Lack of support for games sector is a tragedy

A complete lack of federal support for local games development is a “real tragedy” and Labor will bring policies focused on the sector to the next election, shadow assistant minister for cybersecurity Tim Watts says.

Led by Mr Watts and Liberal Senator James McGrath, a Parliamentary Friends of Video Games group was officially launched in federal parliament earlier this month, with a goal to educate politicians on the local games development sector and push for industry support.

The sector has not received any federal support since the Australian Interactive Games Fund was cut by the Abbott government in 2014, and companies operating in the sector are ineligible for the tax offsets on offer to other arts sectors such as movie production.

The government must view games development as a jobs-creating sector, Mr Watts said.

Opportunity lost: The global games industry is bigger than film and music

“It’s an industry sector that by revenue is bigger than film, television and music, but the size of the Australian video game industry is a fraction of our peers. That means we are neglecting a real opportunity for job creation,” Mr Watts told InnovationAus.

“Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be identifying new industries with high-growth potential, and gaming has the potential to create a large number of high-skilled, high-quality and high-paying jobs.”

Labor is currently working to develop some policies targeted at the games development sector and will unveil them in the lead-up to the next federal election.

“It’s still in the policy development process, and we’ll have more specific things to say closer to the next federal election,” Mr Watts said.

“Since the election of the Abbott government there has been no federal support whatsoever for the gaming industry, and that’s a real tragedy.

“You look at the talent and innovation in the Australian sector – we have indie games that are literally world beaters, but what we don’t have is a deep and diverse sector. We’re open-minded about the policy situations that are most appropriate here.”

Federal policies need to help those working in the sector pursue whole careers there without having to leave Australia, Mr Watts said.

“They can work for small, nimble startups, very large companies managing large teams and projects, and work with the board of a public company. All of those different experiences people want to get at different points of their career to have a rewarding and fledgling career, and created as many opportunities for Australia to do that here in Australia and not having to go overseas,” he said.

Senator McGrath, who helped convene the video games group in Parliament, recently called for a 30 per cent tax offset for video game developers in Australia.

“Something Australia should do, and I strongly support, is to introduce a 30 per cent tax offset for video games to grow a new information-based export industry, attract millions in foreign investment and create thousands of jobs,” Senator McGrath said in Parliament in September.

“In many other countries there are tax incentives for games development. These exist in Canada, Singapore, France and the UK. Australia already has tax offsets for the film, TV, post-production and digital effects sectors but lacks this same support for domestic games development.”

Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) chief executive Ron Curry welcomed the newfound focus on games development in Canberra.

“We know that billions of players around the world engage with games on a daily basis and we welcome the formal pathway Tim Watts and Senator James McGrath have created to formally engage with the Australian games industry and game players,” Mr Curry said.

“The group has already expressed a desire to ensure that Australia remains competitive on a global stage and takes advantage of all of the opportunities a complete video game development ecosystem will create economically, creatively and culturally.”

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