the guise of Senator Stephen Conroy.
And the total net funding increase by the Rudd government to the Australian gaming development industry: zero.
Some things, it seems never change.