Given that we're getting closer to PAX Australia, it's only natural that the subject of video games as a business and an industry more broadly is going to crop up.
And thanks to Greens co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam, crop up it did. The Senator had the opportunity to pop some questions to Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield at a meeting of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, and Fifield was, well, barely interested.
Thanks to the efforts of Senator Ludlam and the Greens, an inquiry has already begun into the health and ongoing viability of the video game industry. Senator Ludlam made note of that when he began questioning the Federal Communications Minister, but nevertheless he took the opportunity to take the Victorian Liberal Senator's temperature on video games and Commonwealth support.
To say the Communications Minister was lukewarm would be a tad generous. He wasn't cold, either, but those eyeing off the prospect of Screen Australia getting additional funding for video games shouldn't look for any presents in next year's budget off the back of this performance.
"I don't want to pre-empt anything that the Government may do in the future in relation to its innovation and creativity agenda, but I do need to make the point that in relation to savings measures that have been put forward in previous budgets, which obviously have required some organisations such as Screen Australia to change the way they operate," Senator Fifield replied when asked about the former Australian Interactive Games Fund.
"The reason for that is because taxpayer dollars are a finite resource, we do need to prioritise, we do have the agenda to balance the budget, so that does require some difficult decisions across portfolio areas. And one of the reasons for that is so that we can make sure we do have the capacity to do some things which we would all agree are really the core, core business of Government — things like the [National Disability Insurance Scheme] from my former portfolio."
Prior to Senator Fifield's replies, Screen Australia chief operating officer Fiona Cameron and chief executive Graeme Mason testified that the fund had been undeniably successful from their perspective as administrators. "We funded 10 companies for their broad slate and we funded about 40 individual games," Cameron explained under questioning.
"A lot of those games have gone on to make a profit, millions of dollars, which is fantastic. Some of those companies, such as [Defiant Development, makers of Hand of Fate] in Brisbane, have gone onto make a huge slate of projects and programs. So it has enabled companies to develop a slate of projects, retain IP in Australia and build their company."
Mason also noted that Screen Australia is continuing to support companies that received initial rounds of funding, and that they maintain an active brief on the industry.
Update: Added a missing word to Senator Fifield's quote (to).