The Wizards of Oz: Australia Luring Game Devs?

UK-based trade mag MCV today reports that Brisbane-based developer Vile Studios is suggesting that an "appealing lifestyle looks set to lure US and European talent" to Australia in a capacity set "to rival current European, Japanese and American market leaders." (Vile is currently developing a sci-fi online game self-titled Project V.I.L.E.)

Says Vile's creative director, Ashley Hodgetts:

The Australian games industry is still pretty much in its early years in terms of development. The universities and colleges have been gearing towards training students the right way and there is an abundant supply of talented people.

There is no doubt that Australia is a great place to live and work and we have seen the start of game developers moving to Australia because of this.

Once overseas markets can overcome the stigmatism, I feel there's going to be nothing stopping the Australian studios from being up there with America and Europe's finest.

But is that all just the usual self-justifying company hype? An attempt to make a mountain out of a relatively remote South Pacific molehill? Hard to say, but whatever the case, the Australian game market is clearly doing something. Here's a bit I wrote about the Australian game industry back in September:

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.

Australia plays home to some 40 game development studios with over 200 game titles produced. According to Interactive Entertainment Association of Austrlia 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.

(For more, see "Aussie Game Devs: We Want 40% Kickbacks Too.")

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