The upper house inquiry into the future of the video game development industry in Australia was released by the Federal Government today, with the Environment and Communications References Committee recommending the creation of a successor to the Australian Interactive Games Fund.
Photo: Australian Senate / Environment and Communications Legislations Committee hearing
The committee, which received more than 111 submissions, made eight recommendations to the Government. The primary suggestion was that a successor to or some form of funding based on the Australian Interactive Games Fund be re-introduced, given the fund's effectiveness in supporting developers and its economic success.
"The AIGF is the most effective means to address the access to finance issues that small studios face and to help those studios grow into mature, stable businesses," the 96-page report reads.
The committee was chaired by three members from Labor (Senator Lisa Singh, Senator Anne McEwen and chair Senator Anne Urquhart), two members from the Coalition (deputy chair Senator Linda Reynolds and Senator Chris Back), and one Greens member (Senator Scott Ludlam, who acted as a substitute for original inquiry member Senator Larissa Waters).
According to the inquiry, video games "are big business" locally and abroad and that advanced economies such as Australia should be embracing industries such as video game development.
"To maintain economic growth, prosperity and international competitiveness, advanced economies such as Australia need to embrace innovation and transition to a knowledge economy that relies on technology and highly skilled jobs. The game development industry fits this description," the report says, adding that other countries (Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom) have already offered financial support, tax incentives and grants to developers.
Other recommendations from the report include:
- That the committee introduce a refundable tax offset for Austrlaian expenditure in the development of games, with the offset to be reviewed at least two years after the program begins;
- That The Arcade in Melbourne be used as a model for federal government assistance and encouragement for other shared working spaces in other locations;
- That the government consider the use of 'serious games' in industries such as healthcare and education, and that the government act as a facilitator between developers of such games and industries that could benefit;
- The tax implications of crowd-sourced funding for startups should be reviewed, with consideration to "temporary tax relief" for income gained by new businesses from crowd-sourced funding;
- The Government should develop and consult industry on a white paper about "the utility of the Export Market Development Grants scheme" for businesses operating in the digital economy;
- Any federal efforts should factor in the capacity to help and promote the industry's diversity and fair employment conditions for those in development;
- The Government should commit to "rolling out 21st century broadband infrastructure".
The committee also found in favour of the argument that video game development should be treated more akin to the television and film industries, which receive various tax concessions, grants, and access to arts programs not currently available to developers.