The Greens Want To Invest $158 Million Into The Australian Games Industry

After a parliamentary inquiry agreed the video games industry in Australia was under-funded and worthy of more government support, Senator Scott Ludlum has announced that the Greens party will follow through on that support.

If the Greens have their way, $158 million will be invested in the Australian games industry.

Image: supplied

"The Australian video games industry is a perfect example of the sort of innovative 21st century industry that the current Prime Minister gushes about," said Senator Ludlam. "We'd prefer that enthusiasm translated into real action, so that's why we're announcing this $158 million package to assist the industry."

Where will that $158 million be spent?

$20 million will be dedicated to reinstating the Australian Interactive Media Fund, a grant removed without industry consultation by then-Treasurer Joe Hockey in May 2014.

"The Abbott-Turnbull government did a huge disservice to the industry when it axed the Australian Interactive Games Fund," said Senator Ludlam. "That initiative was a great success, helping a number of popular games get off the ground and several developers establish robust businesses, but it was cut before half of the funds were even disbursed. We'd like to see that fund reinstated and developed into a stable revolving fund."

$133 million of that total will be allocated to an extension of the Producer Tax Offset. This offset currently applies to Australian producers of film and television. The Greens would like to extend this offset to video game developers. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates this will cost roughly $133 million, and the Greens believe this initiative will have the largest impact on the local games industry.

"Some of the supports available to the film and TV industry, such as the Producer Tax Offset, should be extended to include videogame production," the Senator explained. "We have the absurd situation now where an international studio working on a huge franchise receives massive backing from the government for the film, yet local developers working on the game tie-in do not."

Finally, the Greens want to invest $5 million to help create co-working spaces, like The Arcade in Melbourne. The Arcade currently houses some of Australia's most successful independent developers and has been a remarkable success for the local industry. Crossy Road, Shooty Skies, Pac-Man 256 and Train Conductor World are just a few of the games that have been released and maintained thanks to the support of The Arcade.

If Senator Ludlam and The Greens have their way, we might see a version of The Arcade in Brisbane or Sydney.

"Co-working spaces such as the Arcade in Melbourne foster creativity and innovation," Senator Ludlam said. "That model should be expanded into other cities. Government can set standards for these funding programs to encourage diversity, which the industry in turn will benefit greatly from, and audiences will too."

Much of this initiative is based on information gathered at the recent video games inquiry, an inquiry requested by Senator Ludlam. The inquiry's report actually made similar suggestions, and received support across party lines. Back then Ludlam said it was "time for the politicians to step up".

Today he reaffirmed that message.

"It genuinely is an exciting time in videogame development. The massive success of mobile gaming, and the emerging technology of VR, are rich opportunities for the industry. With just a few key measures, we can switch video game development difficulty in Australia from 'Veteran' to 'Regular'."


    From memory the last Greens/games funding story on here degenerated into partisan politics garbage in the comments. Yes we are all aware there's an election on so hopefully we can actually discuss this matter and leave the party crap out for once. I say this as someone who takes everything the Greens say and do with a grain of salt anyway.

      BUT I HAVE AN OPINION!!! *runs to the rooftop with soapbox in hand*

        [Sees Ashigaru slide off onto a pile of mattresses]

        It helps if you take the soap out of the box before making an opinion. :-P

      Wasn't just that. Anyone who objectively questioned the greens (including myself) were on the receiving end of a hijacked moderation system.

      That being said, it's one thing to say Party X will sink Y billion dollars into area Z but where the blazes will said funding come from?

      The critical issue of the Greens is any idea they have has been over simplified and doesn't consider all the factors and even with those factors aside, they are not going to have the numbers any time soon to be in a real position to deliver anything (mostly because of said factors earlier).

      Like I pointed out below, Ludlam is making a grand promise yet I fail to see how it will stand if the tax system isn't reformed so the tax breaks don't get hijacked.

      At the same time, this is the game man who say anyone using Abbott's envelope analogy has no idea what one is talking about. If Ludlam cannot understand nor accept a widely used and accurate analog of network datagram encapsulation, what chance has he got of being taken seriously with a complex undertaking such as this?

      Last edited 29/06/16 4:38 pm

        That's.....practically what I said about the Greens too :p

        The mods don't exactly have it easy though, I wouldn't sweat it if like the tenth comment under this reply tree is a trolly abusive one and anything constructive we say above or below it also gets deleted.

        Sure it'd suck, but that's what we have to work with.

        Any promise anybody's made this election can immediately be retorted with scorn, that's the broader discourse. Why shouldn't we treat this with more nuance, as good a place as any.

        I'm not going to hold my breath and see it focused on prime-time telly.

        For this particular policy, it looks like most of it is in the form of a discounted tax rate on business that might not otherwise happen within Australia. Given the amount the industry has contracted, it seems plausible that it could help grow the industry rather than just prop up the existing players that are happy to operate under the existing tax rates.

        And presumably if it doesn't cause the industry to grow, it wouldn't actually result in $133M of forgone revenue.

    I love games and all - but I can think of a bunch of things that would be far more deserving of $183 million....

      I'm sure the people who are trying to make a living from creating the things you love would disagree with you though.

        Anyone getting a handout generally disagrees with having it spent on other things. That's all this is... a handout. Whether it's pensioners struggling to make ends meet on what the government pays them, or whether it's taxi drivers demanding compensation because Uber has entered the market, a handout is a handout. We as a society (and through our politicians) can determine who is deserving and how much they should get. At the end of the day though, it's not commercial -- it's charity.

          What do you believe about this? Sounds like you're pretty against it, but why? Where else should this money go?

            I'm not particularly fussed. I'm generally pro- free market, so I think that good games will find a way to be made and be a success with or without government intervention. Then again, $133 million in tax breaks and a $20 million fund is hardly going to break the bank.

              I understand the argument for sure. But we give tax breaks and incentives to other artistic mediums, such as the movie industry. For a while we did give the game industry some breaks and funding, then it was cut and most of our few studios had to shut the doors (including irrational games - who made bioshock). The issue is Australia is very high in labor costs due to cost of living and our minimum wage comparatively to other countries, who also help fund/give tax breaks to the game industry.

              I think it's one of those things where we should probably help fund till they get their feet off the ground. It doesn't need to get to the same level of the car industry though.

              Last edited 29/06/16 8:26 pm

                I'd argue the car industry is far less deserving of that cash than the video games industry is. It's not only killing the planet (an idea i'm not ridiculously militant over, but still), but it's a dying industry that in no way can compete with other countries.

              That's a pretty naive and, although I hate the word now because internet; privileged, view of the world. Sometimes the people with the best ideas never get to implement them because they don't have the resources to do so and are never given a chance. Sometimes people like Donald Trump get "small $1 million dollar loans" and still bankrupt themselves endlessly through incompetence.

              The world is not a meritocracy. The best or most deserving of success don't often achieve it for wholly unfair reasons.

      The thing is that that money is an investment. You invest that into local gaming companies, those companies get bigger, hit it big, and then have to start paying that and more back in taxes. It's a really good investment that's paid off for Canada who's attracted lots of games companies.

        Yeah exactly, we need to snap out of this "games are just fun" mindset and see them for what they are; an insanely profitable industry rivalling even Hollywood if given enough support to grow.

          I would have thought video game development would be labor intensive. How does it make sense to develop video games in a country with exceptionally high wage costs when compared to the rest of the world?

            Australia with it's low dollar is actually very cheap to make games in compared to the US. In Australia we have great talent who can make quality products. Unlike software dev it's much harder to farm out the code to 3rd world devs. I work for a local games company and "cheap" rates and polished product are one of our big selling points dealing with US companies

              If it's so cheap then why does Ludlam think tax offsets of $133 million are going to convince the likes 2K to recommence operations in Australia? You'd think that it is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall costs of AAA development. Or is he only interested in helping indies?

                Gotta start somewhere? Indie / smaller scale games are pretty much the only thing PC has going for it these days, it's become a massive market. If this sort of thing means more games like Hand Of Fate or Armello coming out then that sounds awesome to me.

                Or is he only interested in helping indies?

                All AAA devs today started off as 'indies' in the past. The point is to foster growth, this was a big mistake with the last influx of cash where the majority of it went to Half Brick with no stipulations, at least in my opinion.

                The money is great for jump starting a business and going from a 3 man operation to a 10 man op and starting to work on larger titles. Sure, you can wait for it to happen organically but by then Australia will be well behind other countries. Have to reel investment in now while the global growth is still happening and get some bigger studios planted here.

            Huh? As opposed to America, Japan and Canada, etc? That's where most of the games I play are developed.

            I don't think I've played many games developed in the third world.

            Because high living costs shouldn't have to be a factor in 'business sense' as we continue into the future. Otherwise we'll just see a continuation of certain jobs leaving and others becoming poverty traps just like the shift of manufacturing jobs from here to China.

            This is about giving more people the opportunity to take risks in a booming industry, and it's not about coercing massive AAA studios here.

            Crossy Road was created in 6 months by 3 people and grossed $10mill+ in just 3 months.
            Hacknet and Antichamber were created by solo devs, generating estimated half a mill and $5mill+. Hurtworld was created with 5 devs in under 2 years and has made $6mill+ in early access since December.
            Crawl and Framed also released successfully in recent years.

            This is just Melbourne and all these people pay tax. It makes sense to develop games here because we should be trying to retain our talent!

          If the industry is "insanely profitable" then it doesn't make much sense to give it a $158m handout.

            an insanely profitable industry rivalling even Hollywood if given enough support to grow.

            Come on dude, it wasn't that long of a comment, read all of the words.

            Last edited 29/06/16 9:08 pm

            You realise how profit works, yes? Revenue - expenses.
            Well, you don't get revenue from an unreleased game, go figure.

        and the fact that this might drive up youth employment which in turns increase income tax revenue.
        I know a couple of animators who have been working in cafes because they can't find related jobs in Australia.

      It's a business investment so that the companies who get a boost end up paying it back many times over in taxes.

      That's how the system works, same for manufacturing, mining, construction etc. Governments invest so they get money back out of it and also stimulate the economy to grow.

      Budget repair. Getting the platform in place so a transition to coal to renewables is possible (current infrastructure is booby trapped for anything else).

      Like others, I like my games as well. But we have more pressing issues and even then there is no point in investing in a sector where it is treated with contempt from pollies.

      Where are the studios going to find good programmers when education (thanks to both sides) is in tatters and local programmers often knee capped as a result?

      How do we break the mentality that Australia is seen as cheap labor to be cast off when the dollar improves?

      And finally, how do we maximise the return on investment when our tax system has more holes in it than a cheese grater, allowing easy profit shifting?

      And finally there is the task of setting boundaries. Until Hockey came, there had been a long legacy of constant handouts to the automotive industry. It become uncompetitive and see the hand out as an expectation.

      When Hockey came in requested business cases before any further funding was issued, the remaining big wigs decide to take their bat, their ball and their jobs and leave.

      Any incentive needs to be scoped out and controlled to stop his happening again.

      Before the Greens can go about throwing money at a new out door setting, maybe they should look at cleaning the trash out of the backyard first.

      Last edited 29/06/16 4:45 pm

        "Before the Greens can go about throwing money at a new out door setting, maybe they should look at cleaning the trash out of the backyard first."
        They're doing both. Removing wasteful tax breaks like negative gearing, attempting to tax religious organisations, removing handouts to mining corporations, making multi-nationals pay their fair share of tax etc etc

    "If Senator Ludlam and The Greens have their way, we might see a version of The Arcade in Brisbane or Sydney."
    Or you could try where Indie games are actually growing really fast, like Adelaide. Here we have AIE and CDW pumping out indie devs and a healthy indie community with the likes of ARGGGH and a new chapter if IGDA.

    Last edited 29/06/16 3:25 pm

      Didn't you know that all of Australia lives on the East Coast?

      It's alright though, the SA government is investing in 10gbps internet speeds for areas of the CBD, Mawson Lakes and a few others so businesses can take advantage. That's going to provide a decent boost to game devs who manage to get offices in those areas.

      Last edited 29/06/16 3:32 pm

        I'm working in the CBD at the moment and the internet is either really expensive ($1000/mth for Fibre) or really slow (20mbps between 20 people). Magill sure could use some good internet too, as it was completely unusable when I was studying at the UniSA campus there.

      I was wondering about that earlier today. Feels like Melbourne seems to be the main place that comes up when talking about game dev in Australia, I know Brisbane used to be a fair bit too though feels like it doesn't come up as much any more. And yeah, got me wondering whether there was anything going on in Adelaide. Good to know :P

    Yeah, I guess, if the return is worth it? But the Steam sale that just started makes me feel that the games market is oversupplied already, so I'm unconvinced.

      If past history is anything to go by, all money invested in Australian games has absolutely come back and then some.

        That's a bit of a generalisation. For every Crossy Road or Jetpack Joyride there are dozens of Australian games that hardly qualify as successes.

          And those crossy road / jetpack joyrides more than pay for the rest by their successes.

            I guess that's only the case if you are investing in a specific studio, but you could easily burn money on nothing but failures.

          Did they have any government investment though? Only the games/devs that show promise can justify themselves enough to earn the investment.

          There's a lot of paperwork to get government grants. That sets the bar high enough to discourage projects that don't have enough motivation to at least try to succeed.

            I agree, easier to put up a half-baked Kickstarter.

          Yeah but I can say that about every damn industry.

    I wouldn't mind that. $158 mil is nothing compared to tax cuts offered by another major party. Especially when this $158 mil has the potential to generate positive returns for the economy.

    Culture has been australia's second largest export for a couple of years. Things that encourage that are good ideas.

    We're going for a culture victory in the rl game of civ 5.

    $133 million of that total will be allocated to an extension of the Producer Tax Offset. This offset currently applies to Australian producers of film and television. The Greens would like to extend this offset to video game developers. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates this will cost roughly $133 million, and the Greens believe this initiative will have the largest impact on the local games industry.

    Is the tax system going to be reformed first so that it can't be rorted? If not, then what is the point?

    This is the same axe I take to Labor and the Coalition; they offer new incentives and are quick to run about saying "Oh look how generous we are", yet won't life a finger to the "previous" tax system that is nullifying most tax revenues.

    Prediction: This policy will attract zero new votes. The creative types that this would benefit and tittilate the most tend to vote Green anyway - look at the old research where they analysed political preferences of creatives at the ABC (spoiler alert, most voted Greens, it was done after complaints of ALP bias).

    I'd be curious to see a piece about various Political Parties and which one is best for gamers. NBN, funding such as this, censorship, etc. Maybe a little something for @alexwalker to knock-up?

      You know some parties like the Greens just introduce policies because they're beneficial to Australia, not to generate votes.

        most of the the time they introduce them because they know in the end they wont form government and having to worry about implementing them. thats all the greens do

          I really hate when people say this. The Greens are very consistent with pushing their policies forward, even though they cannot form government alone. While partnered with Labor they pushed a good number of Greens policies through, and recently they somehow convinced the Libs to agree with them on Senate reform. They are constantly putting forward good legislation, it's just a shame they Labor keep knocking them back even though they agree with them. Negative Gearing reform is originally a Greens policy for example

          Not completely true.. people keep saying the Greens won't have power to do anything, but they do have power in the Senate. That gives them bargaining power with whoever ends up in government. They can negotiate to let legislation through if their own legislation is considered.

        Rubbish. Nobody in politics does so for the warm and fuzzy feeling.

          Just ignore that user. Past posts clearly indicate he or she is a Greens die hard.

          Nothing wrong with being one; just that you won't get any reasoned discussion out of the user.

          Just look; whom it may be, he or she is attributing Labor and Coalition policies to the Greens.

          Last edited 29/06/16 6:02 pm

            Senate Reform is Greens Policy, as was the Carbon Price. Sure, they had other parties signatures on them but it was the Greens that made it happen. I'll support any policy which is "good", regardless of the party behind it. I'm not partisan, I judge and discuss each policy on it's own merits. Politics isn't a team sport where you always cheer on your team even though they're playing terribly. I follow Greens right now because they make good points. If the Coalition had good policy I would support those policies, but right now they are an utter failure in every single portfolio. Labor are 50/50 as they could do more on Climate Change and be more humane when dealing with refugees

            Last edited 30/06/16 11:50 am

    Anybody else notice what colour a comment becomes when it gets a certain number of upvotes?

    That's right :D



    Spend spend spend

      Think less "spend" and more "invest". If you invest right (and this is right) you get much more back for other investments. You have to spend money to make money

    "If Senator Ludlam and The Greens have their way, we might see a version of The Arcade in Brisbane or Sydney."

    Perth already has one.... just sayin;)

    To be clear, this is not a hand-out, the majority of the proposed fund is based on tax breaks not grants - the expenditure by the games company occurs first and then the tax break happens after.

    Indeed, all that is being asked, in simplistic terms, is the extension to the existing Film/TV legislation of "and electronic entertainment".

    Last edited 29/06/16 8:59 pm

    would you say the mining industry is profitable? presuming yes, you should have a look at how much state and federal government money it receives (hint: it's in the billions $$$)

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