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.
"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'."