Recently we spoke about how the size of the Australian gaming industry was a fair bit larger than we originally knew. But there's another side to the coin: while there's more people making games in Australia than ever, many aren't well paid, and many don't stick around.
The figures were part of a survey put together by Game Workers Australia (GWA), a movement designed to encourage game developers — as well as streamers, esports professionals, media and any employee in a gaming-related field — to unionise. Part of that push has been over conditions: the amount of people with permanent full-time positions, as opposed to "full-time equivalents" or full-time contractors, is surprisingly low.
Every so often, figures from the government or industry are published illustrating the size of the Australian games industry. One developer, however, thought the figures seemed a little small. So he started compiling a list of his own.
Out of 155 local developers who responded to the survey, only 30% had full-time permanent positions. 80% of those surveyed had some or immediate concerns about the stability of their role, while another 35% of respondents said they were earning less than $50,000 a year.
A key issue for the local industry is retention, with only 70% of respondents saying they had been in the industry for 5 years, and "only a handful" with 10 years or more ongoing experience.
The survey also notes that "a qualified game developer in Australia" should be legally earning a minimum of $49,998 annually, which is the minimum set out in the Professional Employees Award that covers the IT industry. (There is no industry-specific award for the video games sector in Australia.)
In an explainer over email, GWA argued that the Professional Employees Award was designed to cover "professional engineering and scientific duties" but that the definition of the IT industry locally also covers programming, the "design and manufacture of computer software", and the design and development of "online internet architecture". Voice actors, content creation or general writing are covered by other industry awards, however.
Given the estimated numbers compiled earlier this year — which includes numbers of staff at studios that opted out from the official industry survey — it's a decent, although incomplete, snapshot of some of the conditions people are under. That's largely GWA's pitch to developers as well. It's an educational piece, reminding workers of their legal entitlements and offering some perspective on what their work is worth.
More info about GWA, as well as Game Workers Unite International, can be found here.