With the support of the Australian Greens and Labor, the Australian Interactive Games Fund will become a reality once more for local developers if there is a change of government. The fund's closure was unanimously criticised by local developers when it was shut down in 2014, so it's no surprise that the prospect of its return was warmly received.
The original Australian Interactive Games Fund started in 2013, and ran for a year before it was shut down in 2014. The program offered $20 million in funding through a variety of grants and programs, but Labor's policy would revive the program with a $25 million budget. It's worth noting that the Australian Greens proposed a similar plan in 2016, but called for the fund to have a $100 million budget, as well as enabling game developers to access the same tax offsets available to film and TV studios.
The Australian Interactive Games Fund was shortlived, but the federal investment program played a part in backing some of the best local games and studios over the past several years. And at a policy launch in Melbourne this afternoon, Labor has announced that they'll reinstate the fund to the tune of $25 million if elected.
Here's what the local industry had to say following Labor's policy announcement.
Giselle Rosman, IGDA Melbourne director and Global Game Jam regional organiser
At a time when Australia is looking for reliable and environmentally friendly export opportunities the Labor Party policy to re-introduce the Australian Interactive Games Fund to the tune of $25M is a welcome announcement.
The AIGF in its first iteration was successful in creating opportunities for Australian game studios to reach for a bigger piece of the $200 Billion pie. It was well on its way to being a self-sustaining fund, as was the initial plan, when axed by the Abbott government. This happened without industry consultation, and seemingly without reviewing the success of the scheme. To my mind, it was a very poor economic decision.
It’s refreshing to have games taken seriously in this election, having only been the punchline prior to this announcement. The fact that games based put-downs occurred highlights the cultural relevance of the medium and the importance of including Australian voices in those dialogues.
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association
IGEA is heartened by today’s policy announcement from the Federal Labor party announcing that, if elected, they will re-introduce an interactive games fund of $25 million to be invested over three years. This investment in the Australian games development industry has been informed by the experience of the former Australian Interactive Games Fund (axed by the Liberal Government in 2014) and will contribute to export revenue, innovation and highly skilled jobs with transferrable skills for Australians.“IGEA and our members are encouraged and grateful for this commitment from the Labor Party who recognise that game development is an industry of the future and is worth supporting.
Australian game developers are creative, talented, resilient and ready to lead and grow the digital revolution,” says Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association. “Should the Labor Party win the election, we are ready to work with them on the re-establishment of the fund to deliver successful outcomes for the industry”.
Curry also notes that this is one of the number of support mechanisms IGEA are seeking on behalf of the local games development industry and look forward to working closely with all sides of the political landscape to establish a comprehensive and integrated support plan to position Australia as a leader in a global $200B business.
“IGEA have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and funding informing and educating politicians, advisers and public servants advocating for the industry and highlighting the opportunities Australia is missing, culminating in a release of our policy paper, Building a Thriving Interactive Games Development Industry. It is very encouraging that Federal Labor has acknowledged this potential.”
Ashley Ringrose, founder of Death Squared developers SMG Studio
We were the first [studio] to repay our 50% of the loan [under the original AIGF].
We got $450 ($150k a year). After 2 years our business joined Dentsu so we stopped it. But we still repaid the 50% we were given.
That $150,000 a year (small in the grand scheme) allowed us the runway we needed to give 4 staff a year full-time to work on our own games. It wasn’t 100% of the cost but enough to say "hey let’s not pass this up". So total money we received was $300,000, and we repaid $150,000 of that. That's a bargain for the government. On the ROI I think we can say the $150k has resulted in more than 10x that in tax alone from SMG’s activities.
Krister Collin, IGDA Sydney director
I don't think it would surprise anyone if I said that I am extremely excited by the possibility of this funding returning and I am glad to see so many passionate, hard-working members of our large and deserving community see the possibility of increasing government support.
The large majority of successful game development studios on our continent have seen that success come from the combination of their creativity, dedication, cleverness, and passion mixed with recognition by their community AND varied governments at the state and federal levels and I would be remiss if I didn't point out the success story that Victoria is, leading the way in showing us how these partnerships operate and the success that can result.
Australian games workers deserve the recognition for the incredible labour they put in to a creative, complex and demanding industry and it is important that funding and support returns to ensure that the industry is a stable and viable place for us all.
This funding and future increased gov't recognition could not only help to ensure more stable, long-term studio operations, but also could have a direct impact on reducing cultural problems that directly impact us all, such as burn-out, crunch culture, and even discriminatory and predatory practices.
I join many others in hoping that this funding finds its way back into the federal budget as soon as possible, and permanently regardless of who puts it in place or is in control of it at the time, and that various states also start looking into their local game development spheres to support and raise them, as well.
Here's to the possibility of many more, and much more fruitful years.
Jason Imms, Freeplay Awards Chair, and founder of the Tasmanian Game Development Society
It’s hugely exciting to see government talking about returning to federal-level support for Australian game makers, and support from multiple parties means we’re less likely to see the fund disappear after one year this time around.
A big government fund isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all our challenges, but it will go a long way toward helping emerging practitioners to become exceptional over time, instead of having to risk so much to get there.
It’s my hope that the value of the games scene in Australia will be so evident that full-bi-partisan support can be achieved, meaning we wouldn’t need to worry so much about elections and changes in government in the future.
Emre Deniz, Studio Director of Mayday, formerly founder of Earthlight developer Opaque Space
I think we should view the announcement with optimism, but a key component here will be updating the program with industry input for 2020 onward. Metrics, platforms, costs and even the concept of 'grassroots' development has changed, and this pledge will need policy behind it to reflect on not just how much the industry has changed since 2013, but how much it will change in the coming few years too.
The merits of this program will definitely lie in adaptation to the landscape, as Australia is shifting out from a lack of employers to having vast shortfalls in skilled labor for scaling successful studios. We'll see how the fund is structured, but it's my hope that the focus in 2019 onward is on growing existing business, just as much as it was on growing new ones in 2013.
Syama Mishra and Sanatana Mishra, co-founders of Assault Android Cactus developers Witch Beam
We need this. The country. The devs. It's important. Aussie game makers run on the fumes of an oily rag and revenues largely comes from intetnational customers.
Heck, this tiny $25M probably already came from game devs taxes paid since the last support package... https://t.co/XahnYnbkH8
— Syama Mishra (@SyamaMishra) May 11, 2019
The original fund was self sustaining and a major cause of the huge boom in ongoing successful Australian owned games companies, this is PHENOMENAL news.
PLEASE VOTE. https://t.co/DbaNoM9anE
— Sanatana Mishra (@SanatanaMishra) May 11, 2019
Chris Wright, Managing Director at indie games label Fellow Traveller
The Australian Interactive Games fund had a major impact on the industry before it was sadly cut short. We're delighted to see that investing in the Australian games industry is back on the federal political agenda.
We've had a front row seat to the rebuilding of the Australian games development scene over the last ten years. The AIGF played a critical role, despite only completing one year of the planned three years. The teams that received enterprise funding in particular have all blossomed into successful and established teams, creating world-class games, creating jobs and a place for newcomers to learn their craft. The relatively small amount of funding has been returned many times over. The prospect of the fund returning and a new wave of companies getting that support is hugely exciting.
Liam Esler, co-organiser of GX Australia and former GCAP event manager
The re-introduction of the Australian Interactive Games Fund would be of massive benefit to the Australian games industry, and to the Australian economy overall. Many of the companies who were recipients of the original Fund have gone on to great success, and we are currently seeing many new companies begin their journey who, if properly supported, will undoubtedly build on those successes with their own.
As someone in the process of starting a young studio, the re-introduction of the AIGF would be huge, potentially allowing us additional startup capital, stability and more importantly, options for the future. This is an exciting step for Labor, and if they are elected, hopefully the first of several allowing the games industry to grow, prosper and continue to show we are a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
Morgan Jaffit, founder of Hand of Fate developers Defiant Development
Obviously this is great news. The original AIGF helped us to build our company, and the results from that fund show in the success that its enabled for us and over developers.
Australia is building a thriving and sustainable games industry that can accommodate the huge amount of talent we have locally, and the games fund is a key part of accelerating that growth. More than anything else, Australia needs to be investing in our future, and game development can and should be a billion dollar part of that future. It's great to see Labor taking the initiative here, and pushing to keep Australian game development growing in the way it should.
Besides the studios quoted above, other developers, veterans of industry and local gamers offered their thoughts over the weekend.
This would be great, having to go and try to wrangle some game dev money from the film and screen funds is a tormented journey from what friends have said - we have some of the best talent in the world either wasting away or having to go overseas to work in these fields.
— Jeff Evans (@Jevans_au) May 11, 2019
Hell yes. https://t.co/td8MzplaCJ
— Gil Maclean (@GilMaclean) May 11, 2019
Hollow Knight is one of the best games of the last decade, and it was made in Australia. We’re good at this and it can be a huge industry. https://t.co/tOyGF8ww2u
— Oli (@oliyoung) May 11, 2019
Missing the best, most ridiculous part of the fund being axed in the first place: at the time it was axed, IT WAS SELF-SUSTAINING. Costing the taxpayer zero dollars. Making profit for the government.
Money under $50k was given as a grant, over that as a kind of loan.
— Leonard Frankel ???????? (@ampersandle) May 11, 2019
— Adam Corney (@corney) May 11, 2019