IGEA aims to get games support on the election agenda

Ron Curry.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) is aiming to keep games on the political agenda in the lead up to the federal election, publishing a policy platform outlining objectives for the sector.

Backing the Game: 2022 Federal Election Policy Platform, released today, calls on the country’s political parties and independents to support the games industry in three key areas: the Digital Games Tax Offset (DGTO), a long-term game development fund, and a review of Australia’s skilled migration system.

It’s been nearly 12 months since the Federal Government announced the 30 per cent DGTO as part of a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy.

Set to take effect July 1, businesses are eligible for the rebate if expenditure on a game exceeds $500,000, with the rebate also covering ongoing development work on digital games following their release.

In its report, the IGEA says the legislation of the DGTO must now be a priority, noting that a tax offset for the games industry has previously received cross-party
support through parliamentary committee inquiries.

“Once the DGTO is in place, we predict that by 2030 we can potentially create a
$1 billion a year Australian game development industry that employs 10,000 full-time workers,” the report states.

Like the DGTO, a direct funding scheme for the sector has also been previously tabled in Parliament.

Two years after the termination of the Screen Australia-administered Australian Interactive Game Fund, for which $20 million was allocated across three years, a 2016 inquiry into the future of Australia’s game industry recommended a successor to the fund be established to address “the access to finance issues that small studios face”.

Progress was made last month with Screen Australia launching a $6 million Games: Expansion Pack, under which original video games across different platforms with budgets below $500,000 will be able to apply for direct funding.

However, the IGEA is pushing for a long-term version of the fund, which was announced as a two-year commitment.

“We want to get more certainty with a permanent fund, but also increase the value of what is available,” said IGEA CEO Ron Curry.

“The Australian Interactive Games Fund did provide certainty, even though it was canned in its first year, with a lot of studios going on to employ more people and create more IP.

“For the short period of time it was there, it was very helpful for the industry.”

While the IGEA expects developments such as the DGTO to attract more companies to Australia, the association says the country is facing a severe shortage of information-based workers that is “particularly acute” in the video game development industry, as a result of ‘brain drain’ that has come at a time of industry growth.

The report calls for a “quick and immediate review” of Australia’s skilled migration settings in relation to information-based workers, including all categories of game
developers, as a way to address the issue.

Curry said a flexible system was required to bring in medium and high-level talent to run companies and to act as mentors and leads for junior staff.

“We’ve got a lot of junior talent coming through but the only way to utilise that talent properly is to have mid-to-senior level talent to train them and act as their mentors,” he said.

“As we get more companies setting up in Australia, and we expect an influx of large companies with DGTO, we’re going to need to staff those companies.

“There is not a lot of that talent available in Australia because we don’t have studios that employ 200-300 people.”

Having published the report, Curry said the IGEA was aiming to have ongoing conversations with parties about gaming policy in the lead to the election.

“We will socialise quite widely throughout Parliament, while also visiting Canberra and talking to people who make those decisions, or who may make those decisions depending on the outcome of the next election,” he said.

Find the full report here.