An Open Letter To Andrew Stoner MP, Regarding Funding For Games In New South Wales

In December 2010 the NSW Interactive Media Fund was announced, which provided $1.5 million in grants to help grow the interactive media industry in NSW. That fund helped many local developers including Nnooo, who used the money to help bring their game escapeVektor to the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita. In this open letter to Andrew Stoner MP, NSW Minister for Trade and Investment, Nnooo's Creative Director, Nic Watt, writes about the benefits of the Interactive Media Fund, how it helped Nnooo grow as a company, and why he thinks the fund should be renewed for another three years.

An open letter to Andrew Stoner MP, NSW Minister for Trade and Investment

Dear Mr Stoner,

I am writing to ask you to renew the Interactive Media Fund for NSW. As the Creative Director at Nnooo, a video game developer based in Sydney, I would like to touch on a few points which I think demonstrate how and why the fund is so important.

In 2006 I moved to Australia with my partner having worked in video games for 8 years. At that point my most recent position was as a Lead Designer at Electronic Arts (one of the worlds biggest game developers and publishers) in London.

In 2006 there were very few game developers in Sydney and most of the industry was (and arguably still is) based in Victoria and Queensland. This meant that finding a video game job in Sydney was going to be extremely challenging. I decided to utilise my own savings to start my own company, Nnooo, to take advantage of the new digital stores which were starting to appear on traditional games consoles like Wii, XBox 360 and PlayStation 3. As I had a few contacts from working at EA I managed to slowly get introductions to the platform holders; Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and in 2008 our first title, which was designed, developed and marketed in NSW, was selected by Nintendo of America to be one of 6 launch titles for their new WiiWare service.

Since 2008 we have released 10 products on 5 platforms (Wii, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, iOS and PlayStation Vita). The past 6 years have been very hard for us in terms of game development, attracting and maintaining the right talent and keeping our head above water with an ever strengthening Australian dollar (@70% of our sales are in US$). Last year we were fortunate enough to be the recipient of a small, but vital, grant from the Interactive Media Fund. This meant that we could hire two contract programmers to take our critically acclaimed game escapeVektor to two new platforms (Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita). This year we have applied for a larger amount to help build our business over the long term and allow us to enter new markets with new, innovative IP which has been created here in NSW.

As you can appreciate developing games, much like developing films or television programs, is a risky and hit driven business. Without help from government agencies like your own, fledgling companies like ours will find it more and more difficult to compete on a global stage. Companies like Nnooo are competing worldwide with companies based in Canada (who have generous grants and tax breaks for video games) and the UK (with their newly announced tax incentives).

On a local basis Victoria has their own strong and established funding system which has helped drive the growth of video game development across the state.

While I realise the Federal Government have recently announced the Screen Australia Interactive Games Fund I believe a continuation of the Screen NSW fund is still of vital importance. I would like to, again, draw some parallels with the current Screen NSW and Screen Australia funding of television and film. In these industries the two funds have very complimentary roles. One fund operates at a more local level ensuring that new, grass roots, talent is fostered and can become more experienced and proficient enough to be able to take advantage of the National fund. The same applies to the games industry. We need funds like the Interactive Media Fund to help grow smaller companies so that they have the experience and talent needed to move onto the next level. Without funds like this it is more likely that NSW will revert back to how it was in 2006; a state with few full time, professional games development companies, with most of the video game development talent based in Victoria and Queensland.

If you look at where we are now as a state we have changed and grown so much in the last 6 years and a large part of that is down to funds like the Interactive Media Fund. We now have an increasing number of small studios just starting out on their journey. We have a bourgeoning International Game Developers Association (IGDA) chapter here in Sydney and lots of young local talent graduating from university. Nurturing this talent will help develop local skills and experience in one of the world's fastest growing entertainment sectors, in an industry whose revenues have already surpassed those of the global film industry. It will help companies like Nnooo to compete globally, to grow our talent base and to produce more high quality video games, over 95% of which are exported around the world.

In summary, it would be a shame to stop such an important fund now and risk losing all of the great work the fund has done since its inception as the Digital Media Initiative in 2010.

I would be delighted to welcome you to our small studio in Pyrmont, Sydney to show you the award-winning games we have made and talk you through the game we are currently working on. It would be a great opportunity for you to see video game development at a grass roots level. I am sure you would also be more than welcome at any of the various IGDA meetings which take place in Sydney on a regular basis.

Thank you for your time.

Nic Watt Creative Director


Comments

    I don't really think it's the Governments' job to support enterprise despite they do it all the time for the auto industry -.- however I do believe the game development industry definately need to have a bigger presence in Australia.

    Sort of makes me feel bad I havn't gotten EscapeVektor on the 3DS yet lol

      Haha, yeah... Buying Australian games is pretty much the only justly way to support the Australian gaming industry. You should go get buying :p

      A good question is, when does a gaming company get big enough to not beg for anymore grants? Specially after already receiving one. I guess the sky is the limit...

      These sorts of funds are vital for industries and business to grow. I work in Government (Local) and see how funds like the Interactive Media Fund can really allow a business to grow. Remember a health business employs more people (tax revenue) and sells more items (GST revenue) and even expands and builds new infrastructure (Land Tax, Sales Tax, Rates not to mention employment of builders etc). Often the funds from these programs are recouped by the Government (Feds or State) in a few years...
      It is not Governments role to prop up business but it is to support it's growth and development.

      Last edited 14/02/13 10:49 pm

    I don't really want to start an argument, but I don't think these grants should be used to prop up already established companies. At least it's not on the scale of the car industry.

    These should be for people starting out who need grants to get a project off the ground. That's just my opinion, feel free to disagree.

      http://tinyurl.com/cfbkdbh

      I think it's a good idea; support a growing industry both through boosts to existing businesses and to start ups as well. I mean, our government is pissing money away at the moment anyways, so surely Swanny can flick his monetary wang and sprinkle some towards game production. It's a growing industry with huge potential; it's even seen evidence of success in recent years.

      Don't forget that people starting out have access to funding options that established companies don't. Angel investors, for example, will most often go for the small, independent projects. There are also existing grants and awards given by government bodies on state and federal levels. Whilst they aren't specific to the industry, they are still a very viable way to get funding.

    Given the amount governments funnel into industries in which other countries has a far greater competitive advantage due to labour costs, it baffles me that when it comes to a country with a massive competitive advantage in intellectual and creative terms, $1.5m for the industry is the most they've come up with.

    It's a dangerous industry to work in if your source of income is reliant on government funding. People are just denying the facts. Theres no game industry in Australia. Government funding will not help. Its sad but true as i'd love to be able to get full time work as an illustrator and texture artist.

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