SAGE 2024: The Plan To Make SA Our Next Game Dev Hub Is Working

SAGE 2024: The Plan To Make SA Our Next Game Dev Hub Is Working

As a major spotlight for South Australian developers, SAGE 2024 was a success beyond its predecessor in every way.

Last year, I flew myself to Adelaide for the inaugural South Australian Game Exhibition event. I said at the time that it was a statement of intent, a clear signal from South Australia was ready to become Australia’s next major games development hub state. SAGE 2024 constituted a reiteration of that statement at twice the volume, just in case you didn’t hear it the first time.

In its second year, the show returned to Adelaide Studios in the Adelaide suburb of Glenside, the home of the South Australian Film Corporation. In 2023, SAGE comfortably filled one of the studio lot’s two sound stages. SAGE 2024 took over both soundstages, filling the first and larger of the two to capacity with known and in-production titles like darkWEBSTREAMER and Box Knight like a miniature PAX Aus show floor. The food trucks, stationed inside last year, were banished to the adjacent car park to cram in more games. In the second sound stage was a collection of smaller and up-and-coming titles, along with a stage for a new slate of panels and talks held during the show (and for transparency’s sake: I was on one of these panels).

I said last year that being on the SAGE floor was a bit like someone had carved off a chunk of the PAX Aus Indie section. That feeling returned in 2024, to greater effect. There were more developers on the floor with their games. Some had appeared at last year’s show, others were making their first appearance.

The show was once again opened by South Australian Arts Minister Andrea Michaels. During her welcome speech, SAFC’s Petra Starke rattled off a long list of MPs who had come to inspect the show. It’s no small feat that get that many politicians in one room, even for the hour it took SAFC to walk them around and give them a clear picture of what the state’s developers have been producing. Their appearance on the ground makes things clear: the money in South Australian game development, and its government is paying attention.

The vibe on the ground was one of heightened positivity. SAGE presents an opportunity for many smaller developers to take a moment in the spotlight, and not one of them let it slip through their fingers. Foot traffic was way up as well, with SAGE staff telling us that they had seen several thousand punters through the door this year, well above the show’s maiden voyage. That SAGE is a free event, capped only by fire safety and venue capacity restrictions, is no doubt a huge help in this regard.

The increased number of devs on the floor, the lift in interest from punters and government alike all point to the same thing: SAFC’s experiment is working. The goal of transforming the South Australian capital into an exciting new hub of games development through investment and selective spotlighting is paying off. Despite ongoing layoffs and industry insecurity around the world, the games within SAGE pointed to a broader, brighter version of the industry. One where smaller games with smaller budgets, made by smaller teams with grand ambitions, are the path forward.

This year, there were a handful of pain points that were easily identified — the panels were combined with the up-and-coming games in Sound Stage 2, and it often meant hands-ons and conversation had to cease while the panels were underway. Hopefully the panels can be removed to a separate room next year so the devs don’t keep getting their pitches and demos interrupted.

SAGE 2024 was, without a doubt, a success. It’s done everything it set out to do — be a stage and a spotlight for local devs, give them access to the people and services that can help make their games a success, and arm them with knowledge from beyond the industry to help them grow. The canny decision to build the show into the wildly popular Adelaide Fringe only served to raise its profile more. I am sure it will be back in 2025, and I look forward to returning again.

The author travelled to Adelaide as a guest of the South Australian Film Corporation.

Image: Kotaku Australia

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