Game developers in Australia just want a fair shake, one they claim mediums like film and TV are already getting in the form of government kickbacks. Earlier this year, the Australian government announced a new funding initiative to help stimulate Australian film and television production. Dubbed a "Producer Rebate," the measure was officially introduced on July 1 as part of the 2007 Federal Budget, and provides film producers with a 40% rebate (and TV producers with 20%) on qualifying production expenditures.
So why not games?
First, a few fun facts: In 2006, Australian game sales surpassed $1 billion in sales, with more than 12.5 million units sold. Sound like a pittance compared to the United States with its lofty $7.4 billion 2006 figure? Not if you compare populations. The United States? 300 million. Land Down Under? Try 20.4 million. And according to GfK Australia, 2007's first half already reveals a 30 per cent increase over the 2006 figures for the same period. What's more, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, "Revenues from the sale of video games and associated hardware were almost $200 million more than cinema box office takings, and the DVD movie business is now within striking distance." Mind you, that's game sales, not exports, but the point is = Australians love games pretty big time.
Back to the rebate debate: Australia plays home to some 40 game development studios with over 200 game titles produced. According to Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia CEO Chris Hanlon, "With more than 1,600 people directly involved, the Australian interactive games industry is an export industry worth more than $110 million." Austrade, an Australian government agency "that helps Australian companies win overseas business for their products and services," lists the "arts, culture, and entertainment" total export market at $301 million for 2005-06. Whether Hanlon's $110 million figure is included in that number or not (I'm fairly certain it's not), game production as an export industry alone would be worth either one-third or one-quarter of all Australian entertainment exports.
We have been trying to get the government to hear us for a very long time but as yet, we have not had any success. We want the government to give the electronic games industry the economic benefit of a 40% rebate in the 2008 Federal budget, as they have done for the Australian film industry. The electronic games industry is already a significant contributor to the Australian economy. It's also part of a larger global entertainment industry, which is now bigger than the film industry and is a major area of export for the Australian economy. Unfortunately, the future growth of the industry is dependent on government support. A government rebate will enable our industry to grow, compete on a global scale, employ more Australian talent and make a bigger contribution to our economy. Based on our current industry standing and projected earnings, we conservatively estimate that if a 40% rebate was extended to game developers in Australia, this would lead to an additional $25 million in new investment into original Australian titles each year.
According to the GDAA, the current workforce of 8,500 Australian game industry professionals could double by 2010 with a 40% production rebate.
Another referendum on gaming as a "respectable" medium?