The Three Big Election Policies IGEA Think Could Kickstart The Australian Games Industry

The Three Big Election Policies IGEA Think Could Kickstart The Australian Games Industry

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association has outlined the policy pillars it hopes parties across Australia will commit to ahead of the 2022 Federal Election.

It outlines these policies in a new publication called Backing The Game: IGEA’S 2022 Federal Election Policy Platform, which you can read in full right here. A PDF containing further information can also be found here.

IGEA’s goals are simple: Get the Federal Government to understand that we are only tapping a fraction of the Australian games industry’s true value.

“Games are an integral part of the lifestyle of many Australians,” said IGEA CEO Ron Curry in a statement accompanying the platform launch. “Not only do the overwhelming majority of Australians enjoy playing games, but a significant economic opportunity abounds for Australians making games and games-adjacent industries.”

This perfectly sets the tone for the discussion to come. Curry, and the IGEA, see the local industry as an untapped resource. Therefore, the policies it is taking to the government are about creating meaningful support structures to ensure the industry’s continued and future success.

The Big Asks

Here are the three Big Asks straight from the IGEA website:

  1. Prioritising the legislating of the Digital Games Tax Offset to enable local studios to increase game production while giving the green light to the many international ‘AAA’ studios waiting on this reform to enable them to establish a base in Australia.
  2. Launching a long-term Game Development Fund to provide vital support to early-stage Australian game developers and emerging local studios in the same way that local TV and film production is nurtured and incentivised.
  3. Reviewing Australia’s skilled migration system so that it remains fit-for-purpose and agile. Our sector relies on and creates high tech digital jobs, and there is a skills shortage in our industry. Allowing studios to efficiently attract global talent will enable them to keep growing and to train up the next generation of local talent.

Let’s Break That Down

Step one, legislating the Digital Games Tax Offset (or DGTO), is a high priority. Announced by the Federal Government in 2021, the DGTO is set to begin in July this year. “Our whole industry has been eagerly awaiting the implementation of the Digital Games Tax Offset since its announcement in last year’s Budget,” says Curry, “from highly talented local studios pulling together budgets for their ambitious next project, to global video game companies finalising their proposed investment plans for Australia.” The hope is that it will entice a fresh wave of local AAA investment, and perhaps convince a few to open satellite studios here. This in turn will create industry jobs, and help keep Aussie talent here instead of seeking greener pastures overseas. The primary drawback of the DGTO, however, is that games that meet its criteria must have already funnelled $500,000 into the project. The government also made it clear that games containing “gambling elements or that cannot obtain a classification rating” would not be eligible for the offset.

Step two is the creation of direct funding for Australian developers. Screen Australia provides direct federal funding to film, television, and digital content productions across the country. The IGEA wants the same for the games industry. This would be aimed at independent developers with small or medium-sized projects that don’t meet the DGTO criteria. Aware that discussions of government funding almost invariably lead to the question “But how are you going to pay for it?”, the IGEA has an answer: studios would likely be able to ‘pay back’ any funding received via taxes paid on their new export revenue. Not only would they be able to pay it back, the IGEA believes most would be able to accomplish the feat several times over.

This brings us to step three: Visas review. The IGEA would like to see an overhaul of Australia’s skilled migration rules in relation to information-based workers like game developers. “(T)he huge economic potential presented by a thriving Australian game development sector requires access to skilled employees,” says Curry. “Our migration settings should be updated, flexible and welcoming for the specialised employees that are needed.” The IGEA’s primary goal is to keep Australian talent here and working within the local industry, but it also wants to make us attractive to developers overseas too. Over the last two decades, many of Australia’s most talented devs have departed for studios overseas. These studios are often located in countries like Canada, that promote aggressive skilled migrant support. Reviewing our own skilled migration settings could help turn that equation in our favour, bringing great developers in rather than sending our best and brightest out.

Anything else?

The IGEA has also laid out four key areas that it is prepared to support, and that it considers vitally important to the health of the local industry. Here they are below:

In addition to flexible migration settings, we support policies that promote STEM in schools and enable higher education and vocational institutions with games courses to offer the best possible training.

We support continued government investment into internet infrastructure, high quality, accessible and affordable internet for all, and non-discrimination against gaming content and data.

We advocate for modern tax policies that support SMEs and incentives for R&D and innovation. In relation to digital tax reforms, we encourage a practical approach based on global consensus.

Any proposed content regulation should be modern, effective and evidence-based, and we are among the most active stakeholders engaging in policy areas like classification, online safety and privacy.

Who is most likely to take up the sword here?

All of the IGEA’s proposals are perfectly fair, provided you understand the local games space and its potential. And that’s always been the hard part. One hopes that in 2022, it isn’t quite so hard to convince the government of the day, whoever claims election victory, that our local industry is worth investing in.

Despite this, it’s still hard to know who would step up. The Greens have extended numerous olive branches to the industry in the past, as have Labor. Across the country, Labor-led state governments have led the charge on games funding, with Victoria planting a deep flag. The Coalition and other conservative parties have been traditionally harder to convince, but even they are starting to come around. Liberal state governments in New South Wales and South Australia have begun to court the local games industry more directly in recent years, signalling a crucial change of perspective.

As the election approaches, we’ll be piecing together a list of government policies across every party in the coming weeks to help you see at a glance, who is intending to do the most for the Aussie devs. We’ll be attempting to collate policy from parties at every level of government so that you know exactly who is representing the industry we care about, and how.

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